You really DON’T have to write every day.

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Two weeks ago I discussed writing slow,  a process often touted against but which I believe has merit. I decided to continue that theme with a post about other rules you can safely ignore.

There are important rules in writing, of course. Lots of rules are well-founded and should definitely be followed. What I don’t support is the attitude some authors have about these Rules with Capital R’s, the ones they shout from their desk with a zealously pointed index finger. “YOU. BAD AUTHOR. YOU’RE DOING IT WRONG.”

Let’s start with the one I see pushed most aggressively: Write every day.

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This is a great system for some authors. They like having a habit they can stick to that keeps their creative wheels constantly turning. If it works for you, great! What I don’t support is wagging your finger at other writers for not doing it your way.

I don’t think I could explain this better than Daniel José Older in his post, Writing Begins with Forgiveness. This is a superb article on how flogging yourself for not keeping up to speed hinders your productive output more than helps it. What is a perfect way to block creativity?

SHAME.

In Daniel’s words…

Shame lives in the body, it clenches our muscles when we sit at the keyboard, takes up valuable mental space with useless, repetitive conversations. Shame, and the resulting paralysis, are what happen when the whole world drills into you that you should be writing every day and you’re not.

The “write every day” adage comes from a good place. Don’t wait around for your muse, grab it by the horns. Creativity is a muscle – maintain it and it stays strong, neglect it and it atrophies. The adage makes sense. BUT…

BUT BUT BUT…

Yelling at writers to do this and guilting them when they don’t, or guilting yourself, does nothing but hurt. Regularity is good but self-bullying and thwacking your own wrists will stop your creativity dead in its tracks. Guilt breeds self-loathing. Self-loathing does not motivate.

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A fantastic blogger, Nik Eveleigh, gave this comment on my post about slow writing which perfectly sums up the issue:

There’s nothing worse than setting impossible targets and coming up short – writing confidence is always a fragile thing so why smash it on your own before you’ve even begun?

Well said, Nik!

So, no, you actually don’t need to write every day. Write on a schedule that works best for your life, your temperament, your energy. Write in whatever way keeps you writing and makes you feel GOOD about writing. As I said earlier, for you that might mean writing every day, and that’s fine. It might mean something else, and that’s fine. I don’t write every day but I do write regularly and frequently, and I’m so glad I found a groove that fits. Before, I was always beating myself up for not writing “enough,” which just made me write less! When you remove guilt from the equation, suddenly writing becomes something you want to do, and therefore you’ll do more of it.

So writers? QUIT BULLYING OTHER WRITERS. Seriously. Just stop.

Next week I’ll talk about other rules you can totally break. Check back next Tuesday for more quality rebellion!

Tell me, how do you feel about the “write every day” rule?

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35 thoughts on “You really DON’T have to write every day.

  1. I absolutely agree with you that authors/writers don’t HAVE to write every day. I think for some authors, like me, keeping the habit of writing every day and making it a part of my day is easier and far more productive than trying to write on occasion or writing when the mood strikes.

    I have posted similar blogs in the past about not having to write every day, but I do find that for me, writing every day is the best strategy. That said, everyone works differently, and I try not to condemn others for their methods. Writing is an art, not a science, and it’s important to recognize it as such and allow for differences in methods.

    Great post!

    Liked by 3 people

    • Oh absolutely! I know writing every day helps a lot of people and I’m glad for any method that helps. It’s the attitude some authors have that you MUST write every single day or else you’re a bad writer. I think that kind of mentality is really damaging and demotivating when it comes from a place of guilt, not choice. Me, I’m currently doing well on a weekly wordcount system. Some weeks I write a little every day, other weeks I hit my goal in a couple days and take the rest of the week off. I agree with you that habits are good, and every writer should choose one that works for them. For some, that might mean devoting just one day a week to writing because that’s all they can manage, while for others it’s every day. As you said, everyone works differently! Thank you very much for your note 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • That’s a great point–attitude really makes a difference. I think the Internet makes it really easy to be critical of others’ work habits and methods, as well as post scathing reviews forgetting that people are behind those books you hated (or loved). As authors, as people, we shouldn’t set out to demoralize, but to build up. So kudos to you for calling those people out! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Excellent post! And thank you for the kind words – glad my comment resonated with you 🙂 I have adapted (out of necessity) the “write every day” rule to a more realistic (for me at least) “do something writing related every day”.

    For me that might be a blog post, some scribbled notes about a story idea, a drabble, some haiku, a critique of a short story, some actual reading (for pleasure no less!), some research, the list goes on. I’d love nothing more than to be able to churn out a steady thousand words a day but my life doesn’t work like that and no amount of pressure is going to change that right now.

    Seems we are of the same mind 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you for the reminder that the idea of rigid rules to govern everyone’s creativity is inherently ridiculous. With two non-writing jobs I get paid to do and also a monthly lit mag to edit, I have to make time for writing based on my schedule and energy level at any given point. I’ve successfully adhered to the “write every day” approach for projects that can be completed in a month (e.g., a screenplay, a dissertation chapter), but these are invariably followed by a week of Netflix and/or silly craft projects. As long as we’re relatively happy with the results of our efforts, agonizing over our methods seems like a waste of time.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I’m totally on board with this. I usually don’t write on Saturdays and I don’t write every single day. Though I do almost every day blog or comment or follow other blogs as well as not write at the library for lunch on Fridays. It’s all about your schedule and if I find a day it just isn’t working, I will just find something else.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sounds like a good system. 🙂 If other writers are anything like me, than I think people do best when they choose their own method, rather than someone lecturing them into one. That choice is empowering, and it’s human nature to need some wiggle room.

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  5. I write every weekday, because I love it and am far more productive that way, like Kelsie said before me. And sometimes it helps to remind myself of that on the days I might not feel like doing it, but I wouldn’t call it bullying. And I hope I’ve never bullied anyone else about it though I may have suggested it as a good idea. 🙂 I imagine it’s not for everyone though. For me, I think I am better able to tap into the oversoul when it’s routine. That familiarity of time and place helps. It’s like when you walk into the bathroom just to get some aspirin or a box of Kleenex and suddenly you have to pee. It’s a kind of conditioning. Plus, I usually feel worse if I don’t do it than if I make myself do it when I don’t feel like it. But again, that’s me. And I generally take the weekends off, because I work a long, exhausting, non-writing job on Saturdays and on Sundays I try to relax and regain my mana.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Writing every day should be a goal, not a rule. There is a purpose for writing every day, it gets us off our butts, it provides a time and a space for the muse to come in and sit down. There also is a reason to take a day, a week, a month, a year off. You know it is time when a noble goal becomes a terrible burden.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Oh my various gods, so much yes! I’ve felt that guilt of “oh no! I didn’t write (X amount) of words today! I’m a fraud! I am harder on myself than anyone else, I don’t need some dingle-hopper with an abacus telling me how many of a thing I need to do to feel legitimate.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I do write every day, or at least try, and as for it being a rule well, like all good rules, they should be broken. That said, I’m probably one of the jerks doing some of the bullying. It’s not intentional, it’s just that I see an awful lot of people who talk a lot about writing, but never actually sit down to do it, hence the ‘encouragement’, that is probably, and most unhelpfully, interpreted as bullying. Anyhow, that’s my 2 cents.

    Like

    • I don’t know about other people but I know I’M pretty stubborn, and do much better when I’ve made the choice to do something rather than being told, haha. Sometimes it takes awhile to sink in. Maybe that will happen with the people you are encouraging.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I know that writing everyday improved my writing. And keeps me in the groove when engaged in a writing project. When I don’t write every day I lose momentum. But writing breaks are different. Sometimes I need a short break when I’ve been writing for a stretch.

    Liked by 1 person

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