Recently, I was on a Google+ thread that asked about writing regularly or in intense batches. I, of course, was the odd man out (which is not a surprise here) in being one of the writers on the list that writes daily. Actually, the only one. After I posted my reasons why writing daily is something that every writer should foster, there was a response from a writer who obviously took umbrage at the quote I used from C.J. Cherryh in my post Ten Rules a Writer Should Write By. I then laid out specific reasons, in cliff note form, why writers should write daily (which is what I equate with writing regularly).
As I looked at those reasons, it sparked a desire to write a post about writing daily because there were some points in it that I believe would help writers in their writing endeavors. So, here’s my list again though expanded, on why a writer should write daily.
1. Fosters Discipline.
This is a bad word among writers. I think this is part of the reason why most people who like to call themselves writers never get anything done or all of the things done that they have in their mind. They don’t discipline themselves to write daily because they wait for the imaginary muse to hit them. A couple of things about this imaginary fairy that so many writers tend to rely on is that:
a. The one that should be obvious which is it doesn’t exist. What people are waiting on is a feeling which is really saying that they’re waiting for their laziness to go away so they can be motivated to write.
b. You get the same thing from writing on a daily basis. The act of writing itself is the muse because it forces the mind to work. Writing is work and being disciplined builds mental and intellectual stamina.
Discipline is a good thing.
In the book How to Write and Sell Your First Novel, the authors note:
[Ernest] Hemingway wrote only about five hundred words daily when working on his first draft, carefully counting them at the end of the work session and keeping a log of his progress. [James A.] Michener turns out an average of six pages a day, a good clip.
In other words, they disciplined themselves to write and became an example of what many writers aspire to. Like William Faulkner said, don’t be a writer, be writing.
John MacArthur says of discipline:
Discipline teaches us to operate by principle rather than desire.
Disciplining yourself to write daily means the “muse” (or inspiration which is a better term) works within your parameters, not the other way around. You control it in terms of your writing.
2. Raises Accomplishments.
Writing daily means you write more which means you accomplish more. It’s tied directly with being disciplined because disciplined writers get things done. Writing projects in a timely manner allows you to meet editor deadlines (which they love by the way), and takes your fanbase into consideration. When you are trying to build a fanbase, it’s important to write to release on a timely basis because you don’t want people to forget you, something that they are notorious for once you fall off into the ether with nothing released because you’re waiting for the muse to show up. If you have ten, a hundred, or thousands of fans, don’t leave ’em hangin. If you’re as creative as you think you are, the ideas will come in droves. Make sure they don’t just stay ideas. Write stories and release them regularly.
The best way to do this is to have goals. Write them out, look at them daily, and endeavor to fulfill them. This means discipline and planning. The old adage fail to plan, plan to fail is true. Related to that is the saying “In the absence of clearly defined goals, we become strangely loyal to daily acts of trivia.” Don’t get caught up in that. Write daily. Have a daily amount that you write. That will be different for different people. In How to Write and Sell Your First Novel, the authors say most writers think that three pages a day is a good quota. Your mileage may vary. But have something. That daily goal and sense of accomplishment bolsters your confidence in being labeled a writer because it isn’t just a label but a reality.
3. Increases Experience.
This is big. Writing daily means you write more. The more you write, the more experienced you become at writing. The more experienced you become at writing, the better you are. The better you are, the less mistakes you make. The less mistakes you make, the less editing you have to do. In other words, it’s an all around better deal for everyone involved. Editors. Fans. Yourself.
Granted, we will still write garbage sometimes because…well…we’re not God. That’s what a rewrite is for. But your writing experience will begin to shine through your writing the more words you put down on paper (or virtual paper). Also, what helps is that you’re reading material from good writers in the process. This gives you a keen eye to recognize garbage when you see it.
4. Strengthens Creativity.
The things that happen when we write can take us in directions we never imagined. This recently happened to me in writing my short story in my Dark Corner series called The Forest which I briefly explain about in The Forest Prequel. When rewriting that story, I forced myself to finish it in a couple days and when I did, the story took a direction that I didn’t originally intend because sitting there writing my daily quota forced my creativity to come up with something…now. When I did that, things popped up that hadn’t even dawned on me. It geeked me to write more and continue on the same creative path I was given which ultimately made the story better.
Writing daily builds creative fortitude. Our world is flush with ideas and our minds trap those ideas and hides them away. Sometimes we don’t access them ever again until forced to. It can be a struggle. It can be a task. It can be agonizing. But it is most definitely worth it because we’re squeezing every ounce that’s been deposited there and many times those nuggets are golden. The more we do this, the easier the process becomes which makes for better writing and a better writing experience.
No one is going to convince me that writing daily is not a good thing for anyone aspiring to be a writer. We expect athletes to train daily and practice. The best always seem to be honing their craft, no matter what they do. Thomas Edison would work into the wee hours operating on no sleep. Jimi Hendrix used to take his guitar to the bathroom and stay there working out licks. If you’re a gifted writer then writing daily only increases that giftedness. If you’re not particularly gifted then writing daily just makes you better than you were before. If you only write when the muse hits, then your potential really stays just that…potential. You have to decide what kind of writer you want to be.