by Annie Scholl
This is the second in a series of Q & A’s with authors who believe writing daily isn’t necessary to be a successful writer. This Q & A is with Bar Scott, a singer/songwriter and author of the memoir The Present Giver.
Author Khaled Housseni says, “To be a writer — this may seem trite, I realize — you have to actually write. You have to write every day, and you have to write whether you feel like it or not.” Do you think we have to write daily to be successful as writers?
For me, it’s all about how we talk about ‘Being a Writer:’ How we describe what a writer is. What makes one a writer versus a non-writer? Housseni’s description makes me a non-writer and I would counter that I am a writer despite the fact that I do not write everyday. So the question is, does writing everyday make one a better writer? Or a good writer? Or a legit writer? I think it probably does, but does it matter? In other words: what’s the goal? Is it to call yourself a writer, or is it to enjoy your writing regardless of whether it’s good, legit, or better than it would be if you didn’t write everyday.
On the other hand, when I’m writing something that I’m on fire about and that my whole body needs and wants to express, I DO write every day, but that’s because I want to write more than anything else I might do. When I get like that I write non-stop.
Do you believe there is pressure on writers to write daily – that if you don’t, you’re not a “real” writer?
I think a lot of writing coaches and workshop facilitators encourage their writing clients to write daily because it’ll supposedly get those writers further down the publishing path. I don’t think it’s healthy. I think it puts pressure on would-be writers who would rather have pleasure than pressure.
What are your thoughts about a daily writing routine?
If you want to write everyday, wonderful! In many ways I envy you. What a joy to write every day! But most days I don’t feel like writing. I believe that the work I’m doing when I’m thinking about what I might write is just as important as the time I take to actually write. Caution: don’t just dream about being a writer. Dream about the writing: how your stories will evolve, who your characters are, etc. That kind of dreaming is not a waste of time.
Have you ever been one to write daily?
Nope, although I’ve been infected by the notion that I have to at various points. But that imperative quickly fades. Dogs need to be walked, love needs to be made, food needs to be cooked, and friends need to be cultivated, not to mention all the other things a full life requires.
Describe your writing routine.
These days I write with pen and paper. Lynda Barry convinced me in her book, What it Is, that writing with a pen is better for me. It slows me down. I’m a person who moves quickly through the world every day. It’s just my style and I’m not crazy about it. Using a pen slows me down, giving me time to think about what I’m writing rather than vomiting it out as fast as my fingers can type ….
When I want to write something, I sit on the cushy couch in our bedroom, or sometimes in the courtyard just outside our bedroom, and I simply start. “Simply” is not the right word. Starting is by far the hardest part. There’s always something else that needs to be done, so when I want to write, I say to myself don’t do that other thing. Sit. Write. Turn off the phone. Once I’ve done that, I can write for hours, time that I hardly notice passing.
If I can, I write with one of those white plastic pens with four separate color options. The kind we used in elementary school. And I write in a spiral bound notebook with college level spacing (not too wide). If I get something I like, I type it into my computer when I’m done so it’s easier to find when I want to come back to it. That first typed version is edited somewhat as I enter it but I try hard to leave it as close to what I originally wrote as I can. I’m convinced that that first writing in pen holds a lot of the magic stuff.
What tips can you share for creating a non-daily writing practice?
Create a writing group. Work with others you trust and admire and who are reliable. Write with them as often as you can, weekly, bi-monthly, whatever, and don’t have an agenda about what comes out of it. Just enjoy it.
Image: “Vintage Typewriter” by Memphis CVB via Flickr.