On Writing

Don’t Write Every Day

You don’t need to write every day. But isn’t that what everyone says?

Professional writers and authors write every day, right? Look at any article with tips and advice for writers and you’ll find writing every day as the second greatest commandment. If reading every day isn’t the first, then it should be! Writing 1000-2000 words every day is what Stephen King does, after all. By setting aside time to write every day, you’ll build a habit. You’ll create routine and discipline, but most importantly, you’ll also develop your skill and craft.

There are some who say it takes 10,000 hours to learn a skill. There are others who argue it’s 20 hours. And then between 6-10 years to truly master it.

There’s really only two rules to improving your writing skill in my opinion; read a lot and write a lot. But that doesn’t have to mean every day.

Why write every day? So you can:

  • Create routine
  • Build a habit
  • Discipline yourself to sit down and write
  • Make progress towards a goal
  • Feel accomplishment for hitting a word count
  • Actually get that book finished
  • Reach a deadline
  • If it’s NaNoWriMo season, you gotta

If you’re the type of person that will spend literal days wandering around a forest in some kind of indecisive stupor and then blame it all on writer’s block on Twitter later, then yes, writing every day may be your best hope at developing a writing habit. You can’t wait for inspiration to smack you in the face. No muse is going to burst through your door. You need to sit your ass down and write even if you don’t want to. The words may not flow, they may even be the worst words ever written since the dawn of mankind, but words can be nurtured and edited into something amazing. Non-existent words can’t.

However, I would still argue against writing every day. Like visiting the gym and pumping up your biceps, writing every day exercises your creative and mental muscles. From that, your writing skills grow. However, spend too much time at the gym and you run the risk of burning out and becoming sick of the process and exhausted. So you schedule in a rest day or two to allow your body to heal and your muscles to relax. Writing is no different. Spend every day writing and you could become burned out and stressed from the experience. And like healing your body, I find that taking a few days out of writing actually gets my subconscious muscles working. My best ideas form when I’m doing something else, such as going for a walk, because my brain is at rest. Plots and characters jump out of nowhere.

For most of us, writing isn’t our day job. It’s what we do when we come home from work, or what we squeeze in on our commute home. Then writing every day becomes important because we can’t fit it in our day, otherwise. I understand the self-imposed pressure to get a project done. Sometimes work gets a bit too much and you need a break. If you’ve got an actual deadline, then good luck, but I’d still recommend you schedule time away to chill. Writing is hard. The publishing game is hard. Take time out for yourself and indulge in hobbies and pursuits away from writing. Your world may be writing, but there is more to your world than just writing.

Art Days

If you’re really obsessed with making progress (no zero days!) then I’d also recommend the concept of an art day. Put down your pen/keyboard and use your non-writing day(s) to indulge in other creative activities, partly for relaxation, and partly to refuel your creative energies. Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Create art based on your writing
  • Create Pinterest mood boards or aesthetics
  • Bake food based on your story/world
  • Make fantasy cocktails
  • Build a playlist of music related to your project
  • Compose music, if that’s your thing!
  • Visit locations related to your story
  • Take photos inspired by/to inspire your writing
  • Visit a museum/art gallery
  • Go to a concert/the cinema/theatre
  • Go to a poetry reading night
  • Take part in creative community events
  • Visit the gym, as the body is a temple for the mind!
  • Take a hike

I hope some of these ideas jog your noggin’, but my point with this article is to say it’s OKAY to take a break. You don’t have to write every day to become a super famous author, especially if you’re struggling with a full-time job on top. Don’t pressure yourself by comparing yourself to other’s successes. Don’t burn yourself out by writing until 2am. Don’t feel guilty for not writing constantly. It’s okay. Take care of your health, relax.

Writing is a marathon and you’ll get there.

Image Credit: @dose

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