Guest Bloggers

An Argument for Daily Writing by Ellen Sussman

Guest Blogger Ellen Sussman writes about “An Argument for Daily Writing.”

You want to be a writer. But…

You’ve got a demanding job. A demanding spouse. Demanding kids.

You wrote a novel that didn’t sell. You wrote two novels that didn’t sell. Three? Four?

You don’t have a snazzy office. You don’t have the latest computer. You write at a café and the moms bring all their screaming babies to that café.

You don’t think you’re good enough. Your high school English teacher told you you’re a lousy writer. Your mother told you that your brother was smarter than you are.

You have a hangover. You have carpal tunnel. You’re hungry and there’s no food in the house.

Excuses are easy. Writing is hard. I’ve got one way of silencing all those voices. I go to work every day. Writing is my job. So I show up. Screw the hangover. Screw the high school English teacher. Screw the screaming babies.

If I had to make a decision whether or not to write each day, I’d be a basket case. There are too many good reasons not to write. But my decision has already been made. I’m a writer and so I write. Daily. Regardless of whatever crazy thing is trying to distract me.

I think it’s better to write for a half-hour every day than it is to find a time, when the muse strikes, to sit your butt in that chair at your desk. Because daily writing teaches you the practice of writing. And the more you practice the better you get.

Ellen SussmanEllen Sussman is the New York Times bestselling author of four novels, A Wedding in Provence, The Paradise Guest House, French Lessons, and On a Night Like This. She is the editor of two critically acclaimed anthologies, Bad Girls: 26 Writers Misbehave and Dirty Words: A Literary Encyclopedia of Sex. She teaches through Stanford Continuing Studies and in private classes.Sussman.A Wedding in Provence

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4 comments

  1. A

    “If I had to make a decision whether or not to write each day, I’d be a basket case… But my decision has already been made.” Truer words never written. My appointment calendar saves my life. The writing time is set daily. I’ve trained myself to hold such appointments as sacred as the meetings and classes and pick-up times and everything else that I–the giver, the caretaker–used to hold as more real or more important than my heart’s desire. Thanks for laying this out, Ellen. As your book attests, the hours and days and years do accrue into something beautiful.

    1. mcullen Post author

      Yes, A. Smart idea . . .set up writing time just as you would a doctor’s appointment. I like that! Phew. . . I’m off the hook. “I have to write. . . ” It’s gone from my to-do list (that never gets finished) to “on my calendar” (which makes it real and official — no excuses).

  2. Ke11y

    First, and perhaps foremost, for me writing is a bug. It’s like suffering from a chronic disease or having worms, I can never seem to get rid of the disease entirely, it is an underlying need, a compulsion, yearning, fixation, demand, hankering, desire, frothing-at-the-mouth obsession, but whatever it is, it is always nagging to express myself.

    While I do write for myself, by nature I’m a ham and try to entertain others with what I write…at the same time being very self-deprecatory and unsure of my own writing abilities. Therefore, much of my particular kind of writing has taken on a tongue-in-cheek style. I’m not sure that this is the most desirable way to write (there’s a lot of tension involved), but if I can get somebody to laugh or at least be amused, even moved, then this, too, encourages me to keep on writing. I certainly don’t recommend this for others, however. It’s just something I do within the context of my own makeup.

    I write more regularly when I am interacting with other people through correspondence, something I learned when I was away from home, serving in foreign lands, writing letters to friends and relatives.
    Another plus with looking over old correspondence is to discover how I’ve changed over the years. Then there’s the rush of nostalgia, of course. People written to years ago have either died or disappeared, and to reread their letters sharply brings back memories, feelings, sensations, perceptions. This helps me write today or maybe tomorrow.

    1. mcullen Post author

      Wow, Kelly. Who would have thought something about worms and frothing would be so inspiring! You got it exactly right, in my opinion. . . it’s a certain kind of joy to write knowing others will enjoy and look forward to your writing (correspondence is so special). I am delighted to be a part of your writing tribe. . . you bring much joy in sharing your writing. Big smile here and a great way to start the day.

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