This blog post comes as a response to Alison Wells' blog post on the same topic; writing every day - good or bad?
During Lent, I gave myself the challenge of writing something every day. A lot of this was blog posts, poems, college work and editing (the latter being stuff I was adding to the draft). The book I was working on, mostly, was Meet Sam, which is, by now, my case study on writing. I wrote that during NaNoWriMo 2008; come 2009, the same challenge was quite as fun.
This brings me to my point - if we start to write every day, we might like it. If we force ourselves to, then the odds are that we most likely will stop liking it, because it will seem like a chore. Nerd as I am, I don't like chores, and I don't want to make writing a chore. Heck, I started writing to avoid trouble, to avoid doing things I didn't want to do, to say things I couldn't say otherwise.
Most days, I do write. But I write as the ideas come to me with the correct words, not when I get an idea and think it has to be written down straight away. And, oftentimes, an idea won't have the right words for a while. Sure, one of my lecturers gave me tips on how I might improve Meet Sam, based on her reading of it and other books (many other books), and I agreed with her; one of the areas was in the development of some of the other characters, especially the father, the mother and the cousin.
Ignoring the parents for now, as I'm yet to work them out properly, I only recently, last couple of days stuff here, figured out how I might expand on the cousin's story. The answer has been right there with me for months, talking to me, telling me all about itself - even before I met him, my friend Liam was the cousin in the book. Freaky stuff to realise, but very useful to know, if he's willing to help me get this done properly. (note: based on an excited and hilarious text, I think he's willing)
That's the best example I can give for letting ideas settle: it can take a long time. That book was written a long time ago, and I didn't know then how to fix it, or how to fix it when I'd first met the guy. It wasn't until a year and a half later, still thinking about the book, that it came to me. Now, I'm not going to say it's always like that. Even for me, it's not always like that. I get words to poems in my head spontaneously, and an hour later they fit together in the right order. Once it was just an image in my head that turned into words. Another time a feeling in my gut. They didn't all take a lot of time to come to fruition.
The point I'm making is that if we push ourselves to write every day, it doesn't necessarily mean you'll write what you wanted to. Part of being a writer is not writing. It's in the living of an event, of life, to get the answers you're looking for. I had all but stopped looking for ways to improve on the character, until the realisation hit me. I know that if I'd tried to force it, it would be rubbish. That's a fact. My 2009 NaNoWriMo novel attests to that. It became over-ambitious drivel, because I attempted to write a book I just wasn't feeling, every single day of November.
So what's my advice? Well, if you plan on doing NaNoWriMo, be prepared to write something you're not happy with. Once it's written, find someone whose reading you trust and ask them to read it and give you some sort of advice to help towards making the book more complete. If they find a character is lacking in, well, character, then you know where to try improve upon. If they find that something is too weakly expressed, or that something could do with more attention, then you know what to work on. Plan your novel in advance, if that's how you work, or go by spontanuity that hope for the best. All I can say is, if you plan on forcing yourself to write every day, not all of it will be great fun. Eventually you will burn out, and you'll have to take a break.
Let yourself rest.
Writing burn-out sucks. It can take days, even weeks, to recover properly. The bad part? Regular-life stress can do the same thing. After exams, I recommend writers to take a destress period. But try write something small every day. Something insignificant, by the way. It will be just something to keep words in your head. Keep a diary. Then, when the ideas slot themselves into place, and "the muse" comes back around, write. Write until your heart's content. Don't over-do it, though. (Over-doing it, by the way, is forcing yourself to write when you really can't think of anything. Unless you're coming up to a deadline you're contractually obliged to, I don't recommend it.)
And with that, and my own lack of being able to write anymore for increasing exhaustion, I bid you adieu, and good luck. May you write freely and happily for all of your days.