I wish I could tell you that it’s easy. It isn’t. I wish I could say it’s okay to take a month off, a week off, a day off, and just be. You can, of course, but you won’t be improving. Every day that you spend without writing, or reading, or editing — working on your craft — is not just time wasted; it is sliding backwards down the icy slope. It is working your creative engine to its max, gunning it, shifting into a lower gear of expectations, only to relax just as you can begin to see the rise ahead. Then, while you sun yourself, Corona in hand, you slide backwards, just a bit.
If you are a writer, and you are not writing, you have missed more than an opportunity. Each day, we change. Some will tell you they are imperceptible changes, but they are wrong. The changes are noticeable, real, and permanent. What you write today, you will not be able to recreate tomorrow. Life occurs and we respond to its vicissitudes.
When it rises, we are cheered, and perhaps a bit of optimism leaches into our words. When life falls, taking us with it, our attitudes fall with it. Daily laughter creates humor, whose blooms linger no longer than a rose’s. The next day, or week, when we try to recreate the smile, in our work, the bloom has gone, and the humor no longer works.
We mean to write a comedy, but it comes out in tears.
So you must pluck your flower each day, as they will never come again. Don’t believe me? Then try an experiment. Write a brief story or essay, on any topic. It doesn’t have to be long, a few paragraphs to a page. Then, once the story is done, set it aside for a week, and don’t look at it again.
Once a week has passed, take your topic, and try to write the same story. Don’t worry about memorizing it, that’s not the point. Pick the same subject, and write it according to how you feel that day, that minute. In effect, you are editing your previously written prose without looking at it.
I think you will be very surprised at the differences. And that is why writing is hard, why art is hard. It is tantamount to painting a landscape while in a moving car. Not only does the view change, how we react to what we see changes.
No, it isn’t easy, and if you’ve done no work today, you’re behind. Every day, get a little better. Do the work. There is no other secret.