One of the questions—there are thousands of questions—on the OK Cupid dating website is:
Ideally, how often would you have sex?
• Every day
• 3 to 4 times per week
• 1 to 2 times per week
• less than once per week
Secretly, this is a writing question.
So, you say that you want to write. I have many friends and acquaintances who make that claim. Maybe they like to read, or maybe they have something to get off their chests, or maybe there is some kind of residual romantic cache to being a writer. I hesitate to ask them, is there anything you like to do every day?
Most people only do a few things every day. We sleep (perchance dream). We eat and drink. Cup of coffee? Glass of wine? My dad had a small dish of ice cream every night. Work? I used to work seven day weeks—which is exhausting and revelatory. Parents parent every day—every single day. Some work out daily. Fortunately, I have no worn meniscus in my brain to keep me out of the mental pool more than every other day, and I am happier when I get my actual wet mile in daily. For some with partners, or even without, some kind of sexual activity happens daily.
How many of those do you do willingly, with a sense of purpose bound to deeper joy? How many are obligations that feel like you need a respite from every five—or less!—days? If you are the kind of person who rankles at the daily grind, maybe skip the writing, unless the rankle gets you going. I know plenty of cranky writers. Plenty—Jeremiah has many brothers and sisters.
One of the early discussions in grad school was the tricks writers used to trigger their daily duty. Sharpening pencils. Cleaning house. Eating M&Ms. Waking up.
Antonio Machado writes (translated here):
After living and dreaming
comes what matters most:
Writing is like waking up—and it happens every day. It may be fueled—strike the “may”—it is fueled by our lives and dreams, but it is more than either. The same way our bodies move through the day—chopping onions, carrying bags from the car, wheeling our mothers into the doctor’s office—they come awake when we make love (I hope, for your sake that this is so). Writing is like that—an intentional and yet mysterious waking up. A discovery.
I almost always write with a plan. I have a first sentence and last sentence. And then I wake up. The middle—every other part—is a surprise. I start grabbing books off shelves, looking up physics formulas, checking the weather data from fifty years ago, calling a friend. I almost always end up with that last sentence, but the route shifts as fast as a glimpse—the meaning of the last sentence changing as all the shifting words transport me to a city whose streets are unfamiliar and entirely welcome, and whose secret is revealed in a way I had only dreamed.
Every day. If you want to write. Dream, live, write, wake up. Every day.