Welcome to The Draft, an advice column about writing and life from Eileen Pollack, former director of the University of Michigan MFA Program. We’re here to answer your questions about story craft, writing, and telling the truth.
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What’s the best method to establish a daily writing practice? My life seems to be often in flux, and it’s been a challenge to consistently write. I’ve tried writing morning, evening, and weekend. Naps or hunger seem to be the largest distractor.
I’m currently in the midst of a career change. I was formerly involved in strategizing and writing content for a public relations firm, so it was imperative that I focus on the audience and objectives at hand when crafting any written material. Now it feels like I’m stalling in the evolution of becoming a better writer. What do I write when there’s no pressing need presented to me?
Dear Distracted and Stalled,
I’ve never met a writer, no matter how successful or prolific, who didn’t, after 10 or 15 minutes, give in to the urge to snack, nap, or clean the kitchen floor. Sure, you would be more productive if you forced yourself to sit down every morning for an hour before you headed off to work. (I follow an elaborate ritual that involves breakfast, coffee, email, and 5 or 10 rounds of computer solitaire before I can bear to open my current file.)
But why would anyone endure all the solitude and frustration demanded of any writer if the only reward were drudgery? Writers who complain about being distracted or stalled usually avoid their desks because they conceive their purpose to be churning out something they should write rather than something they want or need to write (and by “need” I mean compelled by their own inner demons). If fulfilling your obligation to a client or boss were the only reason to write, you might as well…