Do You Really Need to Write Every Day?

So many writers are adamant about the importance of writing every day that just the act of putting the adage into practice has become a way to define yourself as A Serious Writer. But what if, for one reason or another, you struggle to write daily? Can you make just as much progress toward your writing goals on a more flexible schedule?

One of my all-time favorite articles in the years I’ve spent at WD is a feature we put together for a special “Big 10”-themed issue called “10 Experts Take on the Writer’s Rulebook.” In it, we invited top writing instructors to riff on when to follow and when to break the so-called “rules” of writing. The always wise James Scott Bell (author of, among many other great books and articles, The Art of War for Writers) took the contrarian’s stance on “Write every day,” arguing that he’d found weekly word count goals to be a more productive system.

The idea is that setting a weekly word quota keeps you on track while taking the pressure off. It allows for a great writing day to compensate for another day when the words don’t flow as easily, or when you’re too distracted or busy to make the most of any writing time you’ve got. It allows for your creativity to ebb and flow a bit more naturally without the guilt piling in. It allows you to grant yourself a day off when you deserve it. And it still keeps you moving forward with regular practice. (And if you run into writer’s block, Bell’s got some good tips for that too.)

Bell’s advice resonated with me long after we’d sent the issue to press—so, I tried it. For me, his method worked so well that I actually became more productive than when I’d been trying to force a daily routine that refused to stick. With a weekly quota, I’d still take myself to task when I needed to, but I could also let myself off the hook when things just weren’t connecting. I no longer had that nagging feeling when I doing something besides writing that I should be writing, even when I had no real time or desire to be at my laptop. I was free to create—and I was officially converted to Bell’s way of thinking.

What do you find is the best way to reach your writing goals and objectives?

Some writers swear by daily goals for writing, and that method may work for you. But if you’re falling short of those goals or feeling forced into a system that seems too rigid, consider giving a weekly word quota a try. You may find that in making the switch, you can still be disciplined, committed and productive—or, like me, that you’re even more so.

What do you think? What’s the best way to keep your forward momentum? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Jessica Strawser
Editor, Writer’s Digest

Follow me on Twitter: @jessicastrawser
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6 thoughts on “Do You Really Need to Write Every Day?

  1. onemoretraveler

    “Write everyday” can be a daunting goal, especially when life gets in the way, if not properly amended. I average 60 hours per week at my day-job, I have a family, and I have A.D.D. which, if not kept in check, can turn procrastination into a lifestyle. To those who don’t understand, I won’t go into a labored explanation. Instead, let me say that, if I set a weekly goal, I’ll wait until the end of the week to do the work. This leads, too often, to failure, avoidance, and depression; eventually. Instead, I set a daily word count goal and I set that goal low (250 words). This way, should I procrastinate until the end of the day, so what? I can blow through 250 words. If I’m hitting word counts of 1k + on a fairly regular basis and then go through a bad week I can still feel as though my overall average is well above my daily word count goal. In this way I stay happy, productive, and the only thing I’m avoiding is self-loathing. Self manipulation for the win.

  2. pacanime

    The actual truth over writing everyday is this: if you live on your own or you don’t have kids, that may be a reasonable goal for you. But most life situations don’t allow a writer to delve into the process everyday. Some days you may have the motivation, others days you may feel like you’re really pulling teeth to get a usable paragraph let alone a workable sentence. I’d put the goal at several times a week at least. The main reason being to keep yourself in the groove. If you take a long break from writing, it can also take awhile to get back into it. Then just setting a goal for a project can seem like a momentous task. Of course for career writers, this will all be differnet. They can usually spend hours at a time at the task without interuptions and with the guarantee of a paycheck at the end of it all.

  3. Jamie

    This is a breath of fresh air! Especially for me. Especially right now. As a stay-at-home-mom of a 2-yo, it is very hard to carve out writing time. And right now I’m more exhausted than ever with planning a WDW vacation around everything else, so I haven’t been as vigilant at getting up 2-3 hours early to write. Thanks for posting this. It really does take the pressure off. And it relieves the sense of foundering over the past few days.

  4. Jessica Strawser Post author

    Both the links to the full “10 Experts Take on the Writer’s Rulebook” feature and Bell’s tips for beating writer’s block should be working now. Apologies for the glitch!

  5. holdonwinter

    Actually Ms. Strawser, the link you’ve provided to view James Scott Bell’s tips is not working correctly. I used the search feature to look for any articles by Bell, and I didn’t find anything. Perhaps you were linking back to the “10 Experts Take…” article where Bell advocates “silencing the inner critic”? Thanks again.

  6. holdonwinter

    I read “10 Experts Take…” and I found Bell’s incisive advice to be very helpful for me, although I have not yet put it into practice. Sometimes my imagination feels the need to be shut off temporarily. The feeling is more of a state of dormancy rather than the traditional “writer’s block”. However, after I finish this commentary, I plan to hop tabs in my browser to read Bell’s advice on blocks. On those days when my heart doesn’t feel like being splayed out on paper, I get frustrated when I recall the adage that if I do not write everyday, I am probably lacking the passion necessary to be a writer. I love writing. I’m happy to see that Bell’s advice is working for you, and I’m going to seriously set a weekly word goal. Thanks for everything.

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