Do you need to write every day?
I was scrolling through Facebook this week when a post stopped me in my tracks. It was by Pamela Freeman, bestselling author and Director of Creative Writing at the Australian Writers’ Centre.
Pamela wrote: “I was thinking today about the ‘you must write every day' advice that gets bandied around so often.”
You know the advice she’s talking about – you see or hear it all the time. The idea is that you have to write something every day or you’re not writing. That is, you’re not a real writer.
Pamela went on to say: “I haven't written anything (fiction) for weeks – because life. And I know that won't matter in the long run. Things should settle down after next week and then I'll dive [in] and the fun will begin! In other words, don't beat yourself up if life gets in the way for a while. It just means your story has longer to cook.”
Writers write, right?
As a writer, teacher, podcaster and speaker, this post made me wonder if I’d ever told people to write every day. Given I’ve co-written a book called ‘So You Want To Be A Writer’ (How to get started while you still have a day job), a Make Time To Write course, a Creative Writing Bootcamp that delivers 10,000 words in 30 days for those who follow it, and countless blog posts about the fact that the best time to start writing any novel is NOW, you might think I’d be on Team Write Every Day.
But I’m not.
When I’m deep in a manuscript, I do try to write five days a week. I write my novels without much of a plan in place, so I’m carrying the story in my head all the time. Keeping up the momentum is an important part of the process of getting the story out of my head and onto the page.
When my children were young and I was struggling for scraps of writing time in the middle of the night. Or, with one eye on soccer practice, the only way to keep that momentum going was to commit to getting at least some words on the page every day. Weekdays and weekends were all the same.
Now the boys are older and actively prefer it if my attention is elsewhere, so my time is more my own.
Some days I write a paragraph. Some days I write a chapter. And some days, I walk my dog for kilometres with that story playing out in different ways in my mind, and don’t commit a word to paper.
Am I writing every day? No.
Does it make me less of a writer? Also, no.
Award-winning children’s author Allison Rushby summed up my thoughts about the advice to ‘write every day’ in her response to Pamela’s post.
“It's such rubbish advice,” says Allison. “I prefer to think about ‘moving forward' with writing projects. Sometimes moving forward is simply going for a walk and having a think.”
Pamela agrees: “I tell my students that, if they have a story on the go, they need to ‘keep the story alive in your head’ in just the ways you describe – thinking about it, imagining scenes, wondering about the character’s backstory, and so on,” she says. “Even scrolling through real estate sites to find the house they might live in! That’s all writing, because it’s all part of the process.”
Hold your story in your mind. Write it down when you can.
Do you write every day?
Allison Tait is the author of three epic middle-grade adventure series for kids: The Mapmaker Chronicles, The Ateban Cipher and the Maven & Reeve Mysteries. A presenter at AWC and former co-host of the So You Want To Be A Writer podcast, Al’s next middle-grade novel will be out in July 2023. Find out more about her at allisontait.com.