When it comes to habits and processes, every writer is different. I am someone who needs to write every day or I will go months without doing it at all. Not everyone can, or needs to, do that – but I do. It took me years to figure that out. Now that I know this is the strategy that works for me, I use it to make sure I’m always working toward my goals. But I would never preach that writing every day is for whatever reason ‘essential’ for establishing a writing process.
What I promote instead is the concept of consistency – that when you decide you want to develop a skill or work on a project, you do so on a consistent basis. When it comes to writing, consistency is, in fact, essential for everyone’s success.
This doesn’t mean you are required to write every single day in order to be ‘better’ or ‘more productive.’ Some people just cannot write daily – there is legitimately not enough time, or their brains simply aren’t wired to produce that much creative energy daily. There is nothing wrong with that. In fact, not writing every day does make you less likely to burn out and give up completely. There are downsides to daily writing: I experience them often. But I personally am willing to continue anyway, because for me, it is worth the sacrifice.
But just because you don’t write every day – and don’t have to – does not mean you should just write whenever you feel like it. That’s ineffective. In order to develop discipline as a writer, or to grow your blog’s audience, or whatever your overall writing goals might revolve around, you need to be consistent. In this case, consistency means having a schedule – more than just saying you are going to post Monday, Wednesday and Friday, but actually following through every single time.
You might think you’re someone who cannot write on a schedule – but a ‘schedule’ can mean something different for everyone. Maybe you need to drill ‘Tuesday and Thursday nights from 8pm – 10pm’ into your brain so you’ll actually stick to it and get something done. Or maybe ‘Saturdays and Sundays after lunch or dinner for two hours’ is enough for you. Knowing how often, and when, you are going to sit down and write helps you hold yourself accountable. Part of learning discipline when it comes to writing is starting out not being able to keep writing-related promises to yourself, and slowly over time figuring out how to do it anyway.
‘I can’t’ is not a common phrase in a professional writer’s vocabulary. You may not be able to do something one certain way, but that doesn’t mean you can’t try doing it differently. There is no one strategy that will work for everyone. But in general, consistency will pay off, literally and figuratively. Decide how, when and where, and make it happen. It might be every day; it might be a few times or only once per week. It doesn’t matter. As long as you commit and follow through.
It might take several attempts to get it right, but that’s normal. If you want it enough, you will keep trying until you find a way that works for you. The only ‘wrong’ way is thinking you’ll write when you want to and don’t need to worry about it. This is fine if you’re just casually working on something – a side-side project, maybe (and again – nothing wrong with that). But if you’re serious about wanting to improve as a writer, which I’m sure many of you are, be consistent. No matter what it takes.
Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and an eight-time NaNoWriMo winner with work published in Teen Ink, Success Story, Lifehack and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.
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