Writing Every Day (Mistake #3)

I’ve been coming across this one a lot lately. Writers comparing their ‘writing’ muscle to a physical muscle – that is, you’ve got to keep working it to keep it in tip-top shape – and worrying that if they don’t write daily, that muscle will atrophy. And only yesterday, writer Daniel H Pink posted his ‘7 Rules for Writing’ on his website, one of which was: “Write every day. Regaining momentum takes three times as much energy as sustaining momentum.”

Do you agree?

My view is that the muscular or physical analogy is in many ways a good one, in that the more you write, the stronger you get at it. But where it fails a bit is that, as any athlete will tell you, you need rest days to allow recovery – especially following a tough workout.

If, after several days’ hard graft, squinting at the flickering PC screen, hammering your keyboard with now bruised fingertips, bottom turning to fossil fuel on your unforgiving chair, you feel you need a break – then take one.

And if you do subscribe to the writing-daily school of thought, there are other ways to keep your writing muscle moving – send a postcard to a friend, write a letter to a relative, make a list of errands you need to run, cook up a new dish and write the recipe as you go along. You could look upon this as light stretching or relaxing yoga or massage – what marathon runners might do the day after 26 miles of pounding the streets.

And if like me you don’t subscribe to that school, then do nothing writerly at all. Shops, cinema, beer, football. Go do what you do. Your writing muscle won’t disappear. You’ll come back itching to get going again, refreshed and invigorated.

I’ve come to the conclusion now that I prefer the ‘riding a bike’ analogy – you never forget how to write. You may have a few wobbles early on, but once you’re settled back in the saddle, you’ll be pedalling with a very familiar energy and momentum indeed.

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