Thursday, August 5, 2010

Don't Write Every Day

Yes, I'm a rebel. There are many schools of thought about writing. Two of those schools are: write every day and don't write every day.

I graduated from the second school . . . just in case you were wondering.

So, in defense of not writing every day, I'm going to let author James Scott Bell explain the philosophy instead:

Don't write every day.

I'm a big believer in word quotas. Some of the earliest, and perhaps still the best advice I ever got, was to set a quota of words and stick to it. I used to do a daily count. But a thing called life would intrude and I'd miss a day. Or, there were times when writing seemed like playing tennis in the La Brea tar pits, and that'd be another day I'd miss.

Such days would leave me surly and hard to live with.

Then I switched to a weekly quota and have used it ever since. That way, if I miss a day, I don't beat myself up. I write a little extra on the other days. I use a spreadsheet to keep track and add up my word count for the week.

I also intentionally take one day off a week. I call it my writing sabbath. I find that taking a one-day break charges my batteries like nothing else. Sunday is the day I've chosen. On Monday I'm refreshed and ready to go. Plus, my projects have been cooking in my subconscious. The boys in the basement, as Stephen King puts it, are hard at work while I'm taking time off.

I also advocate taking a weeklong break from writing each year. Use this time to assess your career, set goals, make plans - because if you aim at nothing, there's a very good chance you'll hit it.

Okay, now for my thoughts: woo-hoo!

Oh, you want more? Geesh!!

I love this advice. I followed this advice even before I was officially given this advice. I'm ahead of the game. I'm a trend setter. Okay . . . maybe not.

Word Count - in my most recent project, I set a weekly (M - F) and a weekend (S - S) word count. There were days I couldn't meet the daily goal, but I always made up the words. Did I mention I achieved over 60,000 words in less than two weeks. This was an anomaly, btw. The words just flowed like crazy and I went with the flow.

Writing Sabbath - Tuesday is normally my writing sabbath. Why? Well, during the television season, that's NCIS night. I love NCIS. It's one of the few shows I watch.

There are writers everywhere who follow the write every day adage, and others who follow the don't write every day adage. Neither way is correct for every writer. Every writer is different. What works for one writer might not work for another writer, and vice versa.

As writers - as individuals - we need to learn what works best for us, and follow that path. Nobody but you (or me, in this case) the writer truly knows what works best for you. Nobody.

In writing, as with life, follow your heart and instinct and do what works best for you.


Note: the above italicized material comes from the September 2010 edition of Writers Digest and the article: 10 Experts Take on the Writer's Rulebook - p. 28.


Hilary Wagner ~ Debut Author said...

I would rather not write if I've nothing meaningful to put on the page. You just can't be "on" every single day! Okay, at least I can't! ;)


Tess said...

I take at least one day off a week and way more than one week off a year. It's good to set goals and keep that butt in chair, but we have to give ourselves freedom to live life, too. What fodder will we have for our stories if we are not out there, experiencing life, seeing people, going places????

missed you, Scott. hope all is well.

Huntress said...

Good post.

I try to do some work on my ms every day, whether editing, query, synop, etc. But if I force the writing with, for an example, a goal of so many words, I find it to be unintelligible poo when I am done. Later I have to clean up the mess, pull the roots, slash and burn.

Usually, by forcing the writing, I choke the creativity.

Scott said...

Hilary – I’m right there with you.

Tess – my time away from writing all depends on the flow of words and my energy level. I write when I write, and don’t when I don’t. I also agree that we have to take time away in order to find the fodder. All is well with me. If you miss me so much (Ha), stop by Facebook. I’m usually out there snarking with somebody.

Huntress – thanks. Well, not really thanks to me, but to James Scott Bell. I think the idea is to set a manageable weekly goal, even if it’s only 1,000 words. Surely you can write 1,000 words in a weeks time?

Michelle Davidson Argyle said...

I write whenever I can and whenever I feel like it, which is almost all the time. Right now, though, I'm taking a short break as Cinders flies out into the world. With a child I find it really difficult to write whenever I want, so whenever I can grab a few minutes I'm usually really excited to write. It has never felt like a chore to me, and I'm glad of that. I'll bet when my daughter goes to school my whole vision on this will change...

Michelle Davidson Argyle said...

And I'm a firm believer in what you say about doing what's right for you. I hate the "rules" no matter what package they come in. Rarely do they apply to everyone.

Franklin Beaumont said...

Hi Scott. Good topic. Personally I can never get used to a daily word quota. I just end up thinking about the word count when I should be getting lost in the writing. Better for me to just plunge in, resurface later, and see what I have. Sometimes there's a lot of good material; sometimes there's not much of anything. So it goes.
I do like the idea of taking one day a week off though. It helps give a little perspective on your work, allowing you to look at it with a more objective (read: harsher) eye.