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5 Rules for Writing Every Day

October 13, 2013
English: my typewriter

If I’m going to write every day, I’m definitely not going to use one of these! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In every writer’s class I’ve taken and every writer’s group I’ve been in, there was always somebody who said that the most important rule to writing was to “write every day.”  I’m usually pretty good at following rules, but this one has always been stated with such pomposity that I’ve wanted to argue, except I’m a quiet person who doesn’t like to make scenes, so I’ve always kept my mouth shut.

Writing every day is a great rule if you’re a full-time writer, but I have a full-time job that has nothing to do with writing, and I have a family, so it’s not easy to simply “write every day.”  Life is stressful, and trying to write every day (when I tried it) made it even worse.  In order to write Dysfunctional Literacy without adding more unnecessary stress to my life, I’ve adapted.  Now I have five simple rules that make writing every day easy without necessarily “writing every day.”

1.  Make progress every day.

This is a bit different from “writing every day.”  I have maybe two or three good days of writing every week.  On my bad days, I work on revising and editing.  Even if I merely add a comma to a chapter of “The Literary Girlfriend,” in my mind I’ve made progress.  Thursday is usually my worst writing day.  Saturday is usually my best (even during football season).  I might compose 1500-2000 words on a Saturday (but a lot of that might turn out to be junk).  On my bad writing day Thursday, I might delete a “very” or a “kind of.”  That’s what I call progress.

2.  Establish a reasonable goal.

The most frustrating time while writing Dysfunctional Literacy (except the time when nobody read it) was when I tried publishing something every day.  I stayed up late at night, was grouchy in the morning, was dissatisfied with what I’d written, and maybe three people read what I wrote (and one of them was Mom).

What I was doing wasn’t working for me, so I decided to set a more reasonable goal.  Most of the time, that goal is three posts a week.  During busy times of the year, I can cut it down to one or two posts a week.  Having a reasonable goal makes writing way less stressful but still makes me productive without getting lazy.

3.  Write about a variety of topics.

When I read, my mind wanders after about 15 minutes, but I still want to read, so I switch genres.  The same thing happens when I write; after about 15 minutes, my mind wanders, but I still want to write, so I change topics.  It’s one of the reasons I write serials like “Long Story” and “The Literary Girlfriend” while also writing the nonfiction stuff like this post.  When I get tired of writing nonfiction, I can switch to dialogue or a description for “The Literary Girlfriend.”  If I switch back and forth from one genre to another, sometimes I can write for 45 minutes at a time instead of only 15.

4.  Read when tired, write while rested.

Reading and writing are related skills, but I do them at different times of the day.  When I’m tired, writing new material is futile.  I stare blankly at the screen, and my mind wanders.  I can edit and revise sentences and might be able to fill in tiny gaps in my writing, but that’s it.

My best writing time is in the morning.  Unfortunately, I can’t write every morning, so I write a lot on the mornings when I can, and revise/edit on the evenings after I work.  I’m not as productive as I want to be (who is?), but I’m fairly satisfied with the results.  When I’m tired, I can just read.  I’d rather enjoy my reading time when I’m tired than get frustrated by trying to write.

5.  Remember that one single day doesn’t matter much.

It’s kind of like that saying:”It’s a marathon, not a sprint.”  Or is it “It’s not a sprint; it’s a marathon”?  Either way, my long-term success or failure as a writer won’t be determined by what I do on a single day (unless I publish something so extremely offensive that I get fired from my own blog).  If I become successful, it’s because of what I do over the long run (I guess that’s kind of like a marathon).

Remembering that no single day is important to my writing makes life less stressful on those rough evenings when all I can do is edit/revise.  I always have the desire to write new material, but my brain won’t always cooperate, so it helps to not get frustrated too much on the lean writing days.

But enough about me!  I might have my own rules for writing, but I know these rules wont work for everybody.  What rules (if any) do you have for your own writing?  Do you write every day?  Do you write only when you feel like it?  Or do you think that rules for writing are for chumps?

*****

Writing at school can be difficult, but it’s really tough when you have a crappy topic.

Now available on Amazon!

Now available on Amazon!

21 Comments
  1. I think that you have the rules down. I always look forward to reading your posts. I really like writing too, but the cat’s life can be a bit boring, so I am often at a loss for topics.

    Your posts are great!

  2. I have not yet found rules that work for me. I’m flying by the seat of my pants. I run into stuff a lot. However, I very much like your rules. I’m glad they work for you.

  3. Reblogged this on SoshiTech.

  4. I think that we each have to make rules that fit into our lives. It sounds like you have found the formula that works for you. I myself am still trying to figure it all out, but am trying not to be too stringent on myself either. If only we all could lead the life of an established writer..but, most of us have other commitments/jobs to attend to. 🙂

  5. I’m not a real writer, and I don’t refer to my blog as “writing”. As much as I would like to write more often, I’m am too dependent on the news stories, and on inspiration – there are days when I write three posts in a single day, and there are weeks when I find nothing worthy of writing about.

    • If you want to write more posts, you could change your name to List of V and have twice as many articles (but that suggestion probably isn’t very helpful to you). I’ve been reading your blog for a while, and I’ve always considered you a writer. What you do is really tough, but you’re also really good at it (just don’t pay attention to my advice about your name).

      • Thank you, this means a lot from someone who I consider an expert on writers.
        Yes, I can’t really change to my blog name to List of V for a variety of reasons, but in theory I could interpret X as a variable rather than the Roman numeral for 10, and write lists of less than 10 items 🙂

  6. rtimmorris permalink

    I’ll go a full week of getting some really great stuff down, followed by two weeks of nothing. During this “nothing” period I’m still thinking about my writing all the time, about where the story is going next and about changes I could make. I think this is also the reason my blog may seem to lack content. I’ll post a lot of my novel excerpts but not so much of actual “blogging”. My head is just in my novel space and not the kind of space where I aim to make a ton of posts just to keep going. We all work a bit differently I suppose, which makes it that much harder to follow someone else’s rules. Still, it’s nice to hear how different writers make it work for themselves.
    Thanks for this post.

  7. Fantastic read, thank you

  8. I think rules are fine as long as you break them occasionally. After all, “write every day” is rather arbitrary (why not “write every 8 hours”?) and I don’t want to enslave myself to anything, including writing. Still, I agree with your rules. Writing is hard work and it takes discipline. I’ve known a lot of people who love to *talk* about the stuff they’re writing but never really get around to putting many words down on paper (or screen).

    • Yeah, I wouldn’t ask that “Why not write every 8 hours?” question, even if you’re kidding. I’ve known some instructors that would have thought that was a great idea!

  9. Reblogged this on Get it. Write. and commented:
    If you write, you should read this. If you write, but sometimes find you just can’t do it, you should read this. And if you … ah hell, just read this. Doesn’t matter what you do. A very good post on a great blog.

  10. Excellent rules!

  11. I fail miserably at writing every day, but I’m trying to get in better writing habits. I think these tips will help, especially setting reasonable goals.

  12. Life just gets in the way but hey ho, without life it would be a bit tricky to find anything inspiring to write about. I started my blog to try and encourage me and it has made a massive difference. Now, even if I don’t write any of my novel (which I haven’t for ages!) I don’t feel bad about it because I am still doing a little something most days….As for rules…hmmm, never been much of a rule kind of person, unless we are talking about breaking them.
    I think, do the best you can, don’t make excuses for yourself but also don’t feel bad or guilty if you just want that quiet afternoon of sitting on the sofa doing nothing.

  13. I love this! I’ve just started my blog and I’m having to keep myself in check from being so excited I want to blog every day. I have a toddler and work so that plan’s only going to work for about a minute before I start avoiding WordPress like everything else I overcommit to… Whenever I want to write for the blog, I save it on my computer and tell myself that I have lots of material for those weeks when the only writing I’m doing is a grocery list. Your suggestions are perfect for keeping me honest. Thank you!

  14. I’ve written every day for the past three and a half years. I always heard that advice from workshops and grad classes about writing everyday and figured if I was going to take myself seriously, then I should force myself to write every damn day. I think the key is to have several projects going on at once – a novel, short story, blog, revision – so there’s always something that needs doing.

  15. I have referenced this post on my most recent blog (http://cat9984.wordpress.com/2013/11/04/write-what/). I think I did it correctly. Please check it and let me know if I need to change anything. Thank you!!

  16. I like these rules for writing. I like that there are only five of them because I have a hard time remembering more than five. My favorite rule is the one about about changing subjects not only because it allows variety thus sparing boredom, but also because I’d never thought about doing that before which surprises me because I get bored very easily. Also switching subjects as you suggest seems like it would enhance productivity because when you get bogged down on one topic and just cannot create anything worthwhile, you wouldn’t have to stay in that frustrating place or just give up entirely. You’d have other writing options.

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  1. 5 Rules for Writing Every Day | Depths of DMW Lewis

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