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  • By Kara Newcastle

Writing Wednesday: To Write or Not to Write (Every Day)

Writing Wednesday: To Write or Not to Write (Every Day)

Writing a Letter Home, George Godwin Kilburne, 1875

This is a topic I’m asked fairly often, and something I find to be the topic of heated debate in writer’s groups and on writing websites: is it really necessary to write every single day?

Stephen King thinks you should, and he himself aims for about ten pages every day … but then again, he’s Stephen King, and he’s been doing this for a while. On the other hand, Anne Rice doesn’t feel that it’s necessary to write every single day, and usually tries to get at 3,000 words … but, again, she’s Anne Rice, and has been at this for a while.

Me personally, I feel that you should write (even if it’s just a little bit) every day that you’re able to. Let’s face it, there are going to be days when things are too crazy to find the time to write. You got home too late, you’re too tired, you’re not feeling well, you have more important things to take care of … and there might be a day when you just plain don’t feel like it. That’s fine; if you can only write four days out of the week, or only have time to write a paragraph here or there, that’s better than not writing at all.

If you’d rather take a header off the nearest cliff that face the computer screen at that moment, by all means, take a day off … but I strongly advise against more than two consecutive days off. It’s really easy to lose your momentum that you had when you first started writing whatever you were working on before you took a break. It’s possible to forget exactly where you were headed with that particular piece too, because you become distracted by middling other things that draw your attention and your emotions away from your story (trust me, it happens.) You might even get so comfortable with not writing that suddenly, watching that rerun of The Curse of Oak Island—the one that you’ve seen nine times before already—becomes more important than finishing that scene you were working on.

Writing every day isn’t that hard. What is hard is finding the motivation to do it. Writer’s block and writer’s fear aside (subjects of future blogs), some people resist writing every day because it feels like work and they don’t see any payoff. Well, think of it this way; the only way to get better at anything is to do it over and over again. Practice. Repetition. Every day. Just like learning to walk, read, write, ride a bike, sing, act, swim, ANYTHING—you gotta do it every day, and then when you notice how much you’ve improved or accomplished, then you see the payoff.

But take a day off to recover if you need it.

It takes roughly thirty days to form a habit (or so I’ve heard), so if you’re able to write a little bit every day for thirty days, it won’t feel like a chore. And if you can write a little bit every day for thirty days, you’ll find it easier to write a lot every day for thirty days. Eventually, you’ll be surprised by how weirded out you feel when you miss a day of writing. All the same, don’t shoot yourself in the foot by trying to make up for all the time you took off—putting that extra pressure on yourself is a surefire way to get you stressed about writing. Just write however many words that you’re capable of writing.

In case you’re wondering, how do I do it? Well, I try to write about 1000 words (about three pages) a day when I can. I don’t write every day, aiming for at least five days a week, and there are some days where I’m lucky to get a paragraph down. I used to beat myself up for not writing X-amount of words every single day, but when I realized that it was doing nothing but making me discouraged, I resolved to be happy with whatever I could get written. Like I’ve said before, it’s better than not writing at all!

(Oh, and P.S.: the only exception to the whole “not-writing-every-single-day” would probably be Nanowrimo, which you spend every day writing at least 1667 words a day. Just FYI.)

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