I have always written often, but not often every day. Even if I have, it has mostly been on here, or in angst-ridden diaries with spines that creaked late at night.
And now I am writing a novel every day, and something weird has happened.
I am writing quite a lot of words a day. I of course have a reason for this. I needed an amount that would enable me to get things moving and strike while the iron was hot with the agent who is interested in my work, reserving time for a second draft and a third edit. I also read that if you write 800 – 1,000 words a day, every day, and always stop at 1,000, your unconscious mind knows it has to produce those goods every day, and starts to do so. That has happened to me, even if the science around it is dodgy. For me, a first draft is about laying out the skeleton (which hopefully looks a lot more like a skeleton and not one long bone now that I am writing a book with an actual plot), and so I don’t think quality suffers for writing quickly. Besides, I will have bashed out this blog post in under ten minutes, and I hope the quality isn’t too poor.
I thought that writing another novel from scratch would be onerous, and that consigning my first novel to a (virtual) drawer would cause me grief, but neither of these things have happened. Writing every day – I try to write 1,000 words, and, because I have a Type A personality, I always manage it – has momentarily quelled the anxiety that I will squander the opportunity of an agent listening to my idea for a second novel and requesting that I write it for them. For the few days after that conversation, I had dreams that spring came around and I had nothing to show for my winter, that I had been reading Buzzfeed articles instead of writing, and that I had wasted my opportunity. I am less worried I will do that now, because it’s a month later and I have a quarter of a first-draft and I haven’t forgotten how important that conversation was.
Writing every day means I always have one foot in my novel. That conversations I overhear in A&E and on the train and in the Christmas market outside my office get remembered, the authentic speech rhythms of the Birmingham accent being written down on a note on my phone. Plots develop – like a slow stew cooking on the hob that I am mostly ignoring – and become thicker and richer without my attention.
But – more than anything – I am amazed to find that writing every day relaxes me. Writing has been many things to me in my life – angst-making, a cathartic outlet, work, a way of boxing up and textualising my every day life, a hobby that moves me – but, it turns out, in a period of change where I am often scared, or sad, or angry that I am again a part-timer, whose throat is currently red and sore again, or lonely, or wistful for what might have been had I not got sick, not only can I infuse my characters with that, but I spend time in their world, with their problems, which are both bigger and different from mine, and I find myself relaxing as I write: like spending the evening with a few good friends, all moaning.
Writing every day: you should try it.