You Don’t Have to Write Every Day

Clark Cook writes, “Writing is exhilarating. For me, if that wasn’t there, I’d go play with the dogs or go see a movie or. . whatever…I sometimes go for days, occasionally weeks, without writing a word. Then I’ll write for 16 hours with bathroom breaks only, sleep for 4 hours, then do it again. For ten days. I start a poem, story, or novel with (sometimes) next-to-no direction or sense of purpose. Keith Jarrett’s Koln Concert (Longest jazz piano solo on record) is a model for me: he begins playing with the keys. Here a trill, there a chord or two, all over the place, gradually the rhythm emerges and then. . .it’s FOUND! The remainder of the piece is a joyous celebration, with deep explorations, of that central chord. If I have any kind of ‘method’, that’s it. When it’s done, I write the first sentence.”

I was thinking about the adage that, as a writer, you must write every day, even to the detriment of family life. Who was it that dedicated their book to their family, noting ‘without them, I would have finished this book ten years earlier.’ Clark Cook counters this idea and I tend to agree. During the first Covid lockdown I was convinced that I could use the time to finish my novel. But, the time was eaten up with listening to the silence and enjoying time with my wife as we got busy and repainted the outside of our home (in her wisdom she had bought plenty of paint the day before lockdown). I can’t write under stress and I can’t write when I’m tired. I need space for my thoughts and energy for my ideas. I write better in the morning or late at night.

However, whatever circumstances I find myself in, I have my writing antennae ready to pick up a comment or gesture; a news item or statement, or any snippet that will be useful in my book. For example, my wife and I were on a train in the south of France. I looked over the isle and saw someone who fitted a character I was writing about. Their hair, their shoes, and their facial expression quickly joined the description I needed.

I collect ideas like gathering sea shells, and love spending time making them into a piece of literature.

Ideas bigger than your life!

I came across a wonderful quote recently, by Gloria Gaither. She said, “You need to have ideas bigger than your life.” How profound and how ideal to sum up a writer’s goal. Novels, like paintings, can lift us above the ordinary and create worlds far bigger than our own lives; far longer than our histories and far removed from our world. Thank you, Gloria, for inspiring us to have ‘Ideas bigger than our lives’!

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