Do I HAVE To Write Every Day?
If you're a writer, then you've probably heard that you need to write every day if you wanna make it. Writing every day can be a huge asset to writers, for obvious reasons. It helps you establish a routine, it creates a habit, and as a plus, you usually finish your book quicker this way. But a lot of writers feel pressured to make this a part of their lives, to the point where they experience burnout. So today, I'm tackling the oh-so-difficult question: Should I really be writing every single day?
Short answer? It depends, and I’m going to break down the 10 elements you should consider in this article. Spoiler: a lot of writers are lying to you.
This video is sponsored by Skillshare. As always, all opinions are my own.
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Number 1: Every…Single…Day?
Let's get the most important point out of the way. You do not have to write every day. A lot of writers claim you absolutely have to write every day to be successful, but here's the truth. Daily writing is an asset. It can help you work quicker and more efficiently, and if you're able to do it, go for it. But it's not necessary. Never has been, never will be. In fact, contrary to popular belief, not all successful authors write every day.
I don't write every day. Yes, I do something writing related almost every day. After all, this is my career. But that could mean filming these videos or doing my accounting, handling my sales, or designing merch. Personally, I give myself a writing target every week, as opposed to forcing myself to write every single day. So long as I reach that target by the end of the week, I'm fine. And that's because this is what works for my schedule. So don't beat yourself up if you can't write every day! It's by no means a necessity, and anyone who tells you otherwise is full of shit.
Number 2: The Obvious
You don't have to do anything you don't want to do. I meet a lot of writers who feel obligated to write every day because their favorite author does that.
“Stephen King writes every day and I want to be just like him!”
Alright, you gonna snort cocaine, too? Look, just because someone else does it, doesn't mean you have to. Just because someone gives you advice, doesn't mean you have to take it. I'm a huge proponent for outlining and some authors, including King, are not. And guess what? Both methods are fine! Whether or not you write every day needs to be based on your habits and needs, not anyone else's.
Whether or not you write every day needs to be based on your habits and needs, not anyone else's.
Number 3: Stop Comparing Yourself to the Greats
“But Jennaaa, a lot of really famous writers write every day.”
Good for them! Keep in mind, many of the authors who preach the gospel of daily writing are doing so from a place of privilege. They have employees to handle the business and marketing end of their career. They have family who take care of household duties. And the writers I know who maybe aren't quite so successful but are still able to write all day every day, usually have a second source of income supporting them, typically from a spouse or family member.
This is by no means a dig. If you have these resources, it makes perfect sense to use them to your benefit. But not everyone has access to these luxuries, and you shouldn't compare yourself to people who do. I have an assistant and a house cleaner, which has freed up a significant amount of my time. But I don't have managers, staff, or dual income, and thus daily writing isn't yet attainable for me. So stop comparing yourself to wildly famous writers! Fame brings money, and money pays for labor.
Number 4: Consider Your Priorities
Are you a full time student? If so, that means you've got classes and homework to manage, all of which are far more important than your work in progress. Are you a parent to small children? I've yet to meet a parent with full custody of a child younger than 10 who is able to write every single day. Do you work a nine to five job and have little obligations outside of that? If yes, then you might be able to write every day when you get off of work and on the weekends.
Take a hard look at your schedule and break down the tasks that are absolutely non-negotiable. You gotta do ‘em, period. If your life is stuffed to the seams with obligations, chances are you can't write every day, and that's fine. Instead, focus on utilizing your free time efficiently and tweak your goals to account for a longer timeframe, ‘cause you're gonna need it.
Number 5: Consider the Sacrifice
If you write every day or any day, something's gonna get sacrificed. If you're a parent or caregiver, you can't sacrifice those priorities unless you want someone to die. But I can pretty much guarantee you've got some daily activities that are an absolute waste of your time. I'm talking about scrolling through social media, hours spent playing video games, the 20 shows you're binge watching on Netflix. It's time to kick that shit to the curb.
No one has all the time in the world to write. Everyone sacrifices some mindless self indulgence to get the work done. Think about all the ways you're wasting time and start utilizing that toward working on your book. Maybe you won't be able to write every single day, but you'd be surprised how much more content you're able to produce.
Number 6: Consider Your Goals
Are you aspiring to finish one novel in the next five years, or one novel in the next five months? Are you choosing to publish one book every other year, or are you focused on the rapid release model? Your publishing goal is going to drastically affect how you need to write.
Rapid release authors publish anywhere between two and 20 books a year, and you can't do that unless you're writing a lot! Most rapid release authors I know write every day, or at least most days. Maybe five days a week.
But if you're going for a more traditional, slower release schedule, then consistency and habit are going to be a lot more important as opposed to speed. So long as you're pumping those words out on schedule, it's fine. It doesn't have to be every day.
And if you absolutely cannot write every day for any of the aforementioned reasons, then you just need to accept that your publishing process is going to take a bit of time, and that's fine.
Number 7: Experiment
What works better for you? Short but frequent writing sprints, or long but infrequent word dumping? Do you write better with a group of writers or on your own? Do you need a distraction or complete silence?
You're gonna have to experiment to determine the writing routine that works best for you, and this includes figuring out whether or not writing every day is feasible. I know writers who have found that waking up an hour early and squeezing in some writing time before their day begins has done wonders for their productivity. I know other writers who schedule half hour writing sprints after work each day. Try different methods to see what fits better into your schedule and what gels with your creativity.
Number 8: Quality Versus Quantity
If you're writing every day because it's a consistent habit that helps you stay focused, fantastic! If you're writing every day with the goal of pumping out as many words as possible as fast as you can without care or concern for their quality, that's questionable. We all know rough drafts suck and striving for perfection at this stage is a lost cause, but so is striving solely for words on the page with no rhyme or reason regarding their direction. And for some writers, daily writing is just that. It puts the focus on the wrong part of the writing process. Quantity over quality.
This is why certain writing goals, such as NaNoWriMo, do not work for a lot of writers. They're encouraged to strive toward a specific word count, and with that goal in mind, they lose sight of what's important: the story! The result is a shit ton of words you inevitably have to delete because they're unusable.
Again, this doesn't apply to all writers. Some function perfectly fine with this model. You just have to be honest about whether or not you're one of them. If writing every day just encourages you to word vomit onto the page, maybe try another method.
Number 9: Speed Not Guaranteed
Writing every day doesn't guarantee superior speed. I know this sounds counterintuitive, but hear me out. Yes, some writers are able to write for an hour a day and pump out their novels super fast. But other writers devote one entire day per week to writing and they're able to finish their novels just as quickly, if not quicker.
What this comes down to is the time spent on your manuscript and the quality of that time. For example, if you write for an hour every day, that's seven hours a week. But if you devote two work days per week to writing your novel, that's 16 hours, which is obviously more. Additionally, if you write every day for an hour but it takes you about a half hour to get in the zone, then that means you're basically only getting three and a half hours of quality writing time per week. But if you write two work days a week and it takes you the same amount of time to get into the zone, we're looking at 15 hours of quality writing time. Long story short, more writing days doesn't guarantee quicker completion.
Number 10: Excuses, Excuses
Are you making excuses? I've said it before and I'll say it again, not every writer can write every day. I don't write every day. That's fine. But writing consistently–whether it's writing every day, or a few days a week, or you have some kind of writing schedule at all–is necessary. You can't publish a book unless you write it!
A lot of writers tell me they can't write everyday, or even at all. They're really busy with school, work, family obligations. Legitimate stuff. But they also have twice a week video game sessions that last multiple hours, they go bar hopping every weekend, they prioritize the fandoms they're a part of, and sometimes they’re just too lazy to write. These are excuses.
We already covered that sacrifices need to be made, and you're not making them. And if publishing a book ain't that important to you, that's fine. In this case, writing is a hobby. But if you're watching this video, chances are you're hoping to publish your book one day and maybe make it a career. And in that case, cut the crap. Stop making excuses, unless you're totally cool with never getting a book published within your lifetime.
So that's all I've got for you today!
Hopefully these tips will help you decide if writing every day is right for you. Everyone has different schedules, responsibilities, and goals. What’s most important is that you aren’t making excuses and you’re putting in real work to reach your writing goals.
Do you write every day? Or a few times a week? Let me know what works best for you in the comments!
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