This post could get me kicked out of the writing teacher’s club house. If we had a clubhouse. I’d like it if we did – something with lots of books and a great espresso machine and those papasan chairs that they only sell at Pier 1 and only really work in a college dorm room or on the porch of a crazy-big lake house.
Still, a lot of writing teachers, coaches, and writers aren’t going to like what I have to say here, but I’m going to say it anyway.
You don’t have to write every day to be a committed, successful writer.
I don’t write every day. I write five days a week, first thing in the morning. (You don’t have to write first thing in the morning either.) This schedule works for me because it keeps me connected to my work so that I don’t lose track of it and because it lets me take weekends to recharge.
You might write six days a week or three. You might write every day. Or you might do a big batch of writing on Tuesdays. It doesn’t matter how many days a week you write as long as you do it consistently.
Why People Advise Writing Every Day
And that’s the ticket. . . most of us who write know that to stay committed to a project we need to be with it as much as possible. (It’s like any relationship in that way.) If we are away too long, the space that the work held inside us is taken over by other things like to do lists and Twitter schedules and that desire to drape your ever-growing philodendron all around the top of your kitchen. (Seriously, I’m doing that later today.) That’s why people often recommend that we write every day – because it helps us stay in touch with the work.
But the reality is that writing every day may just not work for you, and if you hold yourself to that standard but can never reach it, the fact is that you may walk away from writing altogether rather than adjusting the standard to meet you where you are in your life at this moment. If this standard means you won’t write because you can’t write every day, we need to toss this standard out a window – now.
Would it be cool if we could have a hours each and every day to write without feeling guilty or pressured or time-stressed? Of course. But that isn’t reality for most of us ever. Instead, we have day jobs and children, chickens and gardens. We have to unload the dishwasher, and sometimes, we need to watch the entire Firefly series while we crochet. Life is not just one thing every day.
Some Tips to Help You Decide What Works for You
So here’s what I suggest instead of that sometimes impossible standard of writing every day:
- Think about your writing as a weekly rather than a daily thing and set your goals accordingly. Instead of saying I want to write 500 words a day, set the goal as 2,500 words this week with the intention of writing 500 words on 5 days. That way if you miss a day, you can still be working toward your larger goal and maybe even reach it, but if you don’t, you still can say, “I wrote 2,000 words this week” rather than derailing when you miss one day.
- Schedule your writing time on a weekly schedule, too. Rather than committing to write every day at 5am, open up your time and think about the whole week as the space where you can get the writing done. Maybe you’ll write for an hour on Monday and then two hours on Thursday evening. Or maybe you can do a daily writing time that’s the same. Work with the realities of YOUR schedule, not the one-size-fits-all expectations of a that say every day will be the same.
- Establish rituals to begin your writing sessions. I light a candle, read a poem, and do some journaling with a pen. You might want to go for a run or read a few pages or put away the clutter in your writing space. A ritual just helps you transition from what came before to what is happening now, and since writing often happens best when it gets a lot of room to move, pushing aside the before can be really helpful.
- Be mindful of the realities of your life on a given week. If you have children going back to school or a battery of medical tests, if there are big meetings for your job, or if your kitchen is going to be undergoing renovation, factor those things in as you set your goals and schedule for the week. Trying to “power through” when really you need to rest or get away isn’t going to help your writing as much as it would to simply plan differently and head to a cafe or give yourself a day away from the words.
- Be committed. You need to be flexible and aware of what life has for you just now, but if you want to write, you also need to commit to a goal and a schedule and hold yourself to those, even as you hold grace for yourself when you don’t.
The fact of the matter is that you need to write on a schedule that works for YOU. That may be daily. It may be twice a week. As long as you’re staying in touch with your work, committing to writing it, and giving yourself grace when you don’t, you can write on any schedule that works for you. . . and the rest of the time you can try out philodendron-hanging techniques without quilt.
What do you think about the writing advice that you need to write every day? What kind of writing schedule works best for you?
I have a YouTube channel where I post short videos of myself without make-up and talk about writing and writing challenges. You can check it out and maybe even subscribe if you’re interested right here.