A few years ago I wouldn’t have been the guy who tried to tell you this, but after much practice I’ve become what I once hated the most: the guy who writes every day.
Back in the day, I hated the idea. “What’s the point of exhausting yourself when you’re not motivated? Who even has the time? You can’t force inspiration!” Those were my main arguments, and I stuck with them. Sure, I used to have some set days when I’d sit down to write, and I’d do it here and there, when I wasn’t too busy, or whenever the fancy struck me. But I really disliked idea of having to do it every single day like some kind of chore. That’s until I tried it for myself.
You can’t force inspiration!
It was kind of an accident, but what happened was that I calculated how much I would have to write every day to finish a specific project in a couple of months, and when I realized it was only around 500 words I figured that be easy. This was around the same time I started writing in the mornings before work, so it worked out pretty well. And once that project was finished, I kind of… never stopped.
Now – of course you don’t have to write every day if you don’t want to. That was another argument I used before: Sure it’s great for those who can do it – but there are many other ways to approach writing that might work just as well (and what’s that thing about changing a winning hand? Oh right: don’t!)
But I realized that writing every day comes with a couple of nice perks:
- You can predict (within reason) when a project will be done. This is very valuable for keeping yourself motivated and accountable. There’s something great about know that in X amount of days, if you just stick with it, you’ll have another first draft on your hands, or that your short story will be done.
- There’s the promise of a certain amount of writing accumulating over time, when you look at the big picture. Whether it’s 500, 1600, or 3000 words a day, you’ll suddenly find you have a bunch of first drafts on your hands! I suppose it depends on what kind of writer you are, but whether you nit-pick over the same phrase over and over, or churn out short story after short story, time spent writing will make you a better writer 100% of the time.
- But the most valuable thing about ‘forcing’ yourself to work like this, is that you’ll learn to write when things aren’t feeling right. At least for me, this was a big personal triumph. Being dependent on inspiration and motivation is fine when you have both of those, but when you don’t, your deadlines get pushed back. This is probably the single biggest reason for why people struggle with writing every day. When you’re just not feeling it, it becomes so much harder. It feels like your words are working against you, like your characters are all stupid, and that your whole story is just bland. This is why we long for inspiration and motivating, because it makes it feel right. But by forcing yourself to work every day – regardless of how you feel or how easy it is, or what you think of the writing you produce – you learn to adapt. There’s no better feeling than having a really good writing day after having three really bad ones. And then looking back and realizing that you still produced something during those three days is another great feeling. (Weirdly enough, that ‘bad’ writing you did is often not as bad as you think.)
Of course, this is not to say you can’t take breaks. In between projects, for example, or just when life gets in the way. Because booooy, it sure does like to get in the way, doesn’t it? This week for example, I haven’t been able to keep writing my short story every day, because I’ve been doing other things. Editing a novella and submitting stories – things that both take up a lot of my allotted writing time. Or I’ve had to rush off to work extra early, or move things around.
Also, I’m privileged enough to be able to be very strict with my schedule. I don’t have any kids, and my wife likes to keep busy alongside me. I realize that for a lot of people, there’s not necessarily time to set aside for writing every day.
But if you can carve it out somewhere, maybe not even every day, but regularly, I highly recommend it. I used to write here and there, whenever I felt the calling, and now that I look back, I’m very happy I found the extra time. It’s changed me a lot as a writer.