“I’m a full-time believer in writing habits…You may be able to do without them if you have genius but most of us only have talent and this is simply something that has to be assisted all the time by physical and mental habits or it dries up and blows away…Of course you have to make your habits in this conform to what you can do. I write only about two hours every day because that’s all the energy I have, but I don’t let anything interfere with those two hours, at the same time and the same place.”
Years ago I read this quote from Flannery O’Connor, the great American short story writer. She wrote each morning and then tended to the peacock farm she lived on with her mother. Every day, she sat down at her desk and gave over those hours to writing. Sometimes she wrote nothing of substance; sometimes she wrote nothing at all. But because her mind learned this time was always going to be dedicated to writing, it began to trust and to flow. Most days, she was productive.
There are practical reasons to write daily:
- you don’t have to re-read sections of your manuscript, which takes up valuable time;
- your family and friends begin to respect your writing time because you do;
- as soon as you sit down you’ll be in the flow, no need to struggle to regain your mental writing space;
- your subconscious starts to kick in and then magic happens in your writing (e.g. a character you created will say things you didn’t expect and will begin take on a life of its own).
But ultimately if you write regularly, you are making a sacred deal with that creative source within you to be open, to receive.
I finished my novel in one year by writing about three hours, maybe four, every morning while my daughter was in nursery school. If I needed a push here and there I took longer, after making arrangements with my husband. But the average was three hours daily. And I rarely wrote on weekends.
We’re not talking life-altering commitment here. No need to quit your day job.
Flannery O’Connor gave just two hours a day.