Yesterday evening was one of those times when I felt I didn’t have anything in the tank for writing. Part of the value of having a writing streak, or being in the midst of trying to break a previous streak is that the idea of breaking the streak acts as an opposing force weariness I sometimes feel when it comes time to write. Granted, I’m only 17 days or so into this current streak, working my way back to 140 days, but 17 days is more than two weeks, and skipping a day would make it that much harder to get back to 140 days.
I’d had a tough day at work yesterday. My anxiety levels were unusually high for me. I got home from work and I was, well, thrumming. I’m not sure exactly what that word means, but it sounds like how I felt, as if every cell in my body was vibrating at a frequency that I could feel even in my teeth. Kelly agreed to walk over and pick up the kids from school, which is usually my job. I sat quietly for a while and tried to relax. I was tired and I had a pretty good idea that if I waiting until my usual writing time during the week–before putting the kids to bed–I’d get no writing done.
So I turned to my work-in-progress feeling more of a duty to write than a desire to write. I looked at where I left off, remembering how eager I was to continue. But that feeling was just not there. I sat there with my fingers poised over the keyboard, deciding whether I should give it a go or not. I thought about my streak and my desire to write every day. I didn’t particularly feel like writing, was, in fact, exhausted. But I knew that if I didn’t write anything, I’d feel even worse later. And besides, I didn’t need to write much. Even 100 words would satisfy me on a day like I was having.
So I started writing. I wrote one sentence, and then another. That one was followed by another. And so on and so on. I kept checking my word count, something I do when I am really just trying to hit my mark. I passed 100 words, then 200. Then I stopped checking for a while, and then next time I checked I was at 999 words. By then I was feeling a little better. I added a few more sentences and called it a day. I’d managed about 1,100 words by sheer brute force.
I mention this because I think it helps to illustrate the power of writing every day. I didn’t worry if whether or not what I wrote was any good. Heck, it’s the first draft! I knew some of what I was writing would never make it into the next draft. But I was writing. I was moving the story forward, moving the ball down the field. I had absolutely no desire to write, and yet I managed to write 1,100 words.
Something else, too: when I finished writing, I felt a lot better. Not just about the fact that I’d gotten my writing done for the day, although that was a relief. Despite the rough day, the act of writing was like some kind of remedy, like taking aspirin for a headache. The stresses of the day melted away while I was writing and when the writing was done, they did not return. I’m certain that this is because I love to write, and while you don’t always feel like doing what you love, when you do it, you love it and it heals what ails you.
Everyone has their off days. But showing up makes all of the difference. I sometimes wonder if pro baseball players, in the hours leading up to a game, ever just think, “Man, I feel like crap today. My head just isn’t in it.” But they still step up to the plate when its their turn. Maybe they strike out, maybe they hit a homerun. It really doesn’t matter. What matters is that they showed up. I don’t think there is any one secret to being a successful writer. But if there was, I imagine that showing up–writing every day regardless of how you feel–plays a big part.