My debut novel SLAY—a book about a Black teen game developer who creates a Wakanda-inspired VR game with duel cards based on Black culture and Black history—comes out September 24th. I wrote the first draft in eleven days. Why the breakneck pace, you ask? Partially, because I wanted to make the upcoming #Pitmad deadline, and partially because if I don’t fast-draft the books I write, I’ll hit the 20k mark, lose momentum, overthink everything I’ve ever written, and ask myself why I started writing a book that was hopelessly doomed from the start (spoiler alert: it rarely is).
When people ask experienced writers for advice on how to improve their craft or keep up motivation, a popular answer is “write every day.” That may work for lots of people, but it doesn’t work for me, and if you’ve been waiting for someone to give you permission to not write everyday, consider this article it.
For many writers, myself included, writing and reading can be spiritual experiences. Sitting under a blanket in a comfy chair with a hot drink and a blank page, or a page full of words that soothe your soul, is meditation.
Since I’m a fast-drafter, I tend to get first drafts out in record time (we won’t talk about how long my editing process is, whew!), but those writing sprints usually come with long stretches of time between drafts in which I’m not writing. Weeks or months on end. In fact, I’ve found I can fast draft with a clearer mind if I force myself not to write between drafts. I take that time to give my brain a rest—to reconnect with friends and family who live outside the writing cave, to lean into yoga and travel and other things that make me feel relaxed and fulfilled.
That’s the tricky thing about being in love with something that takes so much dedication, focus, mental energy—practice your craft too much, and you can put yourself at risk for burnout, fatigue, and even physical illness (I’m not kidding. I came down with the flu the day after I finished drafting SLAY). Practice too little, and your skills can go dull, stagnate, and you may fall out of love with it altogether.
Balance is key.
The online writing community is an amazing and wondrous place (shout out to the #WritingCommunity hashtag on Twitter!). I’ve found so many people sharing the frustrations of querying, synopsis-writing, and other tedium in the road to getting published, and offering encouragement to writers at all stages of their careers. But it’s also easy to see tweets, posts, and writing vlogs go by and think everyone is writing more or reading more than you, and that there’s something wrong with you if you’re not keeping up.
I grew up in an extremely strict household in which everything I read/watched/played/asked questions about was heavily policed, so I missed out on a lot of culturally significant books, TV shows, music, etc. including Pokemon, Harry Potter, and Star Wars. In fact, generally, the more popular something was, the more “worldly” and the less likely I’d be allowed to partake in it.
Needless to say, I missed out on a lot. FOMO, for me, is partially a product of my childhood. I have a deeply-seeded fear of being left out, I’m prone to imposter syndrome (just like every other writer out there— see Kat Cho’s post if you have doubts), and the natural response for me is to do all the things, read all the books, and write all the time.
But friend, no one has all the time.
Time is sacred and finite.
Goodreads, while it can be a fantastic tool for setting reading goals and chatting with other book lovers, can make you feel overwhelmed by the sheer number of books out there that it feels like everyone else has read. The Harry Potters, the Hunger Games, the Evelyn Hugos, the Red White & Royal Blues. If you’re anything like me, it’s easy to let FOMO set in, and convince yourself that you’re behind, or that you’re not doing enough. And that’s just not true.
Because for so many writers and readers, each activity is a meditative experience, there’s no need to feel guilty for not doing it “enough.” There are too many books in the world to read, there are too many books in the world to write, and life is too short to feel guilty about not doing enough of either.
Be well, love yourself, and SLAY.
Brittney Morris holds a BA in economics from Boston University, where she also founded and was the former president of the Boston University Creative Writing Club, and she is the author of SLAY. Brittney spends her spare time playing video games, slaying at DDR, and enjoying the Seattle rain from her apartment where she lives with her husband Steven, who would rather enjoy the rain from a campsite in the woods because he hasn’t played enough horror games. Visit her online and follow her on Twitter and on Instagram.
Author photo credit is: Kariba Photography