There aren’t very many things that I do every day, without fail. I eat, I sleep, I text my friends. I don’t go to class every day, or even study (though maybe I should!), but I do do something else: write.
I realized earlier this year that writing is the most important thing I do, even though I don’t consider myself a writer. My major in college is economics, and I’m getting minors in mathematics and computer science, so it might seem like writing wouldn’t be all that important to my studies. But I’ve found that if I can’t get my ideas across clearly to other people, then it’s hard for me to get much use out of them. I can learn all the economics in the world, but if I can’t write down why it’s important and why I think it’s true, no one else will be able to follow along with my train of thought, and they may not even care to.
I’ll admit to a certain bias with respect to the importance of writing as a daily practice, because at the beginning of 2018 I started writing my first novel. I don’t really care if it ever gets published, because I’m writing it for me and the few people who I might eventually ask to read it. I’ve worked on my book (nearly) every day this year, and right now my manuscript is about 350 pages. If I didn’t think that my writing mattered, it would be a lot harder than it already is for me to sit down every day and write pages and pages that no one else might ever read.
So how do I write every day, and why?
My routine for writing my novel has changed over the course of the year. In January and February, I was still trying to figure out what my book would actually be about, so if I wrote even half a page I thought it was a day well spent. I’d often write in the morning, because if I waited until my classes had started then it would be easy for me to be swept up by the day and forget about paying close attention to my goals. Now that I’m spending the summer working an office job as an intern, I tend to write right after lunch, when there’s a bit of a lull in activity. I don’t know what time I’ll end up regularly writing when the fall semester starts, but I think I’ll keep following the same basic pattern.
I take my writing routine from [amazon_textlink asin=’1439156816′ text=’Stephen King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft’ template=’ProductLink’ store=’metizamagaz04-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’06253732-8f83-11e8-87de-8de4603b1c8a’]. He recommends writing 1000-2000 words a day, at the same time. I’m not trying to write a Stephen King-length novel in the 3-6 months he recommends for finishing a first draft, and you probably aren’t either, so 2000 words a day is probably a little much. But sitting down and writing 200-500 words of a story every day is an awesome start for developing as a writer.
My favorite part of King’s routine is the idea that you aren’t creating the story but uncovering it and making it known. When I started watching my characters instead of directing them, letting them show me what they wanted and did, the action of my book picked up and started feeling much more natural.
I said earlier that I don’t consider myself a writer. I think everyone, whether writing itself is the thing she wants to do or it’s a means to get what she wants, can benefit from working on her writing. Writing makes me think carefully about what I want to say and how I want to say it and forces me to look closely at my ideas and beliefs. At the same time, when I let it, writing carries me away on wild tangents that help me to branch my thoughts out to new horizons.
Whether I’m writing part of my novel or an essay for school, I find that just as much as I write down existing ideas, my writing also creates new ideas.
This new creation of ideas is one of the most powerful ways that writing affects me, and it’s why it’s one of the most important parts of my day. When I write, I answer a question, and that answer brings up two or five or ten more questions. In this way, writing makes me smarter.
Every day, I consume. I read, whether it’s books or news or just text messages, and I watch and listen to podcasts and YouTube and TV, and I don’t need to make much of an effort to do those things. The world is always coming to me, trying to get my attention, so taking things in is passive, it’s default.
But writing is the thing I can do every day, totally for free, that creates something. It’s not consumption, it’s production, and it puts me out into the world. Even if I don’t publish what I write, I’m creating something new for the world, and that is powerful. Every time I sit down and write, I grow and change. My ideas, and my ability to express them, become stronger, and that’s something worth doing every single day.
Also published on Medium.