Daily Writing Leads to Better Writing

daily writing

Daily writing will lead to better writing.

Today’s post is an excerpt from 10 Core Practices for Better Writing. This is from “Chapter Two: Writing.” Enjoy!

“I only write when I am inspired. Fortunately I am inspired at 9 o’clock every morning.”
– William Faulkner

Ideally, you’ll write every day.

Writers who come to the craft out of passion never have a problem with this. They write every day because they need to write every day. Writing is not a habit, an effort, or an obligation; it’s a necessity.

Other writers struggle with developing a daily writing routine. They start manuscripts, launch blogs, purchase pretty diaries, and swear they’re going to make daily entries. Months later, frustrated and fed up, they give up.

Routines don’t work for everyone, but they do work for most people. Almost all the writers I know say they have to write every day. If they miss a day, they end up missing two days, then three, four, and pretty soon they haven’t written in several weeks.


A scant few writers can produce good work by binge writing. They don’t write at all for a few months, and then they crank out a novel in a few weeks. But this is the exception rather than the rule.

So, are you the exception or are you the rule? The only way to find out is to experiment. I’m a huge advocate for writers trying different things. Go ahead and try writing only when you’re inspired. Over the course of a month, how much did you write? How about in the span of a year? Did you write a whole novel? A page? Nothing? If you’re productive working this way, stick with it.

When weeks have passed and you haven’t written a single word, when unfinished projects are littering your desk and clogging up your computer’s hard drive, you can give up entirely and take out a lifetime lease on a cubicle in a drab, gray office. Or you can step back, admit that you have a problem, and make some changes.

Daily Writing

These days, we’re all crunched for time. You’d think technology would give us more time for leisure and personal pursuits, but it seems to have the opposite effect. The world just keeps getting busier and busier.

What you’ll find is that if you write only when you feel like it, you won’t write very often. The world is full of distractions—phone calls, emails, television, video games, social media…The list goes on and on.

We’ve already established that the best way to improve your writing is to practice. You can improve your writing by writing occasionally, but the improvements won’t be significant and it will take decades for you to become an expert. What you need to do, even if you just try it for a month to prove to yourself there’s a better way, is to make writing part of your daily routine.

The single best way to develop a routine, to make something a habit, is to do it every day. Okay, you don’t have to write every day, but you should get in a good twenty-minute writing session at least five or six days a week—I would say that’s the absolute minimum. If you can write for a full hour, all the better. Remember, this is time spent writing—not reading, editing, or brainstorming. It’s your writing time.

I once had a music teacher who said it’s better to practice for fifteen minutes every day than to practice for two hours three times a week. I think the same is true for writing. Even if you dedicate only a few minutes to writing every day, it will become an ingrained habit. Writing will become an integral part of your life.

Think of it this way: if you exercise for five hours every Saturday, you end up sore. By the following Saturday, your muscles have weakened again, so you have to start all over. On the other hand, if you exercise for forty-five minutes a day, five days a week, you’ll build up your muscles. The soreness will subside and you will get stronger and leaner. And overall, you’ve actually put less time in.

Your writing practices are not unlike your diet and exercise habits. You’ll get the best results if you start slow and develop a regular routine.

This doesn’t mean you have to do the same thing every day. Sure, you may be working on a novel, but you can take breaks to write poetry or essays. If you don’t have a project in the works, then do some writing exercises. I have found blogging to be an excellent way to ensure that I write consistently, especially between projects.

10 Core Practices for Better Writing

About Melissa Donovan
Melissa Donovan is a website designer and copywriter. She writes fiction and poetry and is the founder and editor of Writing Forward, a blog packed with creative writing tips and ideas.

Comments

40 Responses to “Daily Writing Leads to Better Writing”

  1. --Deb says:

    I suppose writing blog comments doesn’t really count, huh? (grin)

  2. Amy Derby says:

    Good points you make. I don’t write creatively every day. Probably why I make my living doing other things. :-) I tried writing creatively every day for a few years, and I realized it wasn’t for me. It made me frustrated and didnt improve my writing. My best writing is inspired, not forced. I just have to go with the muse and not get mad that she sometimes plays hide and seek.

  3. @Deb, I totally think they count! In fact one of the many reasons I started blogging was to make sure that I write every day. Now, I don’t blog every day, but blogging has definitely increased how much I write! Yeah, I think it helps me improve even more because on top of just writing, I’m writing for an audience, which puts a whole new slant on it!

    @Amy, I don’t write creatively every day either. Actually, I find that no matter what I write, my work gets better if I write something each day. I have a long way to go with fiction… maybe I should start a fiction blog. That could be very helpful.

  4. Brett Legree says:

    @ Deb, I agree with Melissa too – when I comment I (usually) try to write something positive, something unique, in my own style. And sometimes it is grammatically correct…

    I will say I get a lot of ideas and encouragement from the interactions on the blogs. That in itself is more than money can buy, I think.

    PS – this is a great post Melissa! Thank you so much.

  5. @Deb and Brett, I misread and that’s what I get for being in such a hurry today. I thought Deb’s comment just said “blogs” and I do think those count.

    As for comments, I think it depends on how much thought goes into a comment. I’ve seen some pretty long well-written comments that could stand alone.

  6. Manictastic says:

    Since I started my fiction blog, my writing has improved a little -I’m humble and stuff, you should read my earlier work, I wouldn’t even dare feeding it to the dogs.
    Writing each day, or at least every week, makes you think more about story lines, about character development, etc. just because each day, week you need new material. You’re pushing yourself to explore that brain even without Muse.

  7. @Manictastic, I don’t even want to show what I’m writing now because I know next month I’ll look back and think it was terrible. That’s a writer’s plight, I suppose.

  8. I completely agree with this! The more I write, the better I am at it.

  9. Kelvin Kao says:

    Really? I always say “practice makes nearly perfect”, haha. Maybe I have a stricter definition for perfect.

    But yeah. Certainly, if you do something every day, and you are constantly looking for ways to improve whatever you are doing, you are going to get better and better.

  10. Cassandra Jade says:

    Thanks for the great post. I think the other point here is that most people who have a ‘talent’ for writing are people who have unconsciously been training in it but haven’t really realised what they’ve done. They are people who always read, who listen avidly and catch others phrases, and generally have a love of language. However, informal training only takes you so far and then the hard work begins. Thanks for sharing this experience with us.

    • Hi Cassandra, I couldn’t agree more, especially when it comes to reading. That is the best way for a writer to start absorbing language. I would definitely say that reading is good training for writers. Thanks!

  11. Danielle Ingram says:

    I totally agree with you Melissa, writing daily is really important.

    Whilst at school I would write reasonably regularly but whilst studying Journalism at university I had to write every day, whether it was an essay, a news article, a feature article or a press release.

    Now I write every day and I do feel that it has an impact on my writing skills, it helps to improve in small ways such as increasing my vocabulary.

  12. When I struggle to write (those moments of writer’s block), I either pick up a book or browse through my feedreader. That usually inspires me to create new content!

  13. Gabrielle says:

    Ok, now, if you’ll excuse my poor english, (i’m a french canadian) I’ll explain in a few brisk words what I’ve been doing with my writing all my life. I was the kind of writer to wright only when I felt like it or when the words urge me to trow on paper everything out of my throat before i would screem it out loud. But a year ago, I decided to work full time on my writing. I thought it would be easier than what I had imagine. I started to write everyday, a novel actually, humph, I thoutht I would nail it in a year or two, boy was I wrong. As I reread my stuff I felt it needed more work, and the more I read it the more i worked on it, but then I came to doubt myself, I was unsure of my skills so I stoped for a while, but the urge of telling what’s inside took over me, so I took a course of creative writing, freewriting helped me a lot, I love it. Since then I work everyday, not on my novel, but I just write, poetry, short stories (“nouvelle” you call in french). My work as improve, I see a big difference, I read a lot, I write and write, even if it’s only two lines, a paragraph, a nonsense story. I know I need to work harder and harder, my library of books is growing, I bye about every book I can find on technics of wrinting. Now I know that you can be born with talent, but talent needs hard work, just like a talented athlet who train everyday for the olympics, I know I have to train my brain everyday to be a better writer.

  14. I’ve got to chime in here. The old adage which used to be cited when it came to sports or music, and especially theater – rehearsal, rehearsal, rehearsal – applies here as well – as with anything, really. “Practice makes perfect.”

    How do you expect to get better at writing if you don’t write? :-)

  15. Cardinal Robbins says:

    I immediately think of the late comedian George Carlin (who was also a decent writer), who joked, “How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, man, practice!”

    Our version of Carnegie Hall is to get published and to continue being published for as long as we care to write. I try to write every day, even if it’s simply a thoughtful response to posts on the internet.

    My career as a professional writer for hire actually began because I hung out so often in the Apple forum on AOL, back in the early 1990s. When the hosts of the room hit a ‘quiet spot,’ I’d fill with something for them and do my best to get the conversation started again. I wrote games for the room, asked provocative questions, and generally did everything I could to support them. They recommended me to their boss, and the moment Apple’s online service (eWorld) went live, I was told to download the client software and GET ONLINE NOW — because I’d been HIRED! They sent me a contract on the spot, and I worked 80 hour weeks to provide a wealth of content in their chatrooms and forums. I lasted until they finally threw in the towel and killed eWorld, as well as Apple on AOL, which meant I’d even outlasted the guy who was running Apple during the non-Jobs years.

    The moral of the story is, you can NEVER predict where your writing skills will lead you, so sharpen them as much as you can, as often as you can — and then write like your life depends upon it, because someday it *will.* (My writing kept our family financially afloat for those four years, and even though it was the hardest thing I’ve done intellectually and even physically because of carpal tunnel problems, I do not regret one keystroke.)

    • I love your story. It’s inspiring to all writers and it’s so true: you never know where your writing will take you. Thanks for sharing your experience with us, Cardinal Robbins.

  16. It really isn’t rocket science, is it, although it does bear regular repeating: daily writing nourishes the creative muse. I always notice a difference in my writing when I’ve stepped away from it for a week or more. The flow isn’t there, the quality has diminished, the characters are more stilted. Thanks for this reminder, Melissa.

  17. You did it – I’m inspired. I’ve always known that writing frequently improves writing skills because I am an English professor and teach advanced writing. However, I also know that writing is hard and doing it daily is a challenge. You are persuasive though, and I am going to give it a shot. Thank you for the inspiration.

    • Thanks, Darin. I agree that writing is hard work. I’m often exhausted after an intense one-hour writing session, but it’s also extremely rewarding! Good luck with your writing.

  18. Abdul Waheed says:

    Great article, Miss. I read your articles on a routine basis. Your writing style is simple and easy to comprehend. Wish I could write like you.

  19. I was fortunate to be able to quit my day job and write full time. For fifteen years I wrote everyday, four hours a day, five days a week. Though I had many disappointments in the marketplace, my writing got better and better and when I got my lucky break (which all of us need) I was able to take advantage. Same story with Ben Fountain, busted his butt at the keyboard for countless years until he broke through with “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk.” Writing doesn’t come easy to anyone, some of us just get their break early on, others have to persevere longer. But there’s no substitute for butt in chair, fingers on keys, for as many hours a day as you can afford.

  20. Hazel says:

    Wonderful post Melissa! I know I need to work on daily writing.

    I have a question. It has nothing to do with daily writing, though. I finished writing and editing a story, and I’m going to send query letters out to agents. How do query letters work? What is the format?

    Thank you!

    • Hi Hazel, Thanks! Daily writing doesn’t work for everyone but I think it’s the best practice for most people. Query letters are outside my range of expertise, but if you conduct an online search, I’m sure you’ll find solid information about queries. Thanks again :)

  21. Great post! I am definitely the rule, not the exception. I’ve been sick for a MONTH, so writing has kind of gone to the bottom of my priorities, which is sad. This post has got me excited to get going again!

    • That’s great, Jessica! Sometimes it’s hard to get going after we’ve been away from writing for a while. I try to take it slow and ease back into the process.

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