Nathan Bransford, Author


Monday, October 1, 2012

It's Not Necessary to Write Every Day


One of the most common writing myths out there is the idea that you have to write every single day in order to be a writer.

Some people totally do this, and more power to them. They set word count goals, they wake up early or stay up late, they bend schedules to make sure they're getting some words down every single day.

Not me. Barring catastrophic deadlines I only write my novels on the weekend, and the vast majority of my blog posts too. And I know I'm not alone. Not all the writers out there are beholden to a routine or a schedule.

I worry that this myth intimidates people who would otherwise excel at writing from pursuing their writing dreams. Every single day is a major, major commitment, and not everyone could or even should do it. Sometimes your brain needs a break to unlock a problem or maybe you just have a different rhythm.

So don't fret if you are a somewhat sporadic writer. As long as your productivity remains high whatever your schedule you'll be just fine.

Art: Les raboteurs de parquet by Gustave Caillebotte






68 comments:

Carol said...

THANK YOU!!!!

jmarierundquist said...

Amen. Be committed, but know that commitment means different things to different people. Write what you can, when you can.

Mr. D said...

Well, if you have a wife, kids, a full time teaching job, and a book being published, you may find your schedule a little hectic. So yeah, you may not be writing every single day.

Debbie said...

And sometimes that day or two or three off is just what you need to recharge the batteries.

ginnad said...

Hmm. I've never interpreted that advice as "write every single calendar day", but more, if there's a day you've designated as a writing day, then you need to write.

If you set weekends as writing days, you probably feel like you need to write something each weekend.

JeffO said...

I think about the only 'rule' for writing that should ever be stated, anywhere, is IF IT WORKS FOR YOU, DO IT.


Provided, of course, it's legal and not injurious.

Jay Bendt said...

Thank you! One of those things that always intimidated me about writing was that, everywhere I turned, the one advice I saw was "if you want to get better, you have to write everyday."

Well... That doesn't work all the time, and somehow it made me feel that I was not doing enough to become better. It is only now that I am getting comfortable with the idea that so long as I write, it does not have to be every day at 5:00am, after exercising but before getting ready for work.

Sometimes that just doesn't happen.

Jess Stork said...

I've tried it both ways. Right now the morning thing works well for me because I feel like my head is in the story every day, if only for an hour. But I will admit, in the past it really helped to have the uninterrupted stream of hours on weekends to get big chunks done. I think it really depends on a writer as person. If you write, than you're a writer, even if you're not on a schedule.

Barbara said...

I think this idea is promoted by some who think that in order to make writing their "job," they have to go to work every day. It may be a result of so many thinking they have to go to school to become "writers."
Many years ago I remember listening to a then popular writer deplore that there were so many people out there writing who had little to say -- they just liked the glamour of being a writer. His advice was don't bother until you have a story you need to tell. While I believe that one often discovers what one has to say by writing, I also think there are a lot of people just putting words on computers or paper because they need to make their daily word count so they can call themselves writers.But who is reading them?
It's a balance.

Ruth Harris said...

I've been a NYT bestselling author, an editor & a publisher for decades & never heard this. What I do think is that you need to write consistently (which is not the same as every day).

What you do need to do everyday is to read & read a lot. To feed the muses, to stay close to the language.

Alex Villasante said...

i've always said this to old school types who insist that the only way to write is to do it methodically, every day, as you would a job. Well, I don't want writing to become a job, as in an obligation. I want it to stay a joy. I do think that (for me) it's important to visit the world of whatever I'm working on - even if it's just to think through a scene or wonder about a character's motivation. Happily, I can do this while driving or in the shower so that IS something I do every day.

Bridget McKenna said...

I agree that myth may have caused a lot of writer guilt over the years. I'd say write whenever you can, but what's absolutely necessary is to be a writer every day.

Kheryn Casey said...

I learned this the hard way after I spent nearly every day forcing out writing that wasn't very good, because I really needed time to mull over the story. It's nice to see this reconfirmed!

cb said...

I agree!

D.G. Hudson said...

I don't always write every day, but I try to do something writing related. That can be reading a book or planning a post by doing research.

Richard Mabry said...

Nathan, Hallelujah! Someone who agrees with my writing style. I identify with Lawrence Block's description of the Sunday Writer in his book, Telling Lies For Fun And Profit. I've had several novels published by traditional publishers, but...(said in hushed tones)...some days I don't write.
Thanks for the post.

Andrew Leon said...

Douglas Adams hardly ever wrote and tended to do it only when forced, at that.

Laura Benson said...

I hear so many conflicting reports about this. Write when you can, write everyday to get yourself used to writing every day. Write write write... *sigh*

So confuzzled.

James Scott Bell said...

It depends on how productive you want to be and if you want to be a professional (part of which means you write even when you don't feel like it. Or would you rather have a doctor who shows up only when he feels like it?) The writing quota that has fed my family.

However, I do agree to this extent: I counsel a WEEKLY quota, and writing 6 days a week. Thus, if you miss a day, you don't beat yourself up. You adjust the other days. And you take a whole day off to recharge. Works wonders.

Even if you have full time obligations, find the number of words you can COMFORTABLY do in a week. Then up that by 10% and go for it.

As Peter DeVries put it: "I only write when I'm inspired, and I see to it that I’m inspired at nine o’clock every morning."

Marsha Sigman said...

I WANT to write every day. I THINK about my current story every day. But to actually do it is another matter. Full time day job, kids, and just life has a way of saying oh hell no. Plus I actually need a few hours sleep if anything is going to make sense. Even with my schedule I think I'm going pretty good.

Thanks for this.

BP said...

Very inspiring! Thank you! And I hope you're settling in the Big Apple nicely. :D

Anne R. Allen said...

Thanks for this Nathan! When I was first struggling to get my fiction published--and working two jobs--a guy at a party asked me if I wrote every day. I said I didn't, but I wrote regularly. He said I couldn't call myself a writer if I didn't write every day of the week. I felt like such a failure. Then I started asking successful writers what they thought. NOT ONE said they wrote every single day.

I agree with what Ruth Harris said. To be a good writer, you must READ every day.

abc said...

Although I'm not sure this once a month thing is working for me either.

Vero said...

I agree with you, Nathan. I think it's more important to have writing goals for more flexible periods of time, such as for a week, and accommodate "life" in the schedule too. Having buffers can protect you from burnout.

Chris Sorensen @ csorensenwrite said...

I think the key, as has been pointed out by others, is a) consistency (however often it may be) and b) to not go crazy in the process of writing...it's okay to take breaks and remember that there is more to life than writing!

Very good food for thought, Nathan, as usual!

Kristin Laughtin said...

Definitely! I write (or do something related) most days, but it's normal with any job to have a weekend of some sort where you don't work. The key point is having discipline. If you shove all your writing into a few days a week, but do it consistently and produce enough that way, then more power to you.

I'm more of a weekly quota person, anyway. As long as I meet my goals for a week, I don't care if I do it in three days or five or seven. The flexibility is nice.

Margo Rowder said...

AGREED! I've always been wary of that advice.

On that note, it's not necessary to write fiction every day. In my day job, I write copy and brainstorm for websites and apps. I find that that kind of writing (not even every day) keeps my brain trained quite well, thankyouverymuch.

Karen A. Chase said...

I heard a woman at the San Francisco Writers Conference say, "Sometimes I'm writing when I'm getting things ready for dinner, and my husband doesn't realize I'm doing character development while my head is in the refrigerator."

Sometimes writing needs us to be away from it for a while for it to really cook.

Martha Ramirez said...

AWESOME advice!

Cathy said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you. I mean, I try to do something every day. A lot of days that may mean looking for places to submit poems and short stories, or communicating with friends who are reading my chapters, or doing some kind of writing that pertains to my job. Even when I do write, as often as not it's not writing writing, it's revising and putting in research time. I'm glad I'm not the only one.

cinnie2 said...

Oh my gosh! Thank you! I'm sorry I'm such a weakling I needed your permission to feel like a writer anyway, but thanks for giving it.

Claudine

Terry Dassow said...

Thanks for the message that there are so many different types of writer lifestyles.

In undergrad I took an intensive course which focused on the link between writers' lives and their work. Whenever I feel writer's guilt or think about how I should write everyday, I try to remember William Carlos Williams.

He was a doctor and wrote poetry and thought poetry while he worked, after he got home, or on his off-days. Those of us with certain aspirations can't resist demanding careers, but it doesn't make us any less valued in the writing community.

Thanks for the reminder!

Kirk said...

Let's not forget that if you make yourself write everyday, that's also 7 days of content to edit. The more forced the writing, the more editing and deleting. I'd assume that most people don't have time for that, as well.

By the way, brilliant accompanying illustration!

Zack Kullis said...

Nathan, I read with an enormous sigh of relief.

I follow a number of blogs that are discussing various writing programs.

With a busy schedule that simply doesn't have enough time, I was starting to feel like an outlier on the author's bell curve.

Thanks for the calming voice. I write when I can, or when I feel inspired by my dark inner muse.

I won't feel guilty about not being able to do more.

Zack....

Gretchen said...

Oh ThankYouThankYou for saying this! You're the best. Completely brilliant.

Now I just need to work on that "high productivity" part ...

Bryan Russell said...

I'm trying to work out a way to write while I'm asleep.

Blayze Kohime said...

I have learned to write when I want to write rather than forcing myself to write. In the long run I get more done this way, because if I burn myself out completely I'll stop writing for a much longer time.

Brendan O'Meara said...

Here's my thing: I'm not good enough to take a day off. The clock's ticking and I don't want to look back and think I could've been better had I worked a little harder, gotten up a little earlier.

I understand the balance with life and other jobs, but for me, it comes down to lack of skill and power of language. I'd be a fool not to get in the cages every day. Just not gifted enough to take that chance.

Terin Tashi Miller said...

I absolutely wholeheartedly agree with you. Sort of.

I don't write on a schedule, either. Pretty much, it's when I know I'll have time free, such as on the train to work or home, or on a weekend.

I used to think I had to write every day. In fact, I used to think I had to finish, at least in rough draft, a novel a year.

And that was when I had agents who seemed to encourage me to do that.

Then I became a journalist, and wrote something almost every day anyway. And then I began to realize that whether it's a letter, an email, a status post on ebay, or even a tweet, it's still writing.

In fact, when I work on my motorcycle, it's writing. Really. Sometimes even when I'm riding it. Because it frees up my mind, or my subconscious mind, or whatever, to solve literary problems like word choice, or plot, or structure, or even ideas. Anything that is meditative--that takes you inside yourself, for an undetermined amount of time, to think, does that.

So. Yes. I agree with you. You don't really have to sit down and physically "write" something every day or risk losing your ability, craft, skill, talent, gift, whatever you want to call it.

But you do have to engage, even subconsciously, in the creative process. Every day. Even if it's only day-dreaming, that turns out to be the basis for a novel. Or a neat turn of phrase in a tweet or other mostly off-hand thing.

Or so I believe.

And actually, if you do any of the above, you can write a rough draft of a novel, at least, in a year.

It's a question of goal setting rather than enforced rigor.

Andrea Franco-Cook said...

I learned early on that writing when my muse is on coffee break only produces drivel. Sometimes it's best to just take a break and regroup. The words will flow when they flow. Great post, enjoyed reading it.

Lee J Tyler said...

What a re...LIEF!
Now, will you come do to my floors what is being done in the picture?
I mean, since you're not writing everyday...;)

Kastie Pavlik said...

I was taught this as well, but have never held to it. If you force yourself to write, the story suffers. The one thing I do believe in, though, is that nothing should ever be thrown away or deleted. You never know when that rough draft is the only one with a line in it that you decide you really want to use or if those paragraphs you wrote and tossed were actually useable. Even if it's a note on a napkin, I keep it. But I don't write everyday. ^_^

Tiffany N. York said...

Sorry to disagree, but when I wrote my second novel I worked on it five days a week. If I missed a day, I'd make it up on the weekend. If you want a career in writing, you need to treat it like a job. And I'm a single mother who was working full-time. The question to ask yourself is: How bad do you want it?

I wanted to finish my book very badly. I would have lost momentum had I written any less. From what I've seen, the most successful writers consider their writing top priority--even more so than family (though they'd never admit it). I would wager they spend more time on their writing than they do with their family.

Lauren B. said...

This is good to hear.

While it'd be great to write every day, I'm at peace with the fact that I'm slow and not super prolific. It takes me a while to settle into the right headspace, I can't just 'switch it on' and write in hour-or-less chunks. As long as I'm steadily making progress on my novel (my first), I don't beat myself up too much.

If it turns into a chore I won't finish it at all.

Perhaps the discipline will come with experience. Certainly if I didn't have another day job I would do thinks a bit differently.

Anonymous said...

That is so right! Every writer is different and has their own way of doing it.

Cheyenne Trumbo said...

I think the reason it's said that to be a writer you must write every day is because for some people, if they *don't* get into the habit of doing something on a regular basis, it's that much easier to put it off. I count myself among them.

wendy said...

I want to add that if you feel driven to write every day you'd better have a very understanding partner, or better still one who is as driven as you are.

Voice of experience here.

K L Romo said...

Thanks for this post. Very refreshing for those of us who can't write full time.

Lynnea said...

I find that when someone or some idea begins to impose rules on writing, for me, it takes the joy out of it. Finding my own rhythm about it took a long time but I think the best thing is knowing yourself and adhering to your own writing style. I respond better to deadlines than to daily quotas. Following your passion shouldn't equal drudgery. Also, I agree with others here that when I'm not typing at the keyboard, I'm still writing by continuously engaging in creative pursuits to feed the fire.

Jessica Bell said...

Totally agree. When I was first starting and I saw this splattered all over people's blogs, I started feeling demotivated because I felt like I didn't have what it takes. People just need to find their own rhythm and what works best for them. That's all there is to it.

M.P. McDonald said...

I'm happy if I can fit in four writing sessions a week, and each session is no more than 2 hours. (usually about 90 minutes). At the moment, I work full-time. I always felt guilty for not writing more, but I just finished my 4th novel in three years, so I'm not doing too badly considering. (plus a partially finished one.)

Yesterday was a rare luxury where I didn't write and didn't feel guilty because I had sent my mss off to the editor Sunday evening. It felt good to have a breather.

Anonymous said...

Yes, it is necessary for some authors to write every day. Especially genre authors who are up against a great deal of competition. It's also something we like to do and don't feel forced doing...as career authors, not part time authors.

And there are career writers out here. We aren't doing it because we're trying to be the next 50 Shades or whatever the next big book is. We're doing it because we LOVE doing it. We can't wait to do it.

You're making a good point here, that writing is different for all authors and some can't work every day. But if you do write every day there's nothing wrong with that either.

Roberto Calas said...

I disagree. Like any craft, writing takes practice and commitment. No, you don't have to write every day. But you should. If you are a professional athlete, you can bet you will work out every day. If you are a scholar, you will read every day. If you are a commercial pilot, you better damn sure be studying your charts and weather every day. To say that, as a writer, you don't need to write every day is to give people an excuse not to. And we have plenty of excuses for that already. If you are a professional or want to become one, you work at it *every day*. That is what separates the good from the truly great. I am not there yet, but I write every day. And I will continue to do so until I am great (or dead).

Melanie said...

I like to write every day, but I think I psych myself out sometimes. The "need" to write all the time blocks me because I'm to anxious about getting enough done in a day. Thanks for this post! Maybe I'll relax a little!

Melanie Schulz said...

I used to write every day, but I've learned that I've been missing out on alot of life at the same time.

Anonymous said...

Thank you! It's so refreshing to hear a voice of (relatively) undriven reason in this business!

Jefferson Loiselle said...

I agree that you don’t need to write every day. However, sometimes it is too easy to not write if you do not have a set schedule or a self-imposed deadline for your writing. Finding a balance is important and hard. I find I write in chucks. I will write every day for a week or two and then take time off. Between making quality time for my Wife and 3 kids, a full time and part time teaching job, and everything else; making writing a priority on daily basis is not always possible. Thanks for the encouraging post!!

C.E. Hart said...

Whew! lol

nicbeast said...

This post was an Ah-Ha moment for me! I thought you had to do it every day! That's what every body said! So I wouldn't write because why do it if you weren't going to do it the "right way". You just opened my world up! Thank you!! <3

Mira said...

Wow, Nathan, this is such a wonderful post. When I read it, a great sigh of relief went through me.

I don't write every day, and don't think that would fit my natural rhythm. I feel I write better when I am rested and open, not exhausted and pressured. I need space and openness inside myself, to access my best work.

But - it's so hard not to feel guilty on some level for not doing with the daily writing thing, even if I know it's wrong for me. This post was so permission giving. What a gift. Thank you, Nathan!

Khanada said...

Thank you!!!

Funny how helpful it is to have that express permission.

Renee Maynes said...

Committing to writing joyfully, rather than writing because I felt obligated, got me writing six days a week and enjoying it. No more feeling guilty for not writing that seventh day.

Lisa Ahn said...

Yes! Thank you! For a few years, I did push myself to write everyday, sick or healthy, home or on vacation. A bad concussion set me off that track. Now, I write when I can and I don't make myself sick about it -- and I think I'm writing better and (gasp) enjoying it much more.

Liza Khan said...

Thank you for "saying" this. I have been cracking my skull trying to find how to develop my writing and this is not helping.. :)

Miriam Joy said...

Personally, I find that writing every day actually makes it easier for me. Obviously, when I'm between projects, I don't. But when I've got a goal or something to work on, I'll squeeze in the time as often as I physically can, because it helps me to write more coherently and I don't lose track of my plot :D

Bonnie said...

I agree and it's nice to see so many people who feel as I do. I totally get the idea of working at it and building good work habits, but I also very much believe that writing, as a creative art--which your basic office job, athletics, flying planes, being a doctor, whatever, are not--has no set rules. If it works for you, it's the right thing to do. I *think* about my writing every day, whether or not I get words down on paper. I read what I'm working on, I picture scenes in my head, I speak dialogue until it sounds natural to me, I do research for things I know nothing about (which I've learned, since I started writing, is A LOT!). But I cannot force myself to write. I cannot work with the crap that comes out on the page when I don't feel like writing. And you know what? I don't necessarily work hard at my day job every day either. ;)

Dennis Scanlon said...

I am new to blogging and am actually already discouraged....I don't have any money what so ever to pay for a website or hosting...(I know you can have a free website but you have to pay for at least some hosting) So, I got a free blog...but I still can't make any money because I don't have it DEVOLOPED...no good content, or ads, or anything....I feel its not worth my time to write hundreds of words about....something, if I am not going to get paid for it....I think that even if I write in my blog, without traffic, it won't bring in any money....I know, everybody says, you have to put in content, and get people to start reading it...(traffic) and then put ads up, and sell stuff...and thats where your money will come from....but...I'm just not patient enough to wait for all that to happen....when I first got into this "online money making" I fell for all the "make thousands a day" scams....but then as I began to actually STUDY this....thing...I slowly learned there IS no INSTANT INCOME....and as a matter of fact....its actually ALOT of work....just to START making money....well....thats not for me....I have been trying to get a "regular" job for quite a while...and I figured as long as I wasn't doing anything I'd try this....online thing....well I tried it....and its my opinion that its easier to work at ANY regular job than to do this....at least with a regular job....you make money relatively quickly, within at least two weeks....but with this ONLINE thing, it might take 6 months....just to get any kind of steady income going....and, in order to KEEP it going, you have to work at it every day, maybe ALL day....thats too much work....am I right?

Wendy Christopher said...

I've always known I'm never gonna be of the Stephen King 'write every day, even on Christmas Day and your birthday' persuasion. So no, I don't write EVERY day. But I also know as a wife and mother I have forever kissed goodbye any opportunity to have a day where I'd get several hours to call my own, so I know I have to make use of the little chunks I DO get as best as I can. So I DO have a target to work to, because otherwise as a professional lazy bum I'd never get any writing done at all (so many cakes to bake, minecraft toys to make, tra la laaa...) I must write for a minimum of ten hours a week. How I split those ten hours up is negotiable, but that is the total that should show in my little Excel spreadsheet at the end of each week. Works for me, 'cause it's flexible enough to not turn writing into a drill exercise, but still disciplined enough to make me attach my lazy bum to my chair and get the blimmmin' thing DONE.

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