To Write or Not to Write…that is the question.
Thomas Wright/ @zbsdaddy
At least for me it is.
I’ve been writing YA and MG material for more years than I care to remember or admit, and I have always believed in the words: “Real writers write every day.” Every conference I attended or how-to book I read always had these words somewhere within the lectures or pages. I thought I was a real writer (nobody told me I wasn’t), so I too bought into this theory and wrote every day. Whether I was tired, sick, depressed, it didn’t matter. I was a real writer darn it, and this is what real writers do.
But then something happened: my writing suffered. Now I know what you’re thinking: How can your writing suffer if you do it every day? At the time, I didn’t know. All I knew was the words on the page were terrible. The plot was lousy, the characters had no voice. The only answer I could think of was more writing. That is how it is with anything in life. The more you do a certain thing, the better you get. Right? Wrong.
The more I sat and typed, the more I hated doing it. It got so bad, I looked for every reason not to put my butt in the chair. Part of it certainly stemmed from the fact that I was married and had two children who needed my attention, and I felt guilty that I wasn’t giving them my all. But deep down inside, I knew that wasn’t the whole problem. I continued to feel this way, and yet I continued to write every day because I still believed I had to. I got so good at ignoring the hatred, that I finished a manuscript and published a book. I should have been thrilled, but I wasn’t. What was wrong with me? I had achieved a life-long goal, and I was miserable. It was at this pivotal moment when I made the decision to stop writing. I had achieved a small level of success and now was stopping. I had to be crazy.
I convinced myself I would stop just long enough to figure out the problem, a few days tops. But then a week went by, then two, four, six… Before long, it was eight months, and I hadn’t written a thing or figured out why I was no longer interested in doing what for so long had been my passion.
I went to New York City for the annual winter SCBWI conference in 2012, and there speaking was a rather famous author and one of my personal favs. She stated: “Writers need to put their butts in the chair and write every day.” The hatred and memories came flooding back upon hearing those words. It wasn’t her fault she stirred up anger within, but she did force my mind to answer the dilemma I faced. I found myself saying quietly: “But what if you’re not ready? How can you write daily, if you don’t feel it?”
Booyah! I had my answer (I didn’t know it was all the way in New York).
It was one simple word: Inspired.
Writers may write daily, but inspiration is the key, not the amount of time you perform the task. Without it, the pages are just empty words, void of any meaning or purpose. I wasn’t inspired. I didn’t love what I was putting to paper, thus I felt upset and hated what I was doing. But what brings inspiration? For me, it was time and not forcing myself to write daily. I needed to let my brain think of the ideas and decide where the characters should go without the constraint of placing any of it to paper. My thoughts needed to be free to roam into the unimagined. Sure, I was no longer physically writing daily, but my mind was. I was creating scenes, characters, dialogue, and plot, all inside that tiny little lump on top of my shoulders. And when the time came, when my mind felt it was ready, I put it to paper. Sometimes, it took a few days of thinking, other times a week, but I learned that my brain would always tell me when the idea was ready to be in its final form.
There are many types of writers in this world and maybe a good portion of them do write every day. I’m no longer one of them. Since my discovery, I finished two YA novels, wrote three middle grade manuscripts, and found peace within all because I don’t write every day. I once again enjoy my craft because I give myself time to think it before I write it. Those last six words have become my mantra.
So, in the end, maybe I’m not a “real writer” if one is defined by writing daily. I’m okay with that, because I know the words and story will come as long as I give myself time to think. Inspiration is essential, and that is common to all writers. Within that definition, I am a real writer, and I’ve never been happier.
Thomas Wright is a writer of middle grade and young adult novels. His first book Ansburry Tales: The Redeemer was published in 2013. Book two of this five-part series is scheduled for release in 2016. Other completed projects include a YA novel, Cathing Tomorrow due out in 2017, and a middle grade series entitled, The Adventures of Spikehead and Fred, with book one slated for publication in 2016. He currently resides in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with his wonderful family and far too many dogs.