Why “Write Every Day” is a Terrible Writer’s Philosophy

A few author friends and I shared the worst pieces of writing advice we’ve received. Seems the biggest offender was: “Write every day.” Some people are perfectly happy doing this, and I support you, too. But this is for people like me who simply know in their heart of hearts they can’t possibly get a novel done in a week because there’s just no time. And we’re tired of feeling bad if we don’t hit the daily word count.

For the record, I’m a fiction writer, but I’m also a magazine writer. So sometimes, my writing quota is totally capped by the time I get home. There’s just nothing left in my mushy brain and the only solution is Netflix and dog cuddles. But for the sake of this post, let’s focus on the idea of working on your books every single day. 

The struggle is real, y’all. Between full time job, side business, (minuscule) social life, and books, there’s a real balance I have to strike in order to feel successful. I spend a LOT of time on the computer and there are some days where I go home and have to ignore the bright, shiny screen in order to not chuck it out my window. And to be frank, I’m pretty tired of being told that’s “the wrong way to do things.”

I totally understand the feeling of needing to write everyday, believe me. Just the other week I admitted how burned out I’ve felt with doing ALL THE THINGS. I’ve loved every minute of it, but everyone needs a break! It’s that or risk my sanity. Yesterday (Saturday), JLo went to school to work before an afternoon memorial unveiling. I had no plans and zero desire to be productive. I have no children, had no immediate pressing responsibilities (I still did laundry!), and the week at work was busy enough that I was sick of looking at a computer. So I spent an exorbitant amount of money at Target, painted my nails, read a magazine, and watched movies. And you know what?

I didn’t feel guilty about it. And it was amazing. I couldn’t tell you the last time I wasn’t halfway attached to Scrivener or my phone. It might have even felt a little liberating. The key is not to make this my new everyday/weekend habit. (I can do the fun things once I’ve gotten the work done, but eventually I will have to get to writing the words!)

This post from Seven Scribes really hit the mark, I think, but let’s talk about why I believe “writing every day” isn’t the great advice you think it is.

I’m a a huge advocate for breaks. To me, when you force the words, your heart isn’t truly in it and that shows. Readers will pick up on it, believe me, especially those who have read your other works and can feel the difference.

It’s probably not going to be your best work if you’re rushing it. Now, there’s a difference between getting it done quickly and throwing something together. This isn’t about your edits or cover work or marketing. Some days, I’m just not feeling it. And if I just sit down and try to hit a word count, there are probably way too much of “the” and “just” and “so” (my overused fillers). That’s stuff I have to go back and edit later, things that could be avoided if I’d just allowed myself to skip a day in order to refresh my noggin.

Speaking of it not being your best work, that’s not exactly fair for your fans. They read your work expecting the wow and pizzazz that comes with a well-thought out story. And if you’re asking for their trust and dollars, you want to make sure it’s worth it, that they come back to every book you write.

And then there’s the fact that “writing every day” might not be fair for you. The guilt that comes with all of these points listed was overwhelming. I felt terrible every time I wasn’t at my computer, writing a new scene or emailing people or whatever else was on my to-do list. It was making me a little crazy.

Yes, there are days where I think, “I’m going to write six chapters today!” And if you do, that’s fantastic and you definitely deserve cookies. And if you didn’t — well, you can have a cookie, too. Just promise me you’ll try again tomorrow, okay?

What’s the worst piece of writing advice you’ve ever gotten?

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