In my previous column from way back in 2016, I discussed writing your story “out of order,” i.e. composing it more like a jigsaw puzzle than a train schedule. Basically this is just a way to make headway by concentrating on the “fun stuff,” meaning the parts you especially enjoy writing, whether they’re action sequences, sex scenes, random but witty dialogue exchanges, etc.
But then there comes that inevitable moment where you don’t fee like writing anything. At least for the moment. Should you force yourself to keep going, just to make a self-imposed deadline or word quota?
I see a lot of writers bragging about how many words the wrote that particular day. That’s all well and good. It’s a solid way to mark progress on a project, and by announcing it to the world, you’re essentially justifying the time you spent realizing your vision, even if ultimately the piece never even gets published. Hey, Universe, at least I’m trying!
However, if you’re simply forcing yourself to fill a blank page with a certain amount of words, prompted by a blinking cursor or your own nagging sense of self-doubt, the result might not be worth the effort.
Quality Over Quantity
Now, I’m not recommending your take a semi-permanent vacation from writing, as I’ve actually suggested before, depending on your circumstances. Nor am I saying you should just throw in the proverbial towel and give up altogether. That’s really for you to decide, and nobody else.
My point here is regulating your daily schedule. And I’m not even saying you should write every single day, which is a very common piece of advice from authors much more accomplished than I am. So by all means, listen to them. Unless your brain, heart and fingers tell you otherwise. Then listen to them.
A story is like a relationship. Sometimes you both just need some space to sort things out. Otherwise you may wind up with a long term commitment that only winds up wasting both your time.
Getting up, going out for a walk to clear your head, or simply stretching your weary muscles. Though writing is a sedentary occupation by nature, hunching over a computer screen for hours can be murder on your shoulders and spine, without any calorie loss as compensation, unlike actual physical exercise.
Mostly it’s about giving your imagination a rest, or maybe reigniting your muse simply by giving it the rest of the day off. You can still jot down some thoughts to be used or discarded later.
After all, your solitude and autonomy as a writer (unless you’re part of a staff, of course) provides you with that most coveted of all self-employed benefits: you can make your own hours.
Just make them count when you’re actually “clocked in.” Then you won’t feel guilty because you didn’t get as much done as you’d planned. If you pace yourself properly, your output will make up the difference once you return to work, and then some.