When You Shouldn’t “Write Every Day”
“Write Every Day” is excellent advice.
I came to my writing habit five years ago, and I can clearly remember the first author event I attended with my new writer mindset. In the Q&A at the end someone in the audience asked for the author’s advice to writers, and the answer was, “Like many before me, my best advice is ‘write every day.’” Stephen King said it, Anne Lamott said it—but it really sunk in for me, hearing it from this author right in front of me.
My writing took off after that. I followed the advice and found my writing routine. Often it was just 20 minutes on my lunch break, but I put words down every single day. Even while working a demanding day job. I didn’t give myself the option to procrastinate, to skip a day—suddenly I had the better part of my first draft! I knew that if I ever published and got the honor to speak on my own author panel, I would give the best advice out there: “write every day.”
“Write every day”… except when you shouldn’t.
Then I started rehearsals for a play (I’m a freelance professional theatre director, directing one or two shows a year). When I’m in rehearsals, the play takes all my energy—besides the energy I must reserve for my day job. And life. My “write every day” commitment to myself became stressful. Each time I sat down to write, I felt like what I really should be doing is preparing for my next rehearsal. I realized that one part of my life was suffering because of my goal to keep at the writing. The play was just as important to me as writing, so I broke. My. Commitment.
I stopped writing every day.
The unexpected benefits.
My life became a little less crowded, and the play opened successfully. A week or so after the show closed, I felt the itch to be creative again. I didn’t need to wait for the next play rehearsal—I had my manuscript ready for me! I wondered if it would be difficult to get back to the “write every day” habit. It absolutely was not. I loved writing even more after a break. I discovered two unintended benefits of my writing break:
- It gave me perspective on my manuscript. After some weeks away, I saw the story with fresh eyes.
- My new life experience informed my writing.
The work that kept me away from writing was interesting and personally challenging, and that helped me to add new depth to my main character’s journey! I could use my experiences to improve my novel—experiences I might not have had if I were always writing. I found that “living every day” is a good alternative to “write every day” when it comes to crafting a novel.
When is it time to take a writing break?
If you always have a reason not to “write every day,” then you’re just not writing. How do you know when to break your writing routine? That’s going to be different for each person, but here are some questions that help me:
Do I look forward to writing time? For me, the answer better be yes four out of seven days a week.
Is something in my life suffering because of my writing time? The answer will probably always be yes, but…
Is the thing that’s suffering more important to me than my writing goals? This is difficult to figure out, but it’s an important question. My house being spotless is not more important to me than writing, but my relationships with my husband, family and close friends sure are.
Does my struggle with time for writing have an end date? If it’s a temporary time crunch it can be a writing break. If it’s your new normal, then you must evaluate if writing is a priority or if it’s bringing you joy.
Whatever works for you, please forgive yourself if you need a break! My writing advice: writing advice is not one size fits all!
Abbie Fine is a storyteller and nonprofit manager from Northern Virginia. THE LAST FIRST DAUGHTER is her first novel, but she has directed more than 20 professional theatre productions. Abbie added writing as a storytelling outlet in 2013 and hasn’t looked back.
Abbie works full-time as the Managing Director of NextStop Theatre Company, a professional theatre company in the Dulles Corridor. She loves serving this company whose mission is to present theatrical performances and educational programs that are uniquely ambitious, intimate, and accessible both to and for her community.
Abbie enjoys going to theatre, traveling—especially in the single engine airplane her husband pilots—hiking, teaching management, and of course, reading. She is an obsessive reader of fiction, particularly young adult fiction. www.abbiefine.com