The open book: what writers don’t tell writers about writing (part 7)

Caren Gussoff Sumption
4 min readApr 1, 2022
Photo by Estée Janssens on Unsplash

If there’s a million dollar writing question, it’s this (understanding of course, there are some 2 million dollar questions, usually on getting an agent/publication):

Should writers write every day?

Read ten writing books.

No, ask ten writers.

Take a poll on Twitter.

Doesn’t matter. You’ll get predictably conflicting answers to the question.



Most of us have an understandable aversion to looking lazy in public (dang you, deeply embedded Puritan work ethic of the western world), so you’ll get a majority split favoring yes answers: yes, I do; yes, you should. It’s saintly to aim for, really. Aspirational. And sometimes, it’s also completely true.

But the truth is also No: no, I don’t; it’s not a huge deal if you don’t; sometimes no one can, and that’s completely normal.

It’s a messy, dialectical world up in our brains, and the yes and no are simultaneously true. There are great reasons and explanations for why this is.

The yes, write every day camp

Writing isn’t magic. There’s no mysticism to it. It’s something you either do, or you do not do.

There’s a lot built up around it, though; ideas about inspiration, the muse. Shit like this, perpetrated by writers ourselves:

On the night of 22 September 1912…composed ‘The Judgment’, a masterpiece of paternal ambivalence. In the dissociative, happy hours that followed, he noted in his diary that writing requires a ‘complete opening out of the body and the soul’. — Will Rees, Kafka the Hypochondriac

But the truth is that writing is concrete. The only way it gets done is if you show up and do it. And the deeper truth is that there is, verifiably, no difference between what anyone writes when they are “inspired,” “hot,” or, bless ya, Franz, have their body and soul “open.” I say verifiably because you can run an experiment to prove this is true: take a page of something you’ve written when you felt on, and a page of something that felt like a horrible grind — and hide them…

Caren Gussoff Sumption

Writer, dabbler, bon vivant. Nerdy words for nerdy people.