When you hear the advice to set aside time to write, do you worry about whether you’ll be able to produce quality writing on a set schedule? What if you didn’t get enough sleep the night before, or you’re worried about another priority at the time, or you’re just not feeling inspired?
Here’s what Dune author Frank Herbert said on this topic: “I don’t worry about inspiration, or anything like that. It’s a matter of just sitting down and working. I have never had the problem of a writing block.”
Herbert continued: “I’ve heard about it. I’ve felt reluctant to write on some days, for whole weeks, or sometimes even longer. I’d much rather go fishing, for example, or go sharpen pencils, or go swimming, or what not. But, later, coming back and reading what I have produced, I am unable to detect the difference between what came easily and when I had to sit down and say, ‘Well, now it’s writing time and now I’ll write.’ There’s no difference on paper between the two.”
Can that really be true? I used to be skeptical of the advice to write at a certain time no matter what. Then, I got cancer. For six months, I was either in pain, exhausted, nauseous, or woozy from drugs. But one of the ways I wanted to hang on to my sanity during treatment was to write. So, I pulled out my keyboard at the appropriate times (sometimes propped up in bed with pillows) and wrote. I continued to publish blog posts and worked at some longer-term writing projects as well.
Months later, when my treatment ended, when I was feeling rested, and I was finally off all the drugs, I read those blog posts I had produced under duress. They were just as good as any others I had written. Frank Herbert was right.