Write every day. I kept getting this advice from teachers and those wonderful interviews in glossies about process. You just have to train your muscles to write every day, they tell us. I started obsessing over everyone’s writing rituals and daily schedules. “Tell me more, glossies,” I demand, flipping through those smooth, white pages. I needed more.
Some writers allege that they write eight hours every day. I gave those postulations a twisted face. Stephen King writes fours hours every day. I found this out during someone’s class presentation. I instantly turned to another student, and said, “If I could write one hour a day, I’d be doing it big.” We laughed, but that night, I went home, and thought what if I could write one hour every day? A challenge was born. One hour produced six new pages. Then one hour turned into two hours, then I settled into three-hour writing sessions. I got through a draft of my novel, then it was time to revise it. Producing new pages and revising old ones are two very different things: one is full of wonder and mystery and fuck-ups, while the other is tedious, nitpicky and ruthless. Three hours of one was not three hours of the other. Suddenly, I regressed back to one hour of writing, then no hours.
I started wearing a sign that read Distractions Welcome, and they arrived. Television came back, and I was all over it. I joined a dating site, and man, that can keep you busy forever! I reconnected with old friends, played with their babies, ran errands with them. I chilled at my mom’s house, letting her lecture me about whatever she wanted, then ran errands for her. I took a quickie road trip to Michigan. I picked up shifts at work. Then, one day, a guy that I was getting to know asked me, “So what do you do when you’re not writing?” It was a weird question to synthesize. First of all, my writer friends and I were all running away from our novels, so this question was absurd, as if we sat at our desks and wrote and wrote and wrote, like write-aholics. After I laughed long and hard, I got upset. I looked at his profile picture and asked, “What? You don’t want me talking about writing? Is that it?”
The answer, unfortunately, was that I do everything when I’m not writing. Even moan about how I ought to be writing. That guy never asked me about writing, ever, which is why I don’t talk to him anymore, but I found a solution to my writing issue: I cannot be so regimented about it. I’m not that person. I know what Stephen King does. I know that Toni Morrison meets the sun, and as it rises, she hits the first keys. None of that works for me. It was Mathew Weiner’s advice that stuck. He’s the creator of Mad Men. He carried his manuscript around with him every day, pitching it to whomever he could.
Here’s the kernel I took from his advice: believe in your work. Take it with you everywhere. Look at it. Read it. Edit it on the train. Touch it. Acknowledge its existence. Believe in it, even if it’s just a little belief. I did these things, and it made me want to spend time with it, to write for an hour on some days, five hours other days. I don’t feel like a robot who must do any specific thing each day. I feel incredibly blessed to be in relationship with this idea that I turned into a book. I did that. This is my work. I shaved off some of the time spent watching TV and dating and playing with cute babies that don’t belong to me because I have this great thing to do: I have to write.
Latoya Wolfe, Assistant Editor