As a writer, you’ve heard every piece of writing advice out there. Write what you know, show-don’t-tell, avoid passive voice, eliminate cliches — frankly, the litany of well-meaning advice can become overwhelming.
One writing rule seems to pop up even more than all the others: you need to write every day. In some ways, this edict makes sense: after all, how can you succeed as a writer if you don’t commit the time to write? On the other hand, adopting a dogmatic approach to writing can quickly become exhausting, lead to burnout, and discourage those who lapse.
Let’s take a closer look at the benefits and drawbacks of this popular writing advice. If you write every day, will it help hone your writing and develop your discipline? Or will it lead to crushing disappointment? More importantly, is there a better way to produce consistent and killer writing?
In Favor of Writing Every Day
“If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot, and write a lot.” — Stephen King, On Writing
The idea of steady-and-consistent writing has motivated one of the largest writing movements of our time: NaNoWriMo. Those who participate in National Novel Writing Month discipline themselves to produce books of at least 50,000 words in the space of just one (decidedly busy) month. As a result of the headfirst momentum inspired by NaNoWriMo, writers have published hundreds of books. Undeniably, making a commitment to produce a certain amount of work daily can create incredible results.
Writers need to write. And many writers who have adopted this mantra — even for a brief time — have reaped serious rewards:
- Practice. Like any other creative habit, writing every day can provide considerable practice and improvement.
- Discipline. Having trouble sticking to a practice? Making a daily commitment can finally get you to stick to that ever-elusive writing schedule.
- Satisfaction. To be honest, writing a set amount every day feels really, really satisfying (when it actually gets done).
- Results. Remember those NaNoWriMo novels? Writing every day can produce real-life results.
If you’re curious if writing-every-day will make a huge impact on your output as a writer, then you should give it a try. Set yourself a daily goal — 300 words, 800 words, or 2,000 words — and see where it takes you. As Ray Bradbury once said: “Just write every day of your life. Read intensely. Then see what happens.”
On the Other Hand…The Downfall of a Strict Writing Practice
If the idea of tethering yourself to strict writing guidelines makes your hands preemptively cramp up in protest, no worries. Habits that work for massively prolific writers like Stephen King and Ray Bradbury aren’t necessarily reasonable for many of us.
For one thing, the same practice that sets you up for success can also set you up for failure. If you don’t meet your word count for the day, you might experience doubt and disappointment. As a writer, that’s the last thing you need.
For another, many of us simply don’t have the time or the opportunity to write every single day. Many of us work full-time jobs, care for families, go to night classes for our master’s degrees, and (try to) maintain some semblance of a social life. If writing every day causes you to sink into exhaustion or burn yourself out, then the practice simply won’t pay off for you.
Finally, it’s more than possible that strict guidelines simply don’t resonate with your creative practice. Perhaps you tend to get seized by fits of inspiration followed by a few days of reduced output. Maybe taking a break from writing recharges your creative batteries. Or maybe forcing yourself to write every day leads you to produce uninspired work you’ll later despite. Whatever the case, this practice might not be for you — and that’s okay.
Better Approaches to a Consistent Writing Practice
As far as we’re concerned, there are many ways to hone your writing skills, expand your imagination, and produce amazing work. The best part? None of these tips require you to commit to a unreasonably strict writing practice:
Surround Yourself with Other Creative People
J.R.R Tolkien and C.S. Lewis’s unshakable friendship helped both writers create their seminal works. Harper Lee and Truman Capote were childhood friends. And Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton were buddies in college.
What’s the point? Writers need to surround themselves with other creative people for inspiration, support, and (let’s be honest) commiseration. Luckily, there are so many incredible online communities out there for writers, with Facebook groups creating a hub for writers internationally.
If Facebook isn’t your style, there are plenty of other options. For example, resources like BookBoro create an inviting online community. Writers can share their work and ideas, give and receive feedback, and inspire each other to keep writing.
Read Something Good
It’s hard to be an excellent writer if you don’t read books. If you’re feeling uninspired, ask your friends, family members, or online writing community for recommendations on a good read. BookBoro is not only a great resource to share your work, but to read the work of others! Browse a number of projects to find something that intrigues you, or dive into a new genre you may not normally explore.
Alternately, take a weekend or an afternoon to wander around a quaint used bookstore or your local library. Pick out something curious, something new, something a little outside your comfort zone. Indulging in a good read not only helps you learn from the greats, but also helps spark your imagination with new ideas.
Keep a Dream Journal
Now, we’re not saying that your dreams will necessarily lead to a groundbreaking novel — nor that you will remember your dreams every single night — but jotting down your dreams in the morning when you wake up can be a great way to boost your creative work for the day ahead.
Revisit Past Work
Remember that manuscript you wrote five years ago, shoved in a drawer, and promptly forgot about? Do yourself a favor, and dig it up on an uninspired day. Even if the work leaves a lot to be desired, you might find yourself strangely inspired by your previous work. In fact, old and abandoned writing may even spark your imagination in new ways, giving an old story new direction.
Many of the greatest writers in history boast reams of letters that they wrote to friends, families, and colleagues: George Orwell, Flannery O’Connor, and Kurt Vonnegut, just to name a few.
If you need to boost your creative juices for the day — and keep up with friends and family — consider starting a letter-writing tradition of your own. (Though there’s a certain beauty to snail-mail, feel free to choose electronic means of correspondence if it’s more convenient.)
Get a New Hobby: Volunteer, Dance, Travel, Explore
Have you been in a creative rut? Are you having trouble finding anything interesting to write about? You might just need to add a little spice and variety to your life.
Travel. Go to a dance class. Volunteer for a cause you care about. Every person you meet, every new skill you learn, every mistake you make — all of these experiences translate into a richer life that will intimately inform your writing.
Our Stance on Writing Every Day
So, where do we stand? We recommend that you support your writing practice by taking creative time for yourself every day. Seek activities and experiences that will ultimately make you a better writer, even if they don’t always involve writing. Instead of holding yourself to this unattainable standard that will inevitably leave you feeling like a failure, empower yourself through less strict guidelines. Explore, expand, and have fun with your writing practice.
If you’re looking for a community of like-minded writers for inspiration and motivation, check out the community at BookBoro. Read our blog or peruse our resources to see what we’re up to, or get in touch any time!