As fiction writers we create, so I created a broader definition of writing. Putting words on a page didn't have to be the only way I could fulfill my daily writing. Instead of trying to write everyday, I gave myself permission to live the writing-centric lifestyle.
Here are some of the writing-related activities that I allow to count as my daily writing:
1. Marinating -- Okay, I think we've all reached at point in whatever project we're working on where it is counter-productive to put more words on the page. Sometimes we just need to sit back and think about it. I call this the "marinating" phase of the writing process. And maybe it sounds like a cop-out to say, "I didn't actually write today, but I sure thought about writing a lot." But for me at least, I have to do this fairly regularly. I often find myself in situations (stuck on a crowded train, drifting off to sleep at night, grocery shopping) where actually sitting down to write is not an option. But that doesn't mean I can't roll the story around in my head and work out some of the problems I've no doubt encountered recently. Some of my most productive writing sessions occur a day or two after a really great marinating session. So if I spent a good portion of time thinking about writing, I say I wrote that day.
2. The Business of Writing -- Writing is a full time job in itself, and sometimes it seems next to impossible to tackle the other end of the job. . . putting work out there for the world to read. So I while I may not be logging a word count on days when I sit down to take care of the business end of things, I definitely count it as a writing day. Sometimes I may not be in the groove and I know I am just going to sit and stare at a blank page. These are the days I research literary magazines, submit stories, check on the status of stories I submitted awhile back, catch up on the writerly blogs I wish I had more time to follow, look for contests, research agents I eventually want to query, etc. Since doing all this feels more productive than staring at a page I know I can't force myself to fill, this counts as my daily writing.
3. Volunteering -- Now this one only counts when I am volunteering in a writing centered environment, but the days that I get to work with kids on writing skills are so inspirational, I have to count them as writing days.
4. Writing Groups -- I know there is a lot of debate about whether writing groups are beneficial or not, and I stand by the statement that it depends on the writer and it depends on the group. I am very fortunate to be part of two really great groups made up of some really talented writers. One of my groups focuses on short fiction and the other focuses on novels. I almost always come back from meetings feeling a renewed zest for writing, eager to revise or work on the next chapter. We have great discussions about writing in both groups and I feel that my writing has continued to grow because of their support and feedback.
5. Blogs -- This counts. Totally. Though ironically, writing a new blog post usually functions as a "warm-up" for a good session of fiction writing. Gotta get the writing muscles all loose and ready to work out.
6. Research -- If I need to learn more about a place or activity in order to make my story more realistic, spending time browsing the internet on this subject is a fair use of my writing time, despite appearances otherwise.
So the way my system works is that if I do any of the above things in lieu of writing, I am not allowed to feel guilty for not actually logging a word count. Now some of you more efficient, diligent, and less lazy writers may be sneering at me right now. Maybe you question my dedication if I don't actually manage to write at least a paragraph a day. And I I admit this system is going to work for everyone. Some of us need structure to write, others need freedom.
I implemented this system somewhere around the end of 2007, and you know what? By letting myself off the hook, something pretty amazing happened. . . I actually found myself writing more than ever. Writing wasn't a chore anymore because it was suddenly a very diverse activity that I could fulfill in a number of ways. The same year I started living the writing-centric life, I finished the first draft of a novel in just a few months time and managed to get three short stories published within a month. My productivity level has varied in the years since, but I am not sure that is different from anyone else's writing. We all have our massively productive periods and our slumps, right?
So I'm curious, how successful are you at writing every day? Or do you even try? Do you follow a schedule or do you let your muse dictate your productivity level?
Whatever method you follow. . . Happy Writing!