Do you want to write every day?
I knew I wanted to publish my first book, and that learning to write every day was the key to doing it.
But, it wasn’t enough to know the concept.
I had to figure out how to keep my deadlines and finish writing what I started.
How could I write every day and balance having a job, two kids, friends and family who don’t write, and all the in-betweens?
I faced my biggest challenge yet.
If couldn’t face this one down, I’d never be able to call myself an author.
I’d never be able to look myself in the mirror again.
How I Learnt To Write Every Day
I turned to a book for help, in particular On Writing by Stephen King.
I figured this prolific author of over 50 novels could help me.
King writes at least 2,000 words a day, every day, including his birthday.
To me, 2,000 words a day looked like climbing Everest.
Thankfully, King recommends aspiring authors to write every day and produce at least 1,000 words.
In his book On Writing, he explains:
”As with physical exercise, it would be best to set this goal low at first, to avoid discouragement.
“I suggest a thousand words a day, and because I’m feeling magnanimous, I’ll also suggest that you can take one day a week off, at least to begin with.”
I thought about writing 1,000 words a day and felt dizzy.
I set the goal even lower and decided to write just 500-words a day. I could handle 500-words a day, couldn't I?
Now, 500-words a day felt achievable.
So, on Monday morning, I wrote 500-words, and on Tuesday I did the same too.
On Tuesday night, life happened.
My daughter (who was 6-months-old at the time) woke up at three am with a chest infection. We didn't get much sleep that night and the following day, I didn't write. I was just too tired.
I didn't write the day afterward either, by the time Saturday rolled around, I'd only produced 1000-words.
I was sick of my writing mistakes, and I felt like a failure. Then, I started applying a few strategies from the productivity world. If you're a new writer, they can help you too.
1. Track Your Daily Writing Habit
Don’t Break the Chain is one of the more popular productivity methods in use today. Developed by Jerry Seinfeld, the technique is quite simple to use.
The comic is a believer in the principle of daily actions building habits, and he developed this method after tasking himself with writing at least one joke per day.
After writing a joke, Seinfeld recorded an X on a giant wall calendar. He repeated this process the next day. Seinfeld did this each day, thereby slowly building up a chain of X's that he felt reluctant to break.
Now, “Don’t Break the Chain.” is one of the more popular productivity methods in use today. He famously said:
After a few days you'll have a chain. Just keep at it and the chain will grow longer every day. You'll like seeing that chain, especially when you get a few weeks under your belt. Your only job next is to not break the chain.
You can use this productivity method if you want to write every day too.
I used this method for several years with varying degrees of success for building habits like writing and exercising.
I’m less likely to avoid writing or exercising if I have built up a chain of Xs; it kills me to break a chain. It’s encouraging to set and surpass streak chain records. I’m weirdly obsessed by the growing number of Xs on my various calendars.
Once I break a chain, I'm far more likely to avoid writing or exercising the following night too. So I try to avoid missing more than one day.
2. Try Daily 30-Minute Writing Sessions
A 30-minute writing session is the right amount of time if you want to gain momentum in your first book.
It’s not so long that it feels unmanageable, and it’s not so short that you won’t get anything done.
A 30-minute writing session is long enough to write 500-words, and it's easy to squeeze in a 30-minute writing session into a busy day.
- Write part of your book or bestseller during your commute
- Write a chapter at lunch
- Get up just 30 minutes earlier before work to write
- Skip one of your favorite TV shows and write
- Cut out social media until you put in your 30-minute writing session
I don’t know about you, but I’d take 500 words over watching a re-run of Seinfeld (sorry Jerry!) any day.
3. Write At the Same Time Every Day
I recommend spending at least 30-minutes every morning or evening working on your first draft.
During these short writing sessions, avoid spending time on other distracting activities like social media, email, or the news.
And remember to separate writing and editing into different activities. Your job during these short writing sessions is to get the words out of your head and onto the blank page.
You can use these writing sessions for outlining your books or stories. Or try more exploratory creative writing, freewriting, or journaling. But focus on one activity. It will help you become a better writer.
I also recommend tracking your progress, in terms of word-count or hours spent writing, so you can improve (as per Jerry's approach).
4. Plan for Beating Writer's Block
Writer's block happens when you feel out of ideas, stressed, or are overloaded. It can often get in the way of trying to write every day.
If you're struggling to write, taking a short break to exercise. Getting your heart rate up often inspires creative thinking.
If you have this problem also consider using writing prompts to spark more creative thinking. They will help you increase the number of words you can produce each day. As your writing skills improve, you won't need them as much.
5. Use a Deadline
Professional full-time writers work towards a deadline. They must complete articles or projects for clients on time. Or they've set a writing goal whereby they want to publish a book by a particular date.
Don't fear deadlines. They're actually the friends of aspiring writers who want to build better habits. They have a way of focusing the mind, particularly when procrastination raises its ugly head.
NaNoWriMo is a good competition to enter if you'd like to try a deadline. It takes place every November. Basically, your job is to write the first draft of a book in 30-days. I've taken part in this challenge several times, and I finished a book that I later self-published on Amazon.
6. Set a Daily Word-Count
Consider your ideal word-count for your book or novel. Let's say 60,000 words. Now, ask yourself:
What's the ideal number of words I can produce each day?
I find 500-words is a good target for aspiring writers as it's within reach. If you build up a chain of 7 Xs, you will have written for 3 1/2 hours and at least 3500 words.
That’s more than enough for one or two chapters in your first book or novel. If you do this for four months, you will have written 60,000 words.
And the best part?
Although King's books are up to 180,000 words long, it just so happens 60,000 words is the length of an average self-published book on Amazon.
7. Set Time Aside for Editing and Rewriting
You can use a 30-minute writing session to work on a single topic, to edit a section of your own writing, or for research.
The trick is to only work on one area of whatever you are writing for 30-minutes. I’m not the only writer who uses this piece of advice. I coached a writer to harness the power of small daily wins recently. Afterward, he emailed me to say:
I tried setting a 30-minute timer the day after we talked and got a piece of micro-fiction written.
One of the best things I have taken away from talking to you is the segregation of writing from research. It has helped me a lot so far.
Tip: Grammarly can save the amount of time you need to spend editing.
8. Take a Break From Daily Writing
Yes, that's right… If you miss a day's writing, that's ok. But, try not to miss the next one.
You don't need to write every single day for the rest of your life to succeed as a writer. Time off is still allowed, we're not robots!
I took me a while to internalize the value of time off for writers.
When I got into the habit of blogging and writing non-fiction consistently, I felt stressed if I missed a day's work.
But over time, writing became a habit that I followed without thinking. Now, I'm comfortable with taking the weekends off because I know I'll return to the blank page refreshed, with new ideas.
But when I'm under a deadline, I'll write every day until I hit my goal.
The Final Word on Writing Every Single Day
Learning how to write every day starts with good new habits and a plan for your work. From there, track your progress and your daily output. Know when to push forwards and when to take a break.
It's easy to write every day. All you have to do is start!
If you still need help writing every day, join the Savvy Non-Fiction Writer's Club.
Write Every Day FAQs
How much should you write every day?
Stephen King recommends new writers produce 1,000 words a day. If that's too much, try for between 300 and 500 words a day. It takes a 30-minute writing session to write that many words.
Achieving this each day will turn into several thousand words, on a good week. If you do this for several weeks, your writing skills will improve and you'll have more material to edit and publish.
Should you write every day?
If you're a new writer who wants to improve, trying to write every day will help you become a better writer fast. Consistency builds competency. This new habit will also help you finish more articles, stories and even books. That in turn will help you increase your income or impact as a writer.
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