This might shock you, but I’m a writing coach that doesn’t believe you should try to write every day.
And I don’t personally write every day, either. I don’t even try.
Everyone wants to write and publish more. Academia demands it; it’s how we get jobs, keep jobs, and get promoted. More importantly, it’s how we influence our field, get our message out in the world, and create knowledge that can help change people’s lives.
Unfortunately, though, many times the answer to the question “How can I write more?” Is just “Do it.” Do it every day. Don’t miss a day. Hit a word count. Get accountability systems so that you continue to write every. single. day.
If the “write every day” method appeals to you, then please, please do it.
But as an academic mom of three, this has just never, never worked for me. And worse, this method can have negative consequences for your writing. Yep, it can actually be counterproductive to write daily. Let me explain.
What’s wrong with writing every day
If you can write every day and feel happy about it, then fantastic. The problem is that the goal of daily writing could be setting you up for failure. There are two ways that trying to write every day can backfire.
1. You slip and feel guilty
If your goal is writing every day, what happens when you don’t? What happens when your kid gets a fever, your department chair throws you a fire you need to put out, or you yourself wake up sick and tired? You miss a day.
And then the worst: You feel guilty. Guilt is the biggest obstacle to writing and publishing more.Guilt is the biggest obstacle to writing and publishing more.Click To Tweet
Have you ever had a half-done article sitting on your computer? You know that you need to finish it, but you just can never find the time. Every time you remember it, you get a wave of guilt.
Ever had a really tough semester, where you know you’ve taken on too much, so you haven’t been keeping up with your writing? Guilt again.
Guilt stamps down writing spark. It inhibits creativity. It pretty much guarantees that you will feel awful once you sit down to start writing again.
Trying to write every day just sets you up for more guilt when you inevitably (and understandably) can’t do it.
Instead, you need a writing system that deliberately sets you up for success. That in its very essence is designed to make you feel happy about your writing. That creates a positive feedback loop between you and your writing: you write, you feel good, you write, you feel good. Every time.
And that brings me to problem #2 with trying to write every day.
2. Not all writing sessions are created equal
Have you ever sat down to write and the words just flowed out of you? When you went back to read it, you thought “I’m amazing!”?
And at other times, have you sat down to write just one paragraph and ended up writing five words and deleting three for an hour? So that by the end of your writing session you only had a sentence or two?
And you thought “What the heck is wrong with me”?
That’s because not all writing sessions are created equal. You need to be setting yourself up to write during your “flow” times, and to deliberately avoid writing at other times.You need to be setting yourself up to write during your “flow” times, and to deliberately avoid writing at other times.Click To Tweet
If your writing system is “write every day,” you might be hitting your flow but you might not. And the problem is that when you don’t hit those “flow” times, but sit down and just try to bang out a certain number of words anyway because that is what your system requires, then you could be creating a negative feedback loop between you and your writing. You write, you feel bad, you write, you feel bad. Then you’ll stop. Or you’ll hate writing.
And now that “write every day” model has just blown up in your face.
What to do instead of trying to write every day
Instead of relying on “write every day” to move the needle on your writing, you need a system that creates a positive feedback loop between you and your writing.
This is a system created by design, with various parts to it, but at its essence is one core idea:
Write during your best, most focused, most high-energy times. Do not write at other times.
I call your best, most focused, most high-energy time your “tiger time” (a term I borrowed from entrepreneur Amy Porterfield). It’s that time when your writing just flows. Once you learn how to identify your tiger time, you can make big strides in your writing if you just write 2-3 hours a week during that time.
Potentially you’ll make way more progress than by just following the “write every day” model.
In fact, with the tiger time system, knowing when not to write is just as important as knowing when to write.