I used to give this advice pretty frequently. Lately, I’ve been backing away from it. Many authors I know think it’s detrimental. Who can write every single day? Someone too young to have any responsibilities? The independently wealthy?
To be completely honest, I don’t spend as many hours as I used to writing. That is, I rarely spend eight to ten hours in a single day doing nothing but writing. I don’t have children, but I have a full household, with parents, an epileptic dog, etc. Dinners to cook, lawns to mow, home repairs to finalize, bills to pay, groceries to buy, budgets to manage…
So, in short, my days are like anyone other adult’s: packed with a daily to-do list that has nothing to do with putting words on a page.
Which brings me back to my initial question: Is “write every day” good advice?
It’s important to make writing a habit, or at least learn to prioritize it.
If you don’t, it’s incredibly easy to suddenly realize that weeks (or months) have passed, and you haven’t written a single word.
You need to stop expecting your world to be perfect in order to write.
It never will be. The lawn mower will be busted, somebody in your house will be sick, the garbage disposal will be malfunctioning, and the laundry will still need to be done. In the midst of all that, you can still write. Trust me.
That being said, there are definitely times when what’s happening in your house will take all of your attention, or all of your heart. Those times in which a family member is seriously injured or gravely ill, for example. We all go through life-altering events in which writing is the last thing that should be on your mind.
But for the usual, daily type of chaos? You need to learn to figure out how to carve some time for writing. It’s a little like carving out time for exercise. I do a ton of writing at night, usually somewhere between about seven and eleven. My house is the quietest during this time. I stretch out on the couch with my laptop and pound the keyboard. You wouldn’t believe the amount of writing I can get done during this time. Often, I can get as much done as I used to writing all day long!
Don’t think that writing every day means it has to be all day.
Again, I write in the evening hours. You might do better getting up early. Or carving out time during your lunch hour. You can write on your phone. You can dictate chapters while cooking or walking on your treadmill or folding that unending laundry. You’d be surprised how the pages add up half an hour at a time.
But with that being said,
If you miss a day, it doesn’t mean you failed.
It’s not all or nothing. You are not less of an author if you can’t write every single day. Maybe your household or schedule is such that you can write for eight hours one day a week. Or three hours two days a week. It all totally works. But I do think we often discount the small snatches of time. You don’t have to clear your desk for several hours straight in order to write well.
So where does that leave this particular piece of advice? Write every day, but with caveats? Maybe.
Really, though, like all pieces of advice, I think it’s important to see why the advice is being given. It’s about figuring out what the goal of the advice is supposed to be. And then learning to tailor it to fit your own life.