One common piece of advice to writers is this: write every day, even when you don’t feel like it. While there are good arguments for and against this advice, the actual advice itself is meaningless without application.
Today, I’d like to look at ways to actually write every day, and also ponder the times when we shouldn’t.
Let us first assume that writing every single day is a good idea (because it can be). How then, are we certain that we do, in fact, write every day?
There are a select few of us who actually have that drive and ability to make themselves sit down and write every day.
Good for you, if you’re one of them.
For the rest of you humans, you need something a bit more… dramatic.
And by dramatic, I mean a goal.
One of the easiest ways to motivate yourself is to set a deadline. I’ve actually talked about this in the past (like almost two years ago, I think). Deadlines are not evil. This deadline can be a date in the future when you want to finish your current project, or it can be something simpler: a time of day you want to be done writing by, when you want to finish the next chapter, etc.
Goals, however, don’t have to be deadlines. Instead, they can be word count goals, time goals, or anything else. You can have a goal to edit one chapter per day, or to write for one hour, or to write one thousand words, or finish one scene per day, whatever it is.
However you motivate yourself, find out what your daily goal is. If you have to finish your book by a deadline, divide the number of chapters by the number of days left before that deadline.
That’s your daily goal.
Be it one quarter chapter or fifteen chapters, you simplify your writing goals down to a daily schedule.
Having a goal is one thing, forcing oneself to do it is another. There are many ways to motivate writing, and I’m only going to highlight them here.
One that I’ve seen many writers do is have a precise time each day they write. I know some writers who will write from 9AM-10AM or midnight-3AM. Whatever time works best for you, having a specific time dedicated to writing and nothing else ensure it will happen.
Another sort of motivator is the word sprint. You set a timer for however long (most people do five or ten minutes) and write as many words as you can. Racing a clock forces the brain to come up with as many words as fast as possible. If you have a daily word count goal, this is a good way to do it. Of course, many of these words may not be the right words, but if you save those fixes for the next draft, then you can allow yourself to write a messy draft and get the words onto the paper, which is often the goal in the first place.
Building off of the word sprint, word wars involve other people. It’s the same idea, but instead you’re racing against another writer. If you have friends who write, or if you’re on a writer’s forum, these are great ways to motivate your writing and encourage you to do it. Both of you write for a certain time, then compare word counts. It’s a great challenge, with little competition since both of you win in words written.
Of course, you may not need a motivator to meet your goal. Good for you, I stand with you. I’m usually good at meeting my daily goal without having to motivate myself.
But for those of you who do need that motivation (no shame in it), these are three great ways to meet your daily goal with speed and efficiency.
There is a danger, however, in forcing yourself to write every single day. If you write every day, you have the danger of burning out. If you never take a break from creativity, you can fry your creative centers and leave yourself feeling empty and worthless.
That’s never a good thing.
Remember, as you work toward your daily goals, that it really is okay to stop from time to time and just rest. Pause that particular work of art and take some time to focus on different art. Whether it’s a different project of your own, someone else’s art, or even just the life and adventures around you, time off from your goals is a good idea.
Creativity can run long spells before drying out. When it does dry out, it feels like all is lost. Just remember, however, that the creativity will return, and then your daily goals can prompt you to keep creating.