Something that has been perplexing my mind recently is the idea of having to be in the mood to write. There are generally two sides to this argument, both sides having strong opinions. Some writers believe that there is no such thing as having to be “in the mood to write” and that this is merely an excuse for being lazy. Others claim that being in the mood to write is essential to the art process, and that forcing oneself to write just to achieve a daily quota will produce clumsy results.
I am unsure what my opinion is on this issue. In one way, I can see how discipline produces results. This is true of any endeavor. If you show up and put something on the page every day, it will build up. But just because one writes every day does not necessarily mean that what is written will be of a quality than that of a project that is not written every day. It is not so much the quantity as it is the quality. Of course, quality usually comes from a repetition of quantity—in the forms of drafts. The goal is that as more drafts are produced, the writing will be further refined. I can see how writing every day will produce a first draft at a faster rate.
There may be advantages to this. First drafts are often one of the more challenging aspects of writing a book. It would be tempting, if given the option, to never write a first draft to any piece, as the process is largely based on uncertainty and repeated mistakes. Some of these mistakes are found right away and some linger until the editing begins. If a writer is suffering from a doubt in his or her abilities, having a first draft ready as soon as possible can give this person a sense of relief and motivation to continue forward. If this is a first-time writer, it might be the perfect “I can do this!” moment that is necessary.
Of course, there are days when other activities might be more pressing than working on a project. There might be days of discouragement and disappointment and worry about the outside world. Every working writer has those days because every writer is presumably a human being with human emotions. Some people try to take this to the extreme, though.
One of the most frequent arguments I have heard writers say is that if they didn’t have a daily quota, they would find something else far more interesting to do than write. If that is the case, why is this writer even writing? If having to strap yourself down to a daily length requirement is the only reason you are working on a project, you probably should not be working on that project. So go ahead and do whatever else is interesting to you. It’s your life.
Reader, what is your opinion of rituals and word counts? Do they serve a larger purpose besides discipline?