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No. You Don’t Have to “Write Every Day.”

Read Time: 4 min

The Write Every Day Myth - Build non-daily habits to help you achieve writing success.There's one kind of blog post I dread seeing in my feed reader. They're the blog posts that sport headlines like "The ONE Thing You Need to do to Become a Successful Writer" or "The Best Writing Advice You'll Ever Get."

Why do I dread these kinds of posts? Well, other than the obnoxiously gimmicky clickbait titles they tend to use, I usually know what the advice is going to be:

"Write every day."

It's like there's some unwritten rule that if you give writing advice it has to contain this little nugget. And do you know what? That's fine. Or at least to a point.

The problem is when writers insist this is the key to a successful writing career. Here's a tidbit for you: it's not. That's right. You can be a successful writer without writing every single day.

Why "Write Every Day" Can be Bad Advice

I'm not saying writing every day is a bad thing. What I'm saying is that no writer should put their schedule and habits on another writer, implying others can't be equally successful if they don't do the same things. Yet that's what frequently happens.

There's this idea that if you're serious about your writing you'll write every single day, no matter what. And if you don't write every day you're somehow lesser. That's bullshit.

Would you consider a doctor less serious about their job if they took weekends off or *gasp* took a vacation? Would you tell a performer that they can only succeed if they perform every single day? Would you tell your mechanic that he's not really a pro in his work because he doesn't put in hours seven days a week? (Go ahead. I dare you.)

We don't expect people in other lines of work to put in time every single day. And guess what. Writers aren't special little snowflakes who require more practice than everyone else. Plenty of writers support themselves without writing every day. And most of the writers I know who are earning six figure incomes don't write every day. They might during some weeks (due to a tight deadline or spending time on passion projects), but they don't force themselves to do it all the time.

The issue with implying writing success only comes to those to write every day is that it alienates a large group of writers -- those who can't. They might write part-time alongside a full-time job for example. It's cruel to discourage new writers in this position.

Which honestly makes someone more professional or successful? Writing for an hour or two a day, seven days per week? Or writing only on the weekends, but for six or eight hours each day? Each writer would have approximately the same amount of time invested. So why discourage part-timers and make them feel like they'll always be less than those "serious" writers who squeeze a little bit in each day?

Bad Advice Can Come From a Good Place

I'm not saying writers who give this advice are doing it maliciously to put down part-timers or those struggling to make more time to write. I think the advice usually comes from a good place.

These folks are trying to point out that writing success comes at least partly from habit. You need to get into the habit of actually writing and getting things done. That's true for authors. It's true for freelancers. And it's true for bloggers too.

The mistake is thinking habits have to be daily. They don't. It's very possible that the people giving this advice do have to write every day to be successful. It might just be their process. Or they might struggle to stick with a writing habit if they take any time away from it. But one person's hang-up doesn't need to be projected onto your career.

So the next time you see someone tell you the only way you'll be a successful writer is to "write every day," go ahead and try it. See if it helps. But don't let it discourage you if that schedule doesn't work for you. Come up with a schedule that does, and turn that into a habit.

Tips for Forming Non-Daily Writing Habits

Daily habits are easier for some people to stick to out of sheer repetition. But if you can't write every day, here are tips to help you build better non-daily writing habits:

1. Add it to your calendar.

While you're trying to build a new habit around your writing schedule, add writing sessions to your calendar. Treat them like appointments that you have to keep with yourself. Or even set up alarms to remind you when it's time to write. Better still, add your rest days (or other activities on those days) to your calendar as well to turn it into a week-long routine.

2. Use habit tracker apps.

If you struggle to stick to new habits on your own, consider using an app to keep you on-task. There are plenty of great habit tracker apps out there. Play with a few of them to see what you like. Here are a few recommendations.

Android

iOS

3. Focus on targets other than days.

When you write professionally, you need to know what you're working towards. And sometimes focusing on an end goal can help you build non-daily writing habits more than focusing on the actual number of days you plan to write each week.

For example, let's say you're writing a novel. Your goal might be to write 5ooo words each week. It doesn't really matter if you split that up over seven days, write it all in one sitting, or fall somewhere in between. If you're a blogger, you might have a goal of writing a certain number of posts per week. Again, it's the end result that matters most; not when you schedule in your writing time.

What about you? Do you write every day? Do you maintain a consistent schedule even if it isn't daily? Do you think writing every single day is the only way to be successful as a professional writer? Share your thoughts, tell us about your writing schedule, or share your tips on building better writing habits in the comments below.

23 thoughts on “No. You Don’t Have to “Write Every Day.””

  1. I could write every day if I wanted to. I exercise every day because I want to. I believe you will make time for what you really want to do. Right now, my goal is one blog post a week. Anything over that is a bonus. Having a full-time job doesn’t help. Everything depends on how determined you are to reach your goal.

    Reply
    • That’s a good point. What’s unfortunate is that sometimes the “write every day” crowd makes it seem like you must want to write every day if you’re really passionate about it. And, to me, that’s silly. We’re allowed to have other passions as well as other responsibilities. And neither of those things inherently means we don’t take our writing seriously. If I have extra time and I want to spend it writing, I do. But that isn’t always the case (and you’re right in saying those extra writing sessions can feel like a bonus). Determination is incredibly important. But so is remembering that it’s okay to enjoy spending time on other things. We just need to make sure we’re reaching the goals we set for ourselves.

      Reply
  2. Well, I need to take a break from writing now and then. When I am not writing, I read novels because I believe that I need to feed my brain so that it can work properly when I need to write.

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  3. I try to write 365K words a year (and have a Super Nerdy Spreadsheet to help me keep track). That’s 1K words a day–but it doesn’t have to be written on a daily basis. For example, I just finished a bout of editing, am deep in managing cover production and am trying to build a new author website. I haven’t had the time or energy for writing. But at the beginning of the year while I was writing a first draft, I banked lots of words. Soon I’ll be in rewrites and banking words again, so the August gap will be covered. The point is not to forget about the actual writing while living the writer’s life…

    Reply
    • “The point is not to forget about the actual writing while living the writer’s life…”

      Amen to that! As long as set goals and allow ourselves the time to reach them, it really doesn’t matter which days we write or how much time we spend writing on an individual day. They trick is simply to stay focused and build good work habits in a more general sense. It’s okay to take breaks away from work. And it’s okay to take breaks away from writing to deal with related work (like editing). We just need to keep moving forward and meet our deadlines.

      Reply
  4. I prefer setting weekly goals which gives me freedom to work late one night without feeling like a failure as a writer. I also set different types of goals. For my blogs, I focus on 2-4 pieces of in-depth content each month. For fiction, I set goals of creating scenes or developing characters instead of focusing on word counts. I found it was easy to hit my word counts but I wasn’t achieving the real goal of a scene. Thanks for you posts! They are really motivating.

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  5. I’m absolutely agree that person can be a successful writer without writing everyday. The main thing is to set objectives, goals and reach them. It really helps to keep fit.

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  6. I think that it’s a good idea to take all writing advice with a grain of salt, because what works for another writer might not work for you, and that’s okay. I remember reading advice from one writer saying that you needed to outline everything you wrote beforehand. When I tried that out it just didn’t work for me, so I stopped using that technique. A trial period can be useful, but sometimes if a piece of advice just isn’t working for you, it’s okay to let it go.

    Back when I first started taking my writing seriously as something more than a hobby, making myself write everyday was good for building a sense of discipline so that I wasn’t only writing whenever I felt “inspired.” Although I no longer necessarily write fresh content everyday, I do make sure that I’m doing something writing-related each day, even if it’s something small like updating a page on my website. This helps me make progress with my writing goals while allowing for those times when other parts of my life require more attention.

    Reply
    • Thanks for sharing your thoughts Zed.

      While there is some advice that applies equally to all (like advising freelancers to be respectful of their clients, or advising bloggers not to break the law by scraping content from others), you’re generally right. You have to decide what to take and what to leave when it comes to professional advice.

      Where the “write every day” rule becomes a problem is where it starts to take away from all of those “other parts” of our lives. I’ve seen writers give up hobbies or sacrifice more time away from their family than they’d like simply because they feel like their writing routine has to come before all else. By all means, do whatever you have to do to build the discipline to get through your projects. Just be careful not to neglect other things in your life that are just as important — family, hobbies, friends, rest, your health, etc. Been there, done that. And I can tell you from experience that it isn’t all about the hours you put in. When you find balance, you’ll often write much more in much less time. πŸ™‚

      Reply
  7. This is really epic Jenny,
    I love the way you approached this. It is quite professional of you.

    Indeed, majority of the articles out there that teaches how to be a good writer also mentioned that new writers should make writing a daily routine. And like you said, while this can be a good advice judging by the fact that success is all about habit but yet, its not everyone that can stick to a daily writing schedule even though they might want to.

    That is why i love your own advice of simply figuring out what works best for you.

    Thanks for sharing.

    Reply
    • It’s amazing to me how many tools we have available to help with things like this now. Need to get on a schedule? There’s an app for that. Need to build better habits or eliminate bad ones? There’s an app for that too. Love it. πŸ™‚

      Reply
  8. Awesome article!

    After reading this post, my mentality has totally changed as I’m a newbie in this field, I usually write every day to improve my writing skills AEAP.

    I really liked your post and bookmarked it.

    Many thanks Jennifer for sharing a highly valuable post. πŸ™‚

    Reply
    • Thanks Manmohan. I hope you find a writing schedule that works better for you. And remember, if you’re trying to improve your writing (aren’t we all?), one of the best things we can do is focus on reading more, not just writing. πŸ™‚

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  9. Thanks you very much! I had to hear it From somebody)) Sounds like a valid excuse for my laziness) to be serious, great article. One should write only when the inspiration comes, otherwise the writing will be dry and insipid) I believe that a real writer has the inner regulator when and what to write. The problem is to develop this trait in myself)

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  10. I’m glad some people agree with me. There was one point when I felt like a failure because I wasn’t writing every day. Then I started setting weekly goals that allowed me to give ample time to do both paying writing work and non paying work without getting stressed out. After years in the profession I can say that writing a bit of something every day is a great habit but that isn’t the only way to success. Some of us (like myself) write in spurts where 3 days of writig may produce thousands of words and 4 days may produce almost nothing. Build your own routine I say. Thanks for the post πŸ™‚

    Reply
  11. Just wanted to mention that when I used to play the violin, I did feel the downward effects on my performance if I didn’t practice every day. And, many professional musicians are take their daily practice very seriously. So, it may not be the best analogy! Of course, it is also about muscle strength and dexterity and not only mental work.

    However, point taken regarding writing.

    Reply
    • Yes. And many don’t need to. That’s the point. If you personally need to do that or your performance suffers, you should do that.

      For some it’s a necessity. For some it’s a mental hang-up because they’ve had it drilled into them that they must do something a certain way or suffer for it. And for others, it’s not necessary at all, and they’ll see no ill effects — they may even perform better. (That’s how I was with music, and I rose to the top in multiple instruments. But what came naturally to me didn’t for others. And what comes naturally for others won’t necessarily for me.)

      So I think it’s a perfect analogy. Do what works for you. Don’t do what others tell you “serious” writers, musicians, etc. “must” do. Because anyone saying that as blanket advice is full of shit.

      Reply
  12. Thanks for writing this Jennifer. I’ve been editing my current novel for what seems like forever, all the while thinking I don’t want to start anything new until it’s all done (it still isn’t but I’m taking a break before the final FINAL read through) and all the while I’ve felt guilty. It’s stupid because I haven’t written anything significant for a while now and think ‘I can’t call myself a writer anymore!’. But having read this I feel so much better because blogging, tweeting, editing and planning are all part of it! What’s important is to still have the drive to do it because doing something that you enjoy, whenever you have time, is what counts. Especially for anyone who has a day job like me and has to fit in, exercising, reading, and other hobbies too. I’m going to stop being so hard on myself from now on πŸ™‚

    Reply
    • I’m glad to hear you’re going to stop being so hard on yourself Miriam. As you said, it’s having the drive to keep moving forward that matters, not making sure you put in time during every 24-hour window. Do what works for you as long as you keep on getting things done. And of course, keep calling yourself a writer. That label doesn’t disappear between projects!

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  13. Personally I think that writing every day is not a necessity as all. I follow the good old method of “writing when you feel it”. And if I feel like writing 100 or say 20 pages I write 100 or 20 pages. I don’t follow any limitations or goals. But this is just my opinion.

    Reply

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