A Guest Post by Ali Luke of Aliventures.com
Ask a dozen different writers “How much do you write each day?” and you’ll get a dozen different answers.
Some will only work at weekends. Some will consider 500 words a great day; others won’t be satisfied with anything less than 3,000 words. Some won’t worry about their wordcount at all: they’ll write for a set period of time instead.
All too often, I see writers getting stressed-out by trying to hit some arbitrary word count. If you follow Stephen King’s advice in On Writing, you’ll be aiming for 1,000 words per day; if you’re a fan of Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way, you’ll be doing your three morning pages (around 750 words) before you even attempt your other writing.
You might find that 1,000 words or 750 words works for you. Heck, you might find that you’re most comfortable when you’re producing 3,000 words each day – or 3,000 words each week. But if you’re not yet in the habit of writing on a regular basis, 1,000 words may well be too much.
There’s no set formula for how much you should write every day.
(And you don’t even have to write on a daily basis: writers are allowed to take days off.)
What you need to figure out is how much you should write every day, or every week, in order to make consistent progress and feel good about your writing.
To start with, you need to think about how you work as a writer.
Understand Your Writing Process
Personally, I write fast. I like to get words down on the page, and I’m happy to go back and tear out huge great chunks if they don’t work. (I cut my novel Lycopolis from 135,000 words to 85,000 – and that was after several radically different drafts.)
But other writers are more meticulous, and you could well be one of them. If you want to get every page right before moving on, you’re not going to produce thousands of words every day. A great day for you might be two pages (500 words) – but those will be pages that are as good as you can make them.
Some writers thrive on routine. They’re steady and consistent, producing 1,000 words every day without fail. Others thrive on adrenaline. They’ll write nothing for days or weeks, then blaze through 5,000 words in a day.
How do you prefer to write? What might make a good starting goal (daily or weekly) for you?
Build Your Writing Muscles
When you follow an exercise regime, you’ll gradually be able to lift heavier weights and run longer distances. Your writing ability is a bit like a muscle: the more you use it, the stronger it’ll become.
Right now, a realistic goal for you could be writing 500 words each day. In six months time, those 500 words might have become 1,000. In a few years, you could be producing 2,000 words that you’re happy with, every single day.
But … if you lift weights that are too heavy for you, or try to run too far, you’ll injure yourself – and if you push yourself to write far too much, you’ll risk exhaustion and burnout.
There’s no point in writing 1,000 words a day for two weeks if you end up so frazzled and stressed that you never finish what you started. Take your time to build up to your ideal writing target.
If you’ve been sticking to the same daily or weekly target for a while, step it up a notch. Instead of writing 500 words, write 600. Instead of writing 1,000 words, write 1,200. Don’t try to increase too far, too fast, though.
Should You Write Daily?
I touched on this earlier, but I think it’s such an important point that it’s worth coming back to.
You don’t have to write every day.
Some writers like to, and if it works for you, that’s fantastic – stick with it! But if you find yourself constantly struggling to write, or producing joyless, lackluster words, then try changing your routine around. Give yourself a weekly word target instead of a daily one.
There are no rules about how often you should write or how much you should write. What’s important is that you establish a strong writing routine that works for you, so that you feel happy and confident about your progress, and so you can gradually increase your output until you’re writing as much as you want to.
How much do you write every day (or week)? If you want to write more, what’s holding you back? Share your thoughts, ideas, and struggles in the comments…
Ali Luke is a writer and writing coach, and loves everything to do with words – especially blogging. If you’d like to make great progress with your writing, check out her post on Nine Writing Milestones to Celebrate (and Aim For).
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