Why You Shouldn’t Write Everyday
When unrealistic expectations become the standard.
The number one thing I see when looking online for writing tips is to write every day. No time off on weekends or holidays. No breaks if you are feeling sick. To be successful and improve your craft, you must write every single day.
While I have found this can help create the habit of writing, it is rather unrealistic for most people. Stephen King is particularly stern about this in his On Writing book. This works for him since it is his full-time job. For all the rest of us, we have to squeeze in writing time between a million other life responsibilities.
Well, I don't have that much going on in my life. I can certainly set aside a couple of hours each day to write.
The Myth of Daily Writing
That was my initial thought when I set out to listen to what everyone was saying. I can easily knock out 1,500 words in about an hour and a half when I am in the flow of it. So that is what I set my daily goal to be. If I went over, it was a bonus, if I went under…well, I wasn't allowed to go under. That would give me a decent-length novel every two months or so.
This led to multiple different issues that I would find out rather quickly. The first is that I can write 1,500 words IF I was in the flow state. When I didn't know what I was writing about, or where the story was going, I was stuck. I would look at the blank page for hours driving myself insane. I started to write anything down at all, knowing I would later delete it, just to get words down.
The next issue is that writing every day with a set word count didn't leave any creative energy for coming up with ideas, outlining new stories, or editing what I had previously written. Sure I was getting words down, but I was racing towards burnout.
Fixing the Problem
There were a few solutions to this.
1-Don't focus on the word count. Focus on the writing process
By not worrying about word count, I didn't feel pressure to get a certain amount done each day. Some days I would far exceed the goal, others I would only get a paragraph or two. The point was to make progress in my writing.
2-Give myself a break when I was feeling overwhelmed.
It is ok to take a day or two or three off when needed. The key is to make sure you get back to it after your break. When you work a day job, go to school, or have relationships and responsibilities, you need a break. Writing in many ways is the break I need from the real world, but trying to do too much in a day can bring a whole new layer of stress.
I know that giving myself a break can be a dangerous rabbit hole. If I am not careful, I can go months without typing a single letter. To keep in line, I had to justify my breaks from writing. If I get sick, I don't need to write. If I am celebrating a birthday or holiday with loved ones, I can take the day off. Trying to cram in writing with so many other things going on is a recipe for disaster.
The next main issue with writing every day comes with what to write. If you have already outlined a story in detail, this may not be an issue. If not, the idea has to come first, or you will be struggling when the blank page is waiting to be fed. Writing is a process. Coming up with the idea, planning it out, the actual writing, and finally the editing. If I am doing anything of those things, I count it as writing. I just have to remember to spend a realistic time on each.
Keeping Up With the Words
If you are struggling still with keeping up on writing every day, sometimes it helps to try something else. Not a new hobby exactly, but writing something different. Do you normally write science fiction? Try romance or mystery. You don't have to finish the project, but it can help mix things up with your creative process.
Doing the same thing over and over again does not lead to improvement. Practice is more than repetition alone. You have to continue learning, trying new things, and understanding what didn't work and what did about your previous works.
So get out there and start ‘writing’ today. Whatever that may mean for you in your creative process. It is not always going to be easy, but it will get better. Don’t force it, but don't give up when a challenge arrives. If you write every day, it can lead to improvement, new habits, and getting that book or article done. Just remember that we are humans, not machines, and sometimes a break is justified.
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