Should You Write Every Day? A Close Look at the Oldest Piece of Writing Advice

write every day

It’s possibly the oldest piece of writerly advice: write every day.

If you want to be a great writer, you need to write every day, right? Just like if you want to be good at anything, you need to do it every day.

Except for when you don’t.

Let’s explore the positives and negatives of writing every day. Keep in mind that my goal here is not to convince you whether or not you should write every day. It’s to present you with both sides so you can make the right decision for yourself instead of just blindly following “age-old” wisdom.

Confession: I Don’t Write Every Day (Or Do I?)

Full disclosure before we go into all the hairy details: I don’t write every day. At least not fiction. As a content strategist at a web design company, I spend a good chunk of every workday writing website copy. On some days, this could be as much as eight straight hours of writing. On average, I probably write between three and four hours a day at work. As you can imagine, by the time I drive home from work, pick up kids, make dinner, play with kids, and put kids to bed, I don’t feel much like writing. Not even the fiction that I love so much to write.

But that isn’t too much different than every other writer’s schedule. Writers have busy lives. Sometimes it’s hard to find time to write. I suppose this post could just as easily be titled “How to write fiction when your dayjob requires you to write nonfiction almost all day.” That’s not what I want to focus on though. As a fiction writer, I’d say on average I write two days a week. I used to write a lot more back when I was a teacher, but a lot of things have changed in my life since then. I’ll spare you the details so we can focus on the topic at hand: should you write every single day?

The Case for Writing Every Day, Or, 10ish Reasons to Write Every Day

Of course you should write every day. If you don’t write every day, you’ll get rusty. If you don’t write every day, you’ll fall into the habit of not writing, and pretty soon weeks or even months will go by and you won’t have written a single page. If you don’t write every day, you can’t get better at your craft. If you don’t write every day, you can’t gain enough traction on any particular project to be successful. How could you ever finish a novel unless you write every single day?

Stop making excuses. There’s really no reason you can’t write every day. No one is so busy that they can’t set aside five or ten minutes to write. Although that’s not ideal (you should be shooting for at least an hour a day), even five to ten minutes will keep you in the habit of writing. It will ensure that you never take a day off (which, as we established before, can turn into many days off).

If you don’t write every day, especially while you’re working on a novel, you’ll forget where you are and you’ll have to spend so much time reminding yourself what you’ve done that you won’t make any progress the next time you start writing.

If you don’t write every day, then it’s going to take forever to finish that novel. Remember, you have goals. You want that book published by the time you turn 22 or 32 or 42 or at least before you die. Besides, the longer you put it off, the more likely it is that someone is going to steal your idea. Then what? No book deal, all because you didn’t write every day.

If you don’t write every day then you’re just a hobbyist, not a writer. Writers write. It’s as simple as that. If you want to be a writer, you must write. If you want to be a great writer, you must write every day.

The Case for Not Writing Every Day, Or, 10ish Reasons Not to Write Every Day

The notion of writing every single day no matter what is ineffective at best and harmful at worst. Of course you need to take some time off. Forcing yourself to write no matter what is counterproductive. It’s often a waste of time–instead of creating any work that’s worthwhile, you just scribble something down to fulfill an obligation. You gain nothing from it. It’s just an act of going through the motions. Instead of wasting that time writing garbage, you could be reading or spending time with family or enjoying the outdoors or living your life to the fullest in any other number of ways.

The best case scenario is that writing every day leads to wasted time and lost opportunities. Writing every day can actually be harmful, both mentally and physically. It can wear you down. It can sour you on writing for a long time. It can convince you that you aren’t meant to be a writer. It can leave you depressed. Imagine if you go a month straight writing nothing but garbage. You’ll get into such a funk that you may never recover as a writer.

Sure, you can try to write through a slump, and you might be able to shake it off eventually, but you’ll be doing it at the expense of your life. You’ll miss out on social events. You’ll lose precious moments with your kids. You’ll become a hermit who does nothing but write and still has nothing to show for it. You want something to show for your life other than a manuscript that will never be published, right?

You need a break. You need to recharge. Writing every day doesn’t allow for your brain to recover. It doesn’t allow for you to take a step back and gain some perspective on your life and your work. It forces you to become a mindless writing machine–and not a very efficient or effective one.

Everyone needs breaks. Athletes take days off for their bodies to recover. Doctors don’t work on patients on their days off. Lawyers don’t practice law when they’re on vacation. You have to take a break or you will burn out.

If you write every day, you’ll get sick of it. You’ll grow to loathe the very idea of writing. It will cease to be a pleasure and become a pain. Consequently, you will become bad at it because no one can excel at something they hate doing for very long.

Hate to use the old cliche here, but just like you never forget to ride a bike, you never forget how to write. Yes, it might take a bit of extra effort to get back into the groove if you take a lot of time off. But the next time you sit at the computer or pick up the pen or however you choose to write, the words will eventually come whether you wrote the day before or not. And whatever masterpiece you’re working on isn’t going to disappear if you take tomorrow off.

Write According to Your Own Schedule

Okay, so a lot of the examples above are pretty extreme, but so are these absolutist statements that writers must write a minimum of X number of words or X number of hours every day. Sometimes you just can’t. You have other responsibilities. Other priorities. Life can’t be lived solely through your writing. But that doesn’t mean you can’t write every day. It’s all about what works for you. Don’t force yourself to stick to some rigid plan that has never proven effective for anyone.

So there are the two sides of the coin. Which side do you fall on? Do you write every day? Share your tips and your strategies in the comments.

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222 thoughts on “Should You Write Every Day? A Close Look at the Oldest Piece of Writing Advice

  1. I don’t write everyday. Sometimes I go a couple of months without writing. I get into this funk, where my mind is blank. Yesterday, I was having that trouble and I sat by my laptop till figure it out. Because I had ideas, they were just all over the place. What helps me is reading, traveling, and just talking to people to get ideas. Sometimes an idea will just come to me. I’m trying to write more because I like it. I like being able to use words to express myself and having something that is mine. So, I will not stop writing even when my mind is in a funk. Thanks for this blog!!!

  2. Oh wow…I could feel parts of me unclenching while I read through your post. When you’re (it could be just me, of course) venturing into something new, you instinctively start a list of do’s and don’ts. We’ll call them guidelines/framework. They help us function/be productive. I found, however, that the whole everyday-pen-to-paper obligation was more than a bit oppressive and even suppressive creatively. I can’t help but find it hilarious (darkly) that one would say to a creative… ‘Then fetter your muse to the desk for an hour a day!’ and that’s not to say that all writing must be inspired, but the rest/breaks from writing allow the snowball to build a bit, to become a bit more coherent. This I believe helps with content and that content is king (it’s on my list)! Anyway, very nice post.

  3. I sincerely think one should not force his/herself to write everyday. Writing is something that comes naturally to individuals; it’s a matter of understanding how you feel. I for one, can wake up in the middle of the night to write down ideas that might pop up in my head at the time. At the break of dawn, i then work on such ideas. It’s all about striking a balance, and having a passion for it.

  4. There’s a problem with the viability of your message. And that problem, is me. All of what you say is right..it just seems that I’m plagued by all-pervasive…inconsistency. I seem to have humanistically evolved to where something will work one minute….the next it won’t. The predictable conundrum isn’t present at all times. He less I work for control…the LESS I seem to have….

  5. I like your perspective. Ultimately it’s all about balance. But I think life kind of takes care of the ‘rest days’… There will be occasions you just can’t do it, for one reason or another. Opening the door to the idea you get time off because you don’t fell up to it would be risky for me, I think. Good post!

  6. How about the doubt in your own ability? Has that ever been an issue for you? I’ve been writing for a little while, fiction and nonfiction, but have just very recently set up my blog here. As I didn’t have any social media before I struggle with finding readers and through that with receiving feedback.

    1. Of course! I think every writer has doubted their ability at some point. The key is to keep practicing and experimenting with different forms to see what you’re good at and what you enjoy. The latter is the most important.

  7. I belief that is our duty to write more than everyday many times a day is even better. Long painful texts about nothing. This will purify our scriptures and clean out the mess in our brain. So my suggestion is that you write at least twice a day about anything that comes through your mind.

  8. Many thanks for this, I am relatively new in blogging and still need to find my way. Need to say that one of my most challenging parts for me at the minute is the fact that English is not my native language. How can I overcome this? Any advice? My proposal for 2018 is to be more consistent and publish one post a week and see how it goes need to realistically make proposal if goes well I may increase to two or even three. Have a lovely day whenever you are in the world

    1. The best advice I can offer is to read as much as you can. That should help a lot with mastering the language (although, judging by your comment, you’re already well on your way!). Good luck in 2018. I hope you hit your goal.

  9. I personally can’t write every day. I don’t make a living solely on writing, at least not at this time in my life. I may never. But I try to write as often as I can and especially when inspiration strikes. Thanks for the arguments for and against writing every day! Good food for thought.

  10. I like the idea of writing every day. However, I couldn’t write the same things every day. I certainly couldn’t write award winning fiction every day. I could write some great fiction, but then I would probably write some drivel too.
    I think the key to writing every day (if there is one) is to write different things on different days. Non fiction one day, fiction another, articles one day, stories another.
    I have to admit, that this sounds good, but there are going to be days when I just don’t write.

    1. I like that approach, mixing it up from day to day. I don’t think anyone is capable of churning out great stuff every day. At least half of what we write is bound to be drivel. Even the best writers in the world have more than their fair share of garbage sitting around on their computers.

  11. I’ve spent months without writing because I forced writing daily on myself for too long. Now I’m going back into it, but I’ll be following my mood and intuition rather than forcing the habit on myself.

    1. 2 hours a day is A LOT better than nothing! I think that’s a huge chunk of writing time, and I’m glad you found it. Utilize that well and you’ll be writing tons of great stuff in no time. Good luck!

  12. Lots of good thoughts here. I think it highly depends on the person and their personality. I’ve also noticed that how much and what I write closely relates/mimics what’s going on in my life.

  13. First let me say thank you for your post, it’s nice to see the extremes on both sides 🙂

    I write everyday… So far… My goal is to write one page (give or take) everyday this year. I’m only 9 days in and it is refreshing. I work on my main projects when inspiration strikes, but I enjoy creating in general.

    Just because I’m working on a bigger project does not mean that I can’t take a minute to become inspired by a prompt, tell a short story that is rattling around in my head, or test my creative ability via random prompt generators.

    Nothing you love to do can ever truly be work. 🙂

  14. Great points. This idea that there’s an absolute standard all must follow to be successful is crazy. Granted, if you want to be successful at writing, you better be writing. A lot. A whole lot. But inspiration strikes us all at different times and in different ways. To each his own!!

  15. I used to be told to write everyday for so x amount of words and so on. The prime example of that is NaNoWriMo where the challenge is to write 1500 words a day. That is a lot.

    I have found writing like half an hour a day is good enough. I can say that is good enough because it works well FOR ME.

    What I am saying is, at the end of the day, every writer must find a system that works for them. That would mean writing in different styles, having different writing practices and eventually figuring out what works best for them.

    Thanks for the post!

  16. This is by far the closest observation and advices I’ve read this week, especially when I’m trying to get back to writing. I don’t want to be a writer, I just want to write. Writing helps me a lot because I’m not good with verbally expressing my thoughts, but if I force myself to write, sometimes it can wear me down. I stopped writing for a few months, and when I came back, it felt so hard to form anything. Yeah, writing can get rusty, and it gets rusty fast.

  17. I find that when I force myself to do something every day, it works for a few weeks and then it dies completely. On the other hand, if I establish an ideal routine and work it into my week in a way that fits naturally, eventually it becomes a habit. For me it has been true with exercise, writing, reading, eating healthy, etc.

  18. Great advice. For me, if I don’t write every day, I get out of the habit so if I don’t, it might lead up to months of no writing. You hit the nail on the head with that one.

  19. Loved reading that, it really made me think …. I’m new to all this so perhaps not the best example. Right now I’m so keen that I’m spending every spare minute reading or writing and simply loving it. Wish I’d have done it years ago. Thanks for making me think about it!

  20. As a high school student, I write whenever i have something on my mind. But i never sit and write for long periods of time. I’m still new at it so neither do i always grow ideas in my mind, but copy them from others yet keeping the originality.
    I also write blogs so I’ll be glad to have you visit my page sometime. Have a new post coming out soon😉

  21. The best pieces of my writing according to me have been when I was in between jobs!I’ve started to believe that one’s mind need to be totally free from all fatigue to be able to bring out the best. Really glad to have read your post.

    1. Thanks for sharing your experience. Yes, I’ve definitely noticed my productivity on personal writing projects goes way down when I have a lot on my plate at work. Unfortunately, it can be quite hard to free the mind!

  22. For me, I read more than I write. But to be a successful writer, you have to do both and find a balance. Having a set schedule to write is very important. It takes discipline, but everyone can do it if they put their mind to it and they truly have that burning desire to write. Starting a story on a blank slate, trying to form that first sentence for the opening, is the hardest part. It can be grueling, but man is it satisfying once the story starts to have a life of its own–especially when it grows its own set of lungs and breaths on its own. It’s an amazing process!

  23. I enjoyed your thoughts on this. I have recently been exploring the idea that an artist (in any medium) must continually strive to perfect their craft. To me, writing is no different. I find that the more I sit down to actually do it, the more ideas I have… sort of a positive feedback loop. Thanks!

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