No, I don’t write every single day. But I write nearly every single day.
I mean, I do write every day, most of us do. Texts, emails, Instagram posts, and to my recent and slight discomfort, tweets. But obviously I mean the dedicated practice of sitting down at my desk and writing about the idea rattling around in my headbrain. (As opposed to my stomachbrain, which is trying to tell me to eat something right now, and I’m trying to ignore her. Because we’re writing.)
The daily practice is something I’ve been struggling with for months. Should I, shouldn’t I, is it a waste of stress and energy, wouldn’t my time be better used focused on writing a few times a week, isn’t every single day a bit too draining?
As you can see, I’ve largely been leaning towards talking myself out of it, which probably means I should do it. Or at least something close to it.
Option #1: Write every day
There are plenty of writers who advocate for writing every day. Seth Godin is perhaps one of the most vocal about the practice. He says,
I write like I talk. And nobody I know gets talker’s block… So if you write like you talk, don’t worry. Because you haven’t run out of things to say yet, so you won’t run out of things to blog.
Seems reasonable. Still doesn’t completely convince me to do it.
Ayodeji Awosika is quite vocal (as he is about everything; the man’s got opinions) about writing every day. He says,
I focus on generating ideas constantly. I write ten new blog post ideas per day. I also have a process I use to publish articles prolifically — essentially a glorified brainstorming process to get my ideas out, a quick and dirty outline, then writing comes next. Again, I love to write and have a lot to say. If you love to write, why not…write?
Touche, Ayo, touche. (Still not convinced.)
The most popular analogy for writing is that it’s like a muscle — if you want to build strength, you have to train every day. And over time, you’ll get stronger and faster — a key talent for a writer to cultivate. So that’s your first option.
Option #2: Write a few times per week
But there are valid arguments against the daily writing practice, too. The most compelling one I’ve heard is that writing can be incredibly mentally draining, so to avoid burning yourself out, you should “batch” your writing a few times a week.
Schedule it for 2–3 hours and knock it out, and then chill on your off days. This has the added benefit of allowing your mind that space it needs to percolate new ideas. And you don’t have to stress about missing a day of writing. (I first heard this idea from Michael Leonard on his Inspire Your Success podcast.)
If you freelance, the method might even be ideal, because you need to make sure you’re also scheduling time for marketing, phone calls, meeting with clients, etc.
If you don’t freelance, lucky you, you get free time to pursue other hobbies during the week. Or watch Netflix on your couch. I don’t judge.
Option #3: The goldilocks method
It’s the best of both worlds… (I know you just sang that in your head.)
I’m calling this option the goldilocks method: the just-right option between writing every day, and writing a few times a week.
30 minutes a day, 6 times per week. Cue golden sunbeams streaming through the clouds.
Why it’s just right
- You get one cheat day. it doesn’t matter why, or when. Maybe you feel like garbage. Maybe something came up during your usual writing time. Maybe you’d just Rather Not. It doesn’t matter. You get one free day. Every other day, you write. It’s still enough to build the habit, to build the muscle. If you were trying to build actual muscle, you wouldn’t work out every single day either. (Huh, maybe that’s why that analogy always bothered me.)
- It’s only 30 minutes. I used to get stuck behind this mental block that writing every day meant at least one hour. In my head, I couldn’t get anything done in less than an hour. But you’d be surprised what you can get down in 30 minutes. And often, you’ll want to keep going after those 30 minutes. But you don’t have to. This is especially helpful for me on days when I work my regular part-time 9–5 job. I write for 30 minutes before I start work, and then I’m done for the day.
- Schedule it whenever you want. I’m a fan of writing in the morning, but if I miss my writing time in the morning for whatever reason, 30 minutes is small enough to squeeze in somewhere else. You could even do 30 minutes on your lunch break. If you have an hour break, that’s 30 minutes for writing and 30 minutes for eating — that’s practically luxurious!
- You’ll write more than you think. Just as a reference point, I usually end up with one to two Medium articles a week. And like I mentioned, this method actually often encourages me to write for more than 30 minutes a day. (As I type these words, I’m at 50 minutes — woo!) So it self-perpetuates more writing than you expect yourself to do, which is a confidence booster, at least for me.
- I don’t count editing in the 30 minutes, but you should be editing separately anyway.
- If your goal is to publish an article every day or churn out an ebook or something, obviously this isn’t enough time (unless you’re superpower is writing really fast, in which case, tell me all your secrets). But it’s perfect if your goal is short-form pieces once or twice a week or you’re happy to take your time with whatever you’re working on, knowing you’ll still be making consistent progress.
Tips for making it work
- Put it in your calendar. Whether you write at the same time every day or move it around based on your schedule, put it in your calendar and sync it to your phone so that you get a reminder every day. In my experience, this ingrains the habit and ensures you’re not panicking at 11pm if you haven’t written that day.
- Research and edit separately. Your 30 minutes of writing time is for writing only. No typing a sentence and then looking something up and then falling down a Wikipedia rabbit hole. No going back over what you already wrote and tweaking sentences. Just writing, for 30 minutes straight.
- Celebrate! Reward yourself for your writing time. Maybe you write before breakfast and your reward is waffles. Or maybe it’s as simple as checking a box on your calendar every day. Whatever it is, give yourself a pat on the back.
Give it a try
I hope this method helps you get some writing done without feeling overwhelmed (especially mid-pandemic). I’ve been doing it for about two weeks now, and I’ve found it to be really productive for me. I feel like I’m making a lot of progress with writing, and I’m not pressured to tip tap out words for hours every day. That’s not practical or enjoyable for me.
If you give this a try, let me know how it goes. Cheers!
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