Writing Every Day (Mistake #3)

I’ve been coming across this one a lot lately. Writers comparing their ‘writing’ muscle to a physical muscle – that is, you’ve got to keep working it to keep it in tip-top shape – and worrying that if they don’t write daily, that muscle will atrophy. And only yesterday, writer Daniel H Pink posted his ‘7 Rules for Writing’ on his website, one of which was: “Write every day. Regaining momentum takes three times as much energy as sustaining momentum.”

Do you agree?

My view is that the muscular or physical analogy is in many ways a good one, in that the more you write, the stronger you get at it. But where it fails a bit is that, as any athlete will tell you, you need rest days to allow recovery – especially following a tough workout.

If, after several days’ hard graft, squinting at the flickering PC screen, hammering your keyboard with now bruised fingertips, bottom turning to fossil fuel on your unforgiving chair, you feel you need a break – then take one.

And if you do subscribe to the writing-daily school of thought, there are other ways to keep your writing muscle moving – send a postcard to a friend, write a letter to a relative, make a list of errands you need to run, cook up a new dish and write the recipe as you go along. You could look upon this as light stretching or relaxing yoga or massage – what marathon runners might do the day after 26 miles of pounding the streets.

And if like me you don’t subscribe to that school, then do nothing writerly at all. Shops, cinema, beer, football. Go do what you do. Your writing muscle won’t disappear. You’ll come back itching to get going again, refreshed and invigorated.

I’ve come to the conclusion now that I prefer the ‘riding a bike’ analogy – you never forget how to write. You may have a few wobbles early on, but once you’re settled back in the saddle, you’ll be pedalling with a very familiar energy and momentum indeed.

Comments 8

  • Does this make WB tutors Cycling Proficiency Instructors then?

    I'm of the philosophy to write everyday. It may be 7,000 words on a novel (rare), a 1,000-word article, or a 20-word letter. Or a blog-posting comment 🙂

  • Hi Alex – now you have got me thinking! I think if you are working towards a set massive deadline that writing every day is a good idea to prevent that horrible and all too familiar sinking feeling of rushing at the last minute to meet a deadline. Your question is also interesting from a blogging point of view – recieved wisdom can vary on this – some would say do it so that your blog is fresh and visible and picked up by search engines etc, others would say, just do it when it feels right. But different people have different motives…

    Thanks for the thought-provoking piece! And well done on the blog, have signed up. x

  • As a journalist, I've interviewed loads of writers. I always ask them about their writing processes. I have found each one to have a different approach. There are some who write 3,000 words a day, whether they feel like it or not. There are others who write for six months and then take six months off. They are equally successful.

  • If I wrote something every day because I felt I ought to, there'd be a lot of rubbish written. Instead I write a diary, enter those 25 word competitions, do puzzles and just live – and then I find stories just come flooding out. I read somewhere that we need to learn to trust our creativity rather than force it, and that works for me
    I like your blog,Alex – found it via Simon's. Keep up the interesting posts

  • Good, mixed responses – thanks. Perhaps the mistake then is not to settle for the working pattern which most suits you? Feeling you have to match another writer's methods, rather than establishing what works for you? You've all got me thinking. May come back to this at some point…

  • I stumbled upon your blog and found it deliciously refreshing and a worthwhile read. Thank you! I like your style and appreciate valuable practical insights. Looking forward to diving into your Archive!

  • Thanks very much! – Hope you continue to find it useful.

  • I shied away from writing(though I secretly penned down some of my inspired thoughts into my diary when I felt the urge) because I felt I cannot do justice to the rigours of daily exercise as I went through the "rules of writing" set down by some successful writers similar to Daniel Pink's line of thought…I was intimidated. Consequently, whenever I thought about taking up the are of writing seriously,I felt myself browbeaten by my deficiencies and lack of discipline. But this blog boosted my morale as an aspirant into the field.Thank you for liberating my inhibitions and for telling me about a working pattern that suits my psyche..

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