QUESTION OF THE DAY: HOW MANY WORDS/HOURS DO YOU WRITE A DAY?
A visitor to this page named Peliz has posed this question for me, with hopes that I might be able to help him with his own writing.
First of all, for those of you writers or would-be writers out there who haven't seen this little essay I wrote on writing, in which I try to answer commonly-asked questions, here is a link to it:
Secondly, for those of you who are REALLY serious about your writing (or any craft, for that matter) may I suggest that you go to Amazon and download (for a mere $2.99) a fantastic longer essay that my friend the brilliant novelist Ann Patchett wrote about the writing life, called "The Getaway Car", which was her way of answering commonly-asked questions about her work, and how to do it.
But as for my answer, dear Peliz: IT DEPENDS.
I don't write every day. I used to write every day. Back when I was a struggling unpublished would-be writer/waitress/bartender, I wrote every single day. Somehow I knew that, if I didn't do this task independently, it would never happen. If I didn't create my own assignments, my own deadlines, my own work, there would be no work. I knew that nobody was ever going to knock on my door and say, "I understand there is a promising unpublished writer living in this squalid walk-up apartment. Please, miss, let us give you a book deal!"
So I wrote every day — even if it was just to chronicle my frustrations in a journal — so that I could call myself a writer before anyone else ever would. I wrote every day, and I sent my work out into the world to magazines and publishers, constantly.
These days, however, I write project-by-project. If I am working on a book actively I will write every single day, getting up very early in the morning (before the world finds me) and working for anywhere from an hour a day (at the beginning, when it is hard) to six hours a day (at the end, when it is flying.) I will do that, quite simply, until it is done.
Between projects, I don't write at all. Sometimes I will spend that time doing research (all my books are very research-driven) and sometimes, to be very honest, I will spend that time doing absolutely nothing — like this morning when I woke up early and wasted a perfectly good two hours laying down in a patch of sun on my porch, thinking unproductive and foolish thoughts, and admiring the last of my garden's tulips. THIS, TOO, IS CREATIVELY IMPORTANT. (Or at least that's what I tell myself!) But right now I am not working on a book, and so I am giving myself those sunny morning wasted hours to enjoy.
But back to you. Let me break it down for you all, very simply. There are three things you need to be successful in any creative field.
Two of those items — talent and luck — are entirely out of your control. Only God and your weird DNA decide how much talent we are allotted, and only the roulette-wheel of destiny determines your luck. So forget about talent and luck; you can't pursue them. Never mind. Just focus with all your might on the one factor that is entirely in your control: Discipline. Because that's ALL YOU'VE GOT in the pursuit of creativity. Discipline is the only piece of the equation that's entirely yours. I've been watching disciplined and determined people beat out talented and lazy people for years, trust me. I've seen disciplined people win out over lucky people, too. (Luck only gets your foot in the door, but if you have nothing to produce once you're inside that magical circle, all the luck in the world is worthless.) Being disciplined does not promise that you will have success, of course, but artistic success has never been achieved any other way, either. SO…
Discipline! Learn to love it, like a Marine. Even when it sucks. And what do the marines say?
"Embrace the suck".
Develop your butt muscles, and sit there for at least an hour a day on your itchy restless ass and push through the boredom, doubt and misery, and get some words on the page, or some paint on the canvas, or some notes on the score. (Except me, this weekend. This weekend, I have a special dispensation to gaze at tulips for hours on end! But I earned that right through a lot of disciplined and boring ass-sitting, during many years where nobody was interested in my work.)
Also, seriously, sometimes it can be really fun. They never tell you that, but I'll tell you. Living a creative life is not all struggle, nor should it be. Sometimes it is the most airy, perfumed joy in the world. It is worth the suck. Truly.
Happy making, everyone!
Thoughts on Writing | Elizabeth Gilbert – The Official Website | ElizabethGilbert.com
Sometimes people ask me for help or suggestions about how to write, or how to get published. Keeping in mind that this is all very ephemeral and personal,