This article isn’t just about writing. It’s about the practice of building and maintaining habits. Building and maintaining habits toward your goals is what Thoughtwriting is all about. For now, let’s focus on writing daily.
A good friend of mine, Mike Baron, is a comic book writer and graphic novelist of nearly 40 years experience. If you’re a comic fan you probably know his work fairly well. If you don’t, you can check out his work and his blog here. Mike’s style is extremely direct, to the point and often dripping with dark, sarcastic humor. It’s been said that Mike Baron is like Quentin Tarantino on paper. Read some of his stuff and you would agree it is a punctuated, in your face, elegantly crass style that’s a lot of fun to get into. Anyway, enough about Mike.
One day I asked him how often he writes and if he ever gets writer’s block. He chuckled out a slight sneer and fired back that real writers don’t get writer’s block. Writer’s block doesn’t exist if you’re really an author. Real writers write every day. People that call themselves writers but bitch and moan about not being inspired enough to write are not writers. Writers just write whether they feel like it or not.
Writer’s block doesn’t exist? I’d never heard that before, but I wasn’t surprised to hear that come out of Mike’s mouth. I thought about it for a moment and realized the stupid simple truth of it. A true writer, like any artist, craftsman or professional, writes every day. Runners run every day unless they’ve sprained an ankle. Great musicians practice every single day.
Then I asked him how much of the stuff he writes is crap, and he again said something very interesting that I also wasn’t at all surprised by. He said that for most of his career, 90% of his writing has been trash, but by now he thinks he’s been able to get it up to about 50%. Wow. Mike’s debut on the comic book world was in 1980, and all these years later he humbly believes that only half of what he thinks up is any good. Bear in mind, he’s not talking about what he’s had published. He’s referring to everything he’s written, every day, day in and day out. Both the stuff he scribbles out, throws in the trash, ideas left behind and quality, polished works that made it into publication.
What he writes in any given moment, or how much time he spends writing each day I don’t think really matters. He says he writes at least a half hour a day, usually 3-5 hours, sometimes as much as 8 or more hours if the muses are really kicking his ass. I think it’s the practice of writing daily that really matters. How he writes also doesn’t matter. He could be at his computer writing a story line, lounging on the couch with pen and paper sketching out a plot outline or just reviewing some notes and making corrections and additions to something he wrote a few days ago. It’s all a form of practicing his art, daily.
Here’s another nugget of wisdom from Mike about turning your back on writer’s block, or just being stuck in any creative endeavor. He says he usually will have 3-5 writing projects going on simultaneously. If he runs out of steam working on one project then he can just shift his focus to another project to see if any developments surface, and if not he can shift again to a third project, and so on. Again what he is working on doesn’t really matter as much as the daily practice of keeping on with writing. That frees him up from the bondage of being stuck on one detail of a project he just can’t yet get around, which essentially what writer’s block is. He simply switches gears and moves on to another idea, and keeps writing. Every day.
This blog post has revolved around writing as an example, but I’m sure you can see that these same principles apply to just about any art, craft or skill in life. Daily practice is vitally important. Forgetting how good something is that you create is important. Leaving yourself several options within your creative world prevents you from letting your own expression stifle your creativity.
Before you go on from this article and claim that you are not the artistic type, remember that these principles still apply whether you consider yourself a creative person or not. If you are a far left-brained corporate executive you still have creative duties and are still subject to the same challenges that some writers call “writer’s block”. Think about it. How much more successful would you be if you simply gave yourself permission to practice your skill set every day without judgment from within? If you’re a factory worker you are still practicing the art of working your job every day. If you are a teacher, you have creative opportunities hitting you constantly.
Whatever your passion is, whatever your art is, whatever your interest is and whatever your skills are, practice every day. Do it every single day, if only for a half hour. Fail miserably if you want because that doesn’t matter in the end. Get stuck, then get unstuck. Just keep going. What matters is the person you are slowly crafting yourself to be through practicing your art. What is that person going to look like? It all depends on your daily habits. Every day.