Things That Aren’t Writing

The vernal equinox is tomorrow, and in the spirit of balance, this week, the Debs are talking about the importance of not writing. But first, enjoy these photos I took as scientific proof that winter will end, dammit.

Every once in a while, the internet will spit out advice to aspiring authors that if you want to be a writer, you must write every day.

To this, I say: bullshit.

There’s a decent premise behind this aphorism. To be a writer, you do have to be dedicated. It’s not something you can half-ass. Both cheeks need to be full-in. It does take a lot of time, a lot of commitment, a looooot of hours in front of a screen. And it takes a lot of commitment, because without slightly manic devotion to the idea of publishing, you’ll never be able to take the licks this industry doles out.

But every day? Give me a break.

I feel like that advice usually comes from a position of privilege — someone who has the luxury of not living paycheck-to-paycheck, for example, whose job doesn’t leave them too tired to even think about looking at a computer screen after work. Someone who has a partner who can take the burdens of daily life off of them, whether those burdens are housekeeping, childcare, petcare, or earning a wage (or all of the above). Someone who doesn’t suffer from mental illness that sometimes makes just being conscious a draining struggle, or a physical disability or disease that exhausts and requires management.

I don’t write every day. I write most days, and I do something related to my writing career almost every day. Editing, outlining, brainstorming, social media, designing graphics for marketing, attending conferences, research, reading — those are all things related to writing that are not, themselves, writing. But without them, I couldn’t be a successful writer. Some days I do those things and also write; some days they take up enough hours on their own that writing takes a backseat.

And there are days – not many of them, but a few a year — when I do none of the above. Where I choose to be present with my family for a holiday. Where I’m too emotionally drained to do much more than meet the base level of functioning as a human. Where I’m on vacation. Where life gets in the way. Where I choose to be something other than or beyond a writer. No one could call me less than dedicated; I’ve wanted this career since 1997 and I’ve been working on this book since 2011. But that doesn’t mean it owns my every waking moment (however differently anyone who’s tried to have a conversation with me in the past few months might feel).

The week after From Unseen Fire releases, I’m going to Disney World. And you can bet your ass I’m not going to be writing while I’m there. I’m going to meet princesses, scritch BB-8, flounce about in Dapper Days outfits, ride (the tamer) rides, cry at parades and fireworks, drink my way around EPCOT, and eat a variety of sweet treats shaped like Mickey Mouse ears. I’m even going to wear an “I’m Celebrating” button announcing the publication of my debut novel. But I won’t be writing or even thinking about it beyond that not-so-humble-brag.

And that makes me no less a writer.

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Cass Morris lives and works in central Virginia and the Outer Banks of North Carolina. She completed her Master of Letters at Mary Baldwin University in 2010, and she earned her undergraduate degree, a BA in English with a minor in history, from the College of William and Mary in 2007. She reads voraciously, wears corsets voluntarily, and will beat you at MarioKart.

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