The Pros and Cons of Binge Writing

Lynn Dickinson explores the positives and not-so-positives of being a binge writer.
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Lynn Dickinson explores the positives and not-so-positives of being a binge writer.

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Are you a Binge Writer? Or a Drip Writer?

You know the metaphor. Binge writers tackle projects sporadically, when the mood or inspiration strikes or a deadline looms. They write in large chunks of time, cranking out a finished product as a condition of sitting down to write in the first place. Drip writers on the other hand, measure their work in pages or paragraphs or even word count. They write more often, more regularly, and generally more calmly, with less emotional zeal per session.

It’s no secret that the most prolific writers set a daily (or near daily) writing schedule and stick to it. But as simple as that sounds, it’s far from easy. Drip writing takes a cooperative life schedule, supportive (or at least non-intrusive) friends and family, a well-established habit pattern, and a mind free of both unconscious and subconscious issues that manifest as excuses not to write.

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Let's explore the pros and cons of binge writing, and the times when it might be a more suitable alternative than its more productive cousin, the drip. Then you can try each one on for size as the occasion (or mood) demands.

BINGE WRITING

The Pros:

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Binge writing is exciting! Binge writers are the adrenaline-junkies of the keyboarding set. One of my early writing teachers used to refer to it as the “white heat” of writing. We’ve all been there; gripped by a fantastic idea, we just have to sit down and write before our head explodes. Or maybe it’s a looming professional or academic deadline that gets us typing. It may even be a social event, such as an approaching writer’s accountability group meeting, or any day in the month of November, (if you’re a NaNoWriMo pantser). Regardless of the reason, there’s a rush associated with binge writing, and for those of us drawn to a bit of excitement in our lives, a good writing binge can be intoxicating.

Binge writing is flexible. If your life or work schedule requires unpredictably long hours, frequent travel, or small-child-style interruptions, binge writing might be the best you can do. Maybe you can only write on long flights or during Saturday morning soccer practice. So be it. Find that elusive time window and fill it with an unapologetic writing binge.

Binge writing is better than no writing at all! Often, that’s a very real choice. If it comes down to only writing when you’re on vacation or not writing at all, bingeing is a no-brainer. Binge away, Writer, binge away!

The Cons:

Binge writing is unpredictable. You may have an urge to write something exciting every week, but brilliant, creative ideas are far more likely to be few and far between for the diehard binge writer. You grab them when they’re there and pounce on your keyboard, but you don’t write much of anything in between when the ideas aren’t flowing. And for some writers, it can be years between those flashes of brilliance.

Binge writing is exhausting. It’s not sustainable. When the words are on the page, the thrill of completion, or of a deadline met is nearly always followed by a feeling described as “hitting the wall.” Binge writers write, then they burn out, or stumble around mumbling for a few days. No, really. It’s a thing.

Exclusively binge writing makes it hard to grow as a writer. Tight timelines, or sporadic practice tends to keep writers locked into their current level of writing quality. Once a binge is finished, the work is often submitted without the ideal degree of editing, or is never fully revisited again, because the next “binge” time is focused upon a new project. So, writers who exclusively binge may struggle to improve in their craft.

The Conclusion:

Binge writing isn’t as productive as drip writing, but it is way better than nothing. Even for the most diehard drip writer, an occasional writing binge may be necessary or even desirable. Binges are better suited to certain—sometimes temporary—life situations, and they are often accompanied by a lot more emotional drama (for better or for worse).

So, what about you? Do you consider yourself a binge writer or a drip writer—or something in between? Got any other pros and/or cons of binge writing I haven’t mentioned here? Please let me know in the comments below.

And if you’re not writing as much or as often as you’d like to be, my current Work In Progress is designed to help you. Come take my 5-minute writers research survey. I’d like to know more about your writing practice. Thanks!

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