There are a couple of adages running around the writer’s community. If you want to write better; read a lot. Also, if you want to write better, write a lot. Write every day. That is what they tell you. The elusive “they” seem to know everything. Are they right though? Do you have to write every day?
This entire week we will discuss the pros and cons of actually writing every day. Feel free to chime in with your thoughts here in the comments, through the podcast on Wednesday, or replying to the newsletter on Thursday.
Why are we Told to Write Every Day?
I am sure you have heard it, the masses telling you to write daily. No matter if you write 2000 words or 50 words, “just put something on paper!”
What you may not realize, though, is why they tell you to do this. There are a few reasons and they appear to make sense at first glance. I am here to squash the rumors and I will once again, go against the grain. First, though, let’s look at why we “should write every day.”
Reason 1: You will finish your project. Simply by writing daily, you will have more words on paper that will lead to a faster ending of your project. On the surface, this looks like a great thing.
You may tell yourself something like “yeah! If I even put down just 100 words today, even though I don’t feel like it, that will be 100 words less that I have to do tomorrow.”
Reason 2: It creates a writing habit that you should have. Most habits are formed by performing the same action daily for 21 days. The idea here is that if you write every day, forcing yourself to do so on days you don’t want to write, then you will get in the habit of writing.
Reason 3: The more you write, the better you get. Again, attempting to force writing to be a habit, with practice you will get better.
While it is true that you become a better writer by writing, is it so crucial that you must write every day?
I Say Bollocks to Daily Writing
Let me run down the list here and give you my two cents on the subject. As a writer myself, I can tell you that I do not write every day. I can also tell you that when I first started out I followed all these “rules” and regulations to become a better writer.
Out of all of the things I have done, writing every day was one of the many that did not help me become a better writer. Let’s see why.
Write Every Day Just to Put Words Down? No.
Un-reason 1: An extra 50 words written when you don’t want to write won’t end your project sooner. If anything, writing daily to improve your word count will simply work to add time to your project.
Think about it. If you have a shit ton of things to do today and writing isn’t on that list, you aren’t going to write well. Forcing yourself to write only produces words, not good words. For every word you write on a day you don’t feel like writing will just be that many words you have to edit out and rewrite anyway.
Forcing yourself to write daily will produce days that are just crap. While you may be 100 words closer to your goal on Tuesday, by the end of Wednesday, you spent an hour or more rewriting those 100 words just to make progress.
Bad Habits Exist, Too.
Un-Reason 2: Writing habits aren’t always good habits. Just because you get in the habit of writing daily, doesn’t mean it is a good thing. Sure writing can be done regularly, but it should also bring you joy. It should be motivating. You should be excited to sit at your computer and clack away at your keyboard.
If you force yourself to write daily, especially on days you don’t want to write, you will get in the habit of doing so. You will also get in the habit of writing as a task or a chore. You will take the fun out of it.
Get in the habit of writing when it is enjoyable, not because it’s 6 pm and you just took the trash out so you feel you have to write.
Like before, this will only produce forced words, shitty words, and you will spend more time editing out the crap on days you would rather be writing that fighting scene or about your protagonist’s first kiss.
Practice Makes Perfect, Right?
Un-reason 3: Write more to write better. This is probably the reason I hate the most to justify writing every day. It irks me, along with the old “practice makes perfect” thing. No. It doesn’t.
If you practice bad habits, you will play with bad habits. The same goes for writing. If you force writing you will write crap words. This will translate to writing crap words when you are actually wanting to write.
Only perfect practice makes perfect. Similarly, good writing produces good writing. If you write to get better, you will get better. It’s in total words written, not in consecutive days of writing.
If you want to write better words, practice writing better words, not just any words to fill some time because “you haven’t written yet, today.”
When Should You Write?
I don’t want to be a complete nay-sayer. Writing every day has its place. Sometimes you get in a groove and the words just flow and you don’t want to stop.
When this happens, I say embrace it. Take it and go. Write until your fingers bleed and your brain turns to mush.
This won’t happen every day.
Don’t force it to happen. Disclaimer though: Don’t get in the habit of not writing, either. Making a writing schedule, having a routine and getting in the habit of writing is great, even necessary.
If you find yourself, drained, too busy or just not in the mood, then don’t force it. You will find that when you do sit down you will write with better quality and more enthusiasm.
Writing better makes better writing.