I recently read a discussion loop on the topic of writing every day, and I was surprised at how many writers felt it would be impossible to find so much extra time in their lives. I have to admit that I laughed out loud for just a few seconds. Do they think that writers who write every day have extra time? Imagine sitting around with nothing to do, until we authors finally say to ourselves, “Oh, I know what I can do with all this extra time I have. I could write a book!”
On a serious note, I do understand the struggle of finding time. I too have gone through phases of non-writing. Normally, those stretches of time were the result of life changes I had no control over, but to be frank, a few of those phases had everything to do with my being depressed about what a horrible writer I was and how everything in my writing life was going horribly wrong. And then I woke up. I realized that the latter reason was ridiculous, and I went back to writing every day. And it worked.
I’ve never been able to write a novel without buckling down and writing every single day of the week. That means Sunday, too. If writing is a hobby for you, or if you simply like to journal a few days a week, then of course you don’t need to write every day. However, if your goal is to be a professional writer, don’t you want to be serious about it?
When a writer doesn’t write, the creative well threatens to dry up. Think of it as a water pump at a campground. It doesn’t just gush water as soon as you turn it on. You have to pump the handle until the water makes its way once again through the pipes to rush out and fill your cup. That’s how writing is. The more you write, the less time it will take for inspiration to fill your cup.
The good news is that you don’t have to sit down and write dozens of pages on a novel or book every single day. There are other ways you can exercise your creativity than just straight writing, because let’s face it, life happens:
1) Journal - When you can’t get the juices flowing, write about your story in a journal or notebook. Write about a problem the character is having, about the setting of the story, or about your character’s childhood. Set the timer for 10 minutes and write. You could even write about why you’re having a hard time writing every day. It doesn’t matter. Every word you put down counts as writing. By doing this, you are sticking to your writing routine and possibly solving some problems in your story while you’re at it.
2) Edit Your Previous Pages – If you aren’t feeling the story, then edit it. If you are a strict plotter (someone who outlines everything and sticks to it) then this method of editing early in your novel might drive you crazy, but go back to page one and just read it and edit as you go. Make the sentences better, choose better words, and flesh out your descriptions. You can turn on your track changes in case you change your mind later, but you probably won’t. By the time you catch up to the last words you wrote, you might have a better view of your story.
3) Blog – Okay, so blogging might not be the same as working on your story, but if you absolutely can’t fall into your manuscript, then write about something else. If you have a blog, write about your kids, a favorite recipe, or post a book review of someone else’s novel. At least you will still be in the practice of writing.
4) Write a Letter – Writing a letter seems so old-fashioned, but so is the very act of writing. You can always write a letter to a loved one. Your mom or dad would probably love to hear from you, but you could also write a letter to your main character about how she got herself in the mess she is in (He or she is in some kind of mess, right?). Write a letter (that you will never mail) to all the people who told you couldn’t be a writer. Whatever works. Just write something. The act of putting pen to paper might free the words you have trapped inside.
5) 1,000 Words a Day – So this one is so basic that some of you writers out there might roll your eyes, but it’s good advice for everyone. If you always write 1,000 words a day, those words add up and eventually you will have written a novel. The point of the 1,000 words a day rule is really that you set a daily goal and you reach it. I’ve heard of some writers lowering their word goal to 500, 750, or even raising it to 2,500. Whatever works for you. You could even set your timer for thirty minutes and write until it goes off. It’s the writing goal that you want to focus on. When I wrote my first novel, I wrote 30 to 45 minutes every morning before anyone else was out of bed. Then I dropped kids off at school and went to work. It took me 9 months to finish writing the book.
So should writers write every day? Yes. In my opinion, it’s the best way. If you start today and stick to it, then in three months you will look back and be glad. I wonder what you will write? Maybe you’ll finally finish that novel.