I have been trying so hard to stay out of social media arguments these days, stopping myself from reading or writing comments. Mostly because I find it comes to nothing in the end and drains my spoons.
But then a thing happened this week I couldn’t ignore.
A quote appeared on my Twitter timeline from an account that purports to give writer advice:
Compel yourself to write several hours every day no matter how bad you feel.
WILLIAM H. GASS
Seriously. Several hours. Every day. No matter how bad you feel.
If you follow me, you know that I’m disabled because of fibromyalgia. Many days the pain in my hands is too acute for me to type. Sometimes the pain in the rest of my body becomes so intense, I can barely concentrate. Not to mention the debilitating fatigue that comes with sustaining all that constant pain. Sounds like the ideal situation to write for hours! I mean, I should do it no matter how bad I feel, right?
I retweeted the quote and added my own:
If you’re an author who manages a disability, write when you are able. Don’t feel you need to harm yourself in order to follow someone else’s standard.
It’s not just my particular disability, either. I’m acquainted with people who manage mental illness who know when they must stay away from writing because it will make their symptoms worse. Writing doesn’t always make us feel better. That’s something else to keep in mind.
And disability is on a spectrum, in my opinion: what works for me might have the opposite effect on another person who manages the same chronic condition. So, maybe, let’s stop with trying to push a one-size-fits-all writing method. It’s just so ableist.
There are also abled writers who have to care for loved ones who are not. Care-giving is exhausting. Do they need the insistence of you must write for hours every day? No matter how bad they feel? Of course not! They are drained, too. They might not have enough time to stop and think, let alone work on a novel.
One author friend of mine told me that having hours to write is coming from a place of privilege. I agree. Not everyone has that time available for their craft. And if they have the hours, they might not have the ability.
So, can you understand how ridiculous that first quote is? (Yeah, I know you can. We Spoonies get stuff like this hurled upside our head all the time.)
Yesterday I achieved a milestone. I sent my second book to my publisher. In my own time, at my own pace, I’ve written two novels. The first was about 118,000 words and the second just under 99,000 words. I’m only stating this to show I can, eventually, complete a decent-sized work. Did I write every day? No way. But the novels got written! It’s almost as if one can finish a book without writing for hours each day! WHO KNEW?
Last November, I attempted NaNoWriMo for the first time. I analyzed how much I would need to write every day in order to reach 50,000 words. BUT, there was a caveat. I told myself I would stop immediately if it endangered my health. (By the way, even then I didn’t write every single day.) It turns out that I was able to reach 50,000 words. Then you know what I did? I barely wrote anything until April 2018. Months went by! I knew I had editing obligations and needed to rest from writing. When April came, I scheduled some time off, which I can because I freelance, and finished the first draft by setting a lower word count for Camp NaNoWriMo. (I also didn’t write every day in April!)
I strive to be very gentle on myself. I know how my mind and body work. I get my limits. Sometimes I have to ignore the other authors who seem to write like gangbusters. I’m happy for them, but I can only compare me to myself.
And I’m proud of what I’ve achieved—by not writing no matter how bad I felt. I chose self-care and to write only when I knew it would bring relief and joy.
Anyway, that’s my story, and I wanted to share. My only advice is for you to be gentle with you. It’s okay if you need to stop.
It’s super okay.
Cait Gordon is the author of Life in the ’Cosm (Renaissance), which is about a little green guy who’s on an adventure to save half the person he loves. Cait has recently submitted the prequel to ’Cosm called The Stealth Lovers—the origin tale of legendary warriors Xax Knightly and Viv Tirowen.
Her short story, A Night at the Rabbit Hole, appears in the Alice Unbound Beyond Wonderland anthology (Colleen Anderson, Exile Editions). Another short story, The Hilltop Gathering, will be included in the We Shall Be Monsters anthology (Derek Newman-Stille, Renaissance) in the fall of 2018.
A bit of a social media junkie, Cait can be found on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. She also has an author website and is the creator/editor of the Spoonie Authors Network. If you need editing services, visit her biz, Dynamic Canvas Inc.
Awesome blog post, Cait ❤
For the mental health aspect, Mary Robinette Kowal wrote a great piece about her own struggle that you may find interesting, if you haven't come across it before: http://maryrobinettekowal.com/journal/sometimes-writers-block-is-really-depression/
Thanks for this. As someone recently diagnosed with hypothyroidism (and possibly another medical condition) and depression, writing can be a struggle. I haven’t been able to write much lately, although I have taken a few webinars/online classes to help improve my knowledge/skills. I’m a caretaker for my daughter who’s an adult with autism and also, currently, my husband, who recently had surgery. Maintaining energy can be very difficult, and I’m happy if I do a load of laundry. I’m sure I’ll get back to the writing, but yes, what you said.
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Wow, that’s a lot on your plate for sure! I also have hypothyroidism, but it’s managed. I hope you start getting some of your energy back in a few weeks. I found the meds really helped. They just took a while at the beginning.
But yeah, I was just so fed up of what I felt was this bullying bumper-sticker philosophy being pushed on writers. There are so many reasons why a person can’t write in a day. Doesn’t mean they’ll never write again, or that is the only way to achieve a goal. My friend Jamieson could only write about 5-6 words a day when he was rehabilitating himself after being diagnosed with MS. He turned those grouping of a few words into poems, which eventually became a poetry collection!
Thanks for your comment. I wish you more spoons and a moment to write, if that’s what you wish! 🙂
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I love your meme! I just may be heard saying those words around the house, lol.
Reading your piece, I was reminded of Laura Hillenbrand who wrote Seabiscuit in 7 years and same amount of time for Unbroken. Granted she had a lot of required research for both but I’m fairly certain she doesn’t write every day and her success is undeniable… I like to remind myself of that. 🙂
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Exactly! We writers need to support and encourage, not force our methods down each other’s throats!
Reblogged this on 'Nathan Burgoine and commented:
Cait is right.
Great post. Thank you for sharing this! 💜 I always need this reminder every day