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Get In The Habit Of Writing Every Day

by Jennifer on February 4, 2010

By Jennifer Blanchard

It’s been argued back and forth for years about whether writers should be in the habit of writing every day.

Some writers believe that daily writing isn’t necessary, some writers only want to write when they feel inspired, while others refuse to deviate from their daily writing schedules.

Regardless of which group you fall into (or if you fall into another group completely), the important thing to remember is: The more often you write, the better your writing will become.

I believe that writers need to be in the habit of writing, period. But that doesn’t mean you have to write every day (because remember, you don’t have to do anything).

I believe that writers need to write as often as works for them. For some writers that’s daily, no exceptions. For others it’s a few times a week.

But if you’re not in the habit of writing pretty regularly (at least a few days a week), you could be in trouble.

In the book, The Practice of Creative Writing: A Guide for Students, by Heather Sellers, she discusses everything from the writing life to focus to procrastination to how to structure a story and more.

The section that really made me start to think, however, fell under the category of “The Writing Habit.”

In the book, Sellers says:

“If you don’t have a writing habit, you aren’t being fair to yourself. You might even be setting yourself up for failure. If you write only when you are ‘in the mood,’ or when you ‘have some time,’ you will never be able to write enough material to see what you are good at, what needs work.

Good writers write whether they are in the mood or not. They practice whether they feel like it or not. It’s the only way. Everyday practice. That’s how you get better.

[Successful] Writers are simply people who have figured out how to spend enough time in the writing room every day in order to create enough work so that some of it is good.

Remember: You will want to avoid writing. All writers struggle with procrastination, writer’s block, distraction, or laziness. All successful writers develop strategies to deal with these issues. Conquering not-writing is probably half the battle…”

I think this section of information is profound. Maybe even genius.

Not because Sellers is saying something new or something you probably didn’t already know.

The reason I think it’s profound is because of its simplicity.

Sellers states: “Good writers write whether they are in the mood or not. They practice whether they feel like it or not. It’s the only way. Everyday practice. That’s how you get better.”

And that statement falls in line with the basic idea of being good at anything–whether that be writing or playing an instrument or playing a sport. You have to practice as much and as often as possible.

The best of the best practice every single day, no exceptions.

I think in the debate of “to write every day or not to write every day,” it really comes down to what you’re trying to accomplish.

If your goal  is to get published, then daily practice is probably what it’s going to take.

But if you’re only a writer by hobby and don’t want to work toward publication, then when and how often you write really falls in line with you wanting to write.

So before you choose a side in the great “write every day” debate…you need to ask yourself: What do I want to achieve?

Do you have a habit of writing? Or do you just write “when you feel like it?” How does having a habit/not having a habit affect your writing life?

About the Author: Jennifer Blanchard is founder of Procrastinating Writers. Be sure to follow her on Twitter.

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{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Eliza February 4, 2010 at 3:18 pm

I used to go with the ‘write when I feel like it’ or worse, ‘write when I’m inspired’. I would go for weeks, sometimes months, without writing. And then, when I did sit down to write, it would be bland. Forced. Trite and yucky and nothing that I would ever want anyone else to write.
Now I write *almost* every day. Some days just slip through the cracks, which I am okay with. It’s like a refuel day. And some days I only write 3 or 4 hundred words, while other days (like today!) I get thousands down. But the regular practice (along with learning and reading and more learning) has definitely improved my writing. Like, tenfold.

2 jennifer blanchard February 4, 2010 at 3:34 pm

@Eliza Thanks for sharing that awesome insight with us! I used to be in the “write when I feel like it” boat…but that stopped working for me (really, it never worked for me). So now I write every single day. I don’t write fiction every day, yet. But I do write non-fiction every single day. I’ve been doing this for the last 2 1/2 years and my non-fiction writing has improved tremendously. I’ve even started to develop my writing voice. My next goal is to start writing fiction every day. I’m going to attempt one writing exercise a day and see where it goes from there.

3 Rebecca February 4, 2010 at 5:04 pm

This seems to be quite the topic today! A very similar sentiment to what you wrote about is something I heard from my creative writing teacher last year – but have since seen it in quite a few articles (most notably in Malcolm Gladwell’s Late Bloomers article in the New Yorker). She said, whenever I am struggling or am unhappy with a scene or ending or whatever, I need to just write more. That most people who want to write – and even those that do – often just don’t write enough.

4 Iapetus999 February 4, 2010 at 9:03 pm

Here’s the thing.
I read this kind of post all the time.
What about revision?
A lot of revision is note taking, conceptualizing, and evaluating, none of which involves actually writing fictional prose.
I do try to write small stories while I’m in revision mode, but still, revision isn’t writing but it’s a writing skill that I also need to work on. Does revision count?

5 sefcug February 5, 2010 at 8:40 am

I am a hobby writer, as well as the editor of two computer user group newsletters, and a part time blogger.
Most days I write something, or am editing something to go into one of the newsletters.
At work, I am constantly writing and responding to emails as the major function of my job, though I have set up a lot of templates for the routine stuff.
Lately, I have been participating over at http://www.creativecopychallenge.com/, which has re-sparked my interest in creative writing (see http://www.creativecopychallenge.com/creative-copy-challenge-12/#comment-1043 for my latest submission) .
I am thinking about setting up a Posterous blog to post my submissions, and those from other creative writing prompt feeds, which will give me incentive to write creatively more often.
All in all, I know think that I write every day, just not all of it is creative writing.

6 Alanna Klapp February 5, 2010 at 12:08 pm

Jennifer, this is a great post, thank you! I love Heather Sellers, she’s one of my favorite writers and I think she’s a genius. I love her books Page After Page and Chapter After Chapter. Great stuff.

I try to write every day, even if it’s only a little. I find if I don’t write at least a little something every day, it’s much harder for me to get back into it the next day, and then the cycle perpetuates itself so it takes me a huge momentus effort (and a lot of forgiveness on my part for not writing like I’m supposed to be) to get back into the game. It’s easier for me to write than it is to deal with the consequences of not writing.

Lapetus999, I think revision counts! I count everything in my writing time, including reading, marketing, and networking. However, I also try to make sure I do a little new writing every day, but I definitely think revision counts. That’s where the real writing happens, for me, anyway. Just my two cents.

7 Dave Felton February 5, 2010 at 2:38 pm

Hi Jennifer,

Great article and so true.

I thought that “[Successful] Writers are simply people who have figured out how to spend enough time in the writing room every day in order to create enough work so that some of it is good.” was pure gold.

IainBanks is a good example of a well known author proving this to be true. Apparently he writes “9 to 5 as all my friends have real jobs and I like to be like them” (I am probably horribly misquoting him, but I hope he forgives me! 🙂

Best wishes.

8 jblan February 5, 2010 at 10:26 pm

@lapetus999 I’d say writing is writing. But that doesn’t mean revision isn’t an important part of the overall writing process. And I think, as long as you are always working on something–whether you’re writing, revising or planning–you’re doing pretty good. Just make sure you don’t spend more time revising then you do writing!

@Alanna Klapp I want to read a few of her other books! She has an amazing knack for hitting the nail on the head and telling you what it really takes to be a writer. Like I said above, I write every single day, no exceptions. But most of my writing time is spent on non-fiction writing. I’d really like to get fiction in the loop soon.

9 Alanna Klapp February 6, 2010 at 6:10 pm

I want to read Heather’s other books, too! I’d like to read every word she’s ever written! I agree with you about her completely!! I’m where you are, I’ve been writing every day but mostly non-fiction, and I’d like to get in some fiction time. I think I’m going to start getting back into it by writing flash fiction. Best of luck to you, I love your blog!

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