Two thirds of the way into this, I’m going to talk a bit more about why it’s important to write every day but I shall start with something I was going to leave until the end. It’s been long enough. I mentioned at the beginning where this month-long daily writing/blogging challenge came from. Yuki Tejima writes a fairly new blog entitled Book Nerd Tokyo. Being a fellow translator and from an immigrant Japanese-North-American background, I find her work highly relatable and her reflections on contemporary Japanese literature to be absolutely spot-on. I’d highly recommend anyone with an interest in modern lit to follow her blog and go back and read the back issues when you get a chance. You’ll likely find some books you didn’t already know about and good places to go and discover more if you happen to be in the Tokyo area any time soon.
Anyway, she did a month-long writing challenge to coincide with Nanowrimo (National Novel Writing Month), which I’ve done several times before — as a novelist and a poet but never as an academic or teaching tool. I was inspired but I spent the last couple of months of last year in a rather medically-unfit state to be committing to any projects, writing or otherwise. I told myself that I would follow her example, though, in the new year, when I was again capable of putting fingers to keys (does anyone use pens anymore for anything other than outdated forms and the creation of visual art?) take it up and get it done. Being twenty days into the challenge now, I have a few pre-finishing reflections to share.
Writing every day is important. Whether you’re an academic writer or just looking to explore writing as a hobby — or if it’s a profession you’re deep into or just beginning — you owe it to yourself to write something every day. That doesn’t mean that what you write every day needs to be five thousand words or make it into your next book or formal article. Certainly not. If we each wrote that kind of volume, it would be wonderful but I suspect we would quickly run out of things to say or ways to say it. Perhaps not. But if you write a thousand or two words of new material, that’s a good start. Write a blog post, something self-reflective. Something creative. Write some poems. Write a group of couplets (please, not rhyming, for the sake of all that is peaceful in the world) and keep going. But here’s my advice. Don’t just write for the sake of putting words on the screen. Write something that has depth and meaning to you and make sure it sounds good to your ears. If a sentence sounds like crap, you can certainly go back and fix it later. But this isn’t a first draft of anything. This is what it is. If it takes you ten minutes to get a sentence right before you move on, so be it. Maybe you’ll only write one sentence today. Make it a good one and write another one tomorrow — you might write two. Give yourself the goal of making whatever you write something you feel is worth being shared. Because writing for yourself, realistically, is a massive waste of time and effort.
Some people really enjoy writing a journal or keeping a diary. Most people just do it because they think they should and that there’s some value in it intrinsically. There isn’t. If it gives you pleasure, that’s fine. But writing for an audience is what’s going to make your writing improve. If you write for yourself, there’s no pressure or reason to make it better with each passing day. Write for the public and you’ll always be striving for improvement. It won’t always come and it will never come quickly enough that you are satisfied by it. But that’s what taking up a craft is all about and what making art is. You make things for an audience and each thing is a learning experience. Writing every day is an excuse to be a better writer. Whether all you’ve got is ten minutes or can devote a couple of hours to it, every minute helps, truly.
One other thing to keep in mind. You’re writing for an audience but that doesn’t mean you have to connect with one. Giving yourself an audience means that you will make your writing the best it can be — making sure there are no glaring errors, choosing your words carefully, being insightful rather than just trying to hit a word count. If it takes you a week to write a single post, sure, no problem. More isn’t necessarily better. Better is better. But this doesn’t mean that you need to invite criticism (or praise). I have no interest in what others think of my writing. Sure, I’ll read the reviews of my books when they’re published but when it comes to the things that I write on my blog, it’s a blog. They’re not perfect. They’re not meant to be. They’re as good as I can manage in a short period of time and they’re written to be consumed in the spirit of a one-sided conversation. I’m not asking for a response or a comment. I’m putting them out there. Much like how I write poetry. I’m not writing poetry for the people who don’t like my poetry. I’m writing it for the people who like it. They can read it and enjoy it. The ones who don’t, I’m not trying to convince them of anything. They can read someone else’s. It’s their choice. What I don’t care about is why they don’t want to read mine or what they want me to change.
If you listen to your critics every day, you’ll just become miserable and think your writing sucks. It might, sure, but you’re working on it and getting better. Someone learning to draw in primary school doesn’t need the neighborhood artists critiquing each drawing. You (and I) don’t need the internet troll crew destroying our reason for writing. There will be people out there who read what you write and some of them will enjoy it. That’s who you’re writing for.
Of course, you would be well advised to seek some assistance with your writing, especially if you’re just starting out. I teach writing. It’s what I do. My translation work is academic and secondary. My job is to teach people how to write and how to write better. But that doesn’t mean I stick my foot in other people’s business. I teach the people who ask me — whether in my classes or just people who find me and ask questions. I will offer suggestions and opinions when requested and only when requested. Being an expert in something means you know enough to talk about something intelligently and know when to stop. Being an asshole means you don’t care if you have anything to say, you can’t shut up. Avoid the assholes — even if they’re intelligent, which they rarely are.
To close, though, I just want to say another thank-you to Tejima-san for her inspirational writing prompts (and those who inspired her to do it in the first place, although I will let you go and discover her inspirations directly) and to those (far more than I imagined) who have read these daily reflections. I know I usually write poetry and about social justice issues and I may indeed return to those posts once this challenge is completed but I’m hoping to continue to write far more frequently, not just the examples I create for my students but articles on here. Perhaps I’ll take the daily writing examples I create for class and put them here, too, rather than just on the class pages. Shall have to give that some thought. Anyway, until the next reflection, Sato out.