Jan 092010

I’ve often heard it decreed that if you don’t write every day you can’t consider yourself a “real” writer. Dorothea Brande, who wrote Becoming a Writer — which, but for what I am about to point out, is an amazing book — advises that if you can’t commit a period of every single day to the task of words on paper then you might as well pin your name tag back on and commence flipping burgers. (Not her exact words.) I read her book back before I’d had anything published, and I took her advice to heart. So when a day or two passed when I hadn’t written anything I’d be crushed and convinced I’d never make it as a writer.

In the meantime, the snippets I did write in between periods of not writing began to gather. I didn’t consider this real writing because I wasn’t a real writer because I wasn’t writing every single day. But nonetheless the pile got bigger and bigger. Later when I landed a humor column at Creative Loafing, I culled most of my material from this pile. Then when a publisher contacted me after hearing one of my commentaries on NPR and asked me if, perchance, I had a book I was working on, I kicked myself for not being a real writer. “I don’t have a book,” I lamented to him. “All I have are all these pages I’ve written.”

The publisher patiently reminded me that books are made of pages, and that maybe I should send mine to him. I did as he asked, certain these pages couldn’t amount to a real book because I wasn’t a real writer seeing as how I didn’t fit the description Dorothea Brande insisted was necessary. (She was really adamant about it, too.) Then the publisher offered me a two-book deal, based on all these pages I didn’t think even amounted to a single book, let alone two.

So in short, Dorothea Brande’s book is a really good one, especially considering the fact that it was written in 1934 — Brande is kind of like the Dale Carnegie of writing coaches in that regard — but that bit about giving up if you can’t do it every single day? That bit it shit.