This post started as yet another rant about how you need to work to achieve artistic success. I thought about the other version of this post most of the day and decided I’m going to rework that one. In this post I’m going to talk about something else people who write bring up with near religious fervor: should you write every day?
The Value of Discipline
I think the advice should be you should write most days. There are going to be days where it comes easily and days where you’re lucky to get a few sentences out. If you’re just getting started this is OK and probably expected. Once you’ve been doing it a while you’re going to realize this happens to experienced writers as well. The “professional” knows the work will get done because they’ve disciplined themselves to do it.
Setting your target to a reasonable and achievable goal is going to go a long way in keeping you motivated.
You are a bucket of energy with a hole in the bottom
The Energy Bucket
My first flight instructor was this guy named Bud. Bud was about a foot and a half shorter than me, and I think we were matched up because I’m a doughboy. There’s a weight limit on a two-seat training aircraft, and with a full load of fuel there was room for the two of us. I digress.
We were practicing landings, and I had an approach I just didn’t think was working. I decided to abort the landing and make another attempt (which we call a go-around). I put my hand on the throttle and was about to make the radio call when Bud grabbed my hand, pulled the throttle out, and calmly told me we were simulating an engine failure. I think I said something along the lines of Oh shit; Bud’s response was, “Manage the energy to get the plane down.”
It was far from my finest approach and the landing was a bit rough, but we both walked away and someone else was able to take that plane up when we were done. As we sat in Bud’s office during the debriefing session, Bud described a plane as “a bucket of energy with a hole in the bottom. Energy is constantly going in but it’s also leaking out the bottom.”
I’m going to admit it took a long time for me to grasp what Bud was saying that hot summer afternoon, but now it makes sense. Matter of fact I think any task can be equated to the energy bucket: we only have so much time to work before we must rest. We can relentlessly try to keep our energy up but no system is infinite in its capacity; we need to manage what we have available so we don’t run out when we need it most.
We Are Energy Buckets As Well
Like planes, people are energy buckets as well. I see many people pursuing things – not just art, but anything – who push and push and push themselves until collapse. If this comes with what the person considers an artistic failure they may give up and walk away.
I strongly advise you don’t let this happen to you. Yes, there is a time to push. There is also a time to rest and recharge. Knowing when you need to back off is not a weakness, but a strength.