Do you go through periods where you write a ton, followed by periods you write nothing, only to wake up one morning and feel like you could write for an entire day without stopping?
Here’s a secret: Even if you feel like you could write until your hands fell off … don’t.
THIS IS SO INCREDIBLY HARD TO DO! Because you feel inspired! You feel like you could write an entire novel in one sitting! All the ideas are coming to you at once and you almost wonder if not getting them all down on paper as quickly as possible will cause some kind of implosion in your brain.
But you should not — REALLY should not — write as much as you possibly can in one day, or two, or six.
You should, instead, write a little bit every day, stop, and come back tomorrow. Repeat.
But WHY? You might be screaming at your screen right now even though I can’t hear you. WHY would I STOP WRITING when I FINALLY FEEL LIKE WRITING?
Because it’s quite possible the reason you often don’t feel like writing is that you burn through all your creative energy the second a spark of inspiration ignites in your soul.
It’s honestly like spending money right after you get your paycheck. You’d be able to stretch it out much longer and still afford everything you need if you avoided spending it all at once. But you probably end up spending more — maybe even on things you don’t need — when you spend it all right away.
Creative energy works the same way. You want to spend it; you need to spend it. But the longer you make it last, the more you’ll potentially get out of it.
The past two years I’ve done NaNoWriMo, I’ve taken on a personal challenge to pace myself. In 2018, I wrote less than 2,000 words for 30 days straight. It was difficult. Each time I reached my daily word count, I found myself desperately longing to continue, to write more, to pump out as many words as I could.
But I didn’t. I kept up that pace, and managed to surpass 50,000 words (my goal) because of that.
It wasn’t actually as painful as I expected it to be. Because every morning I sat down to write my words for the day, I had the leftover energy necessary to do so. If I’d “over-written” the day before, I might have woken up feeling low on energy despite the fact I felt I had plenty the previous day.
I have personally found that the key to writing a lot over a long period of time is to write in very short bursts. This is not easy to do, and to be honest, it doesn’t necessarily get easier as time goes on.
But you DO get better at willing yourself to set an end goal for every writing session and (usually) stopping when you pass that goal. Not because you want to, but because you want to reserve your energy for your next session.
Give it a try. Trust me — it might work better than you think.
Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a 10-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.