This week on Tuesday Writing Tips, Melissa asks:
Do you think it is vital for a writer to write every day? Or do you think days of just “thinking time” suffice?
This is a really good question, Melissa, and I don’t think there is any right or wrong answer. Everybody has their own way of working.
I personally, like to write daily because I find that if I go more than a couple of days without writing, I get cranky. So if you ask my husband and kids, they would say they prefer me to write every day.
On the other hand, I have realized that writing a book seems to be equal parts thinking and equal parts writing time. So from my point of view, it’s perfectly valid to spend the day ‘nutting things out’ rather than putting pen to paper or fingertip to keyboard. I think it’s really important to take this thinking time – and it’s one of the things that helps you avoid the dreaded writer’s block.
If I have already worked out how my main character is going to get from where I am now in the story to the next part in the book, then I don’t seem to have any hiccups when I write. It’s when I haven’t thought this through, that I come up against brick walls and have to go back and plot what’s going to happen next. So I believe that thinking time is just as important.
I know some people who write 12 hours a day and others who work full time in other careers and are lucky to get the opportunity to write once a week. It’s what works for you.
To get a balanced perspective, I asked some of my writing colleagues for their responses to your question. Here’s what they said.
Some of those days are given over to thinking time, but even then I usually jot something down, be it in a notebook or on computer. But there are days where I don’t think of writing at all, and sometimes they refresh me. Sometimes those days are the most productive as the subconscious keeps on churning and often offers answers to unresolved questions.
Author, Claire Saxby - www.clairesaxby.com
I think a lot and work in bursts. Immersion theory, I like to call it. Then I think a bit and immerse again. Real work fills in the gaps between chances to immerse. So I think it probably has to fit in with your work load. Those in regular jobs have to eek out hours per day.
Those of us in jobs that work us hard and then dump us till the next contract, can use the immersion theory. I do find I work better with total attention tho. My ideas breed other ideas and travel around in herds. A lot of time in those few hours snatched per day is spent refamiliarising yourself with where you were at before you had to race off to work particularly if you work in a completely different industry and couldn’t devote any thinking time while you were away.
Author, Bren MacDibble - http://members.optushome.com.au/brenmacd/childrens.html
I write every day unless I’m away from my computer, but even then, I write in a journal or read to learn. If an idea pops into my head, I write it down.
If I don’t get to write, I get withdrawals and fidget. Writing is like breathing. I couldn’t survive without writing every day.
Author, Trisha Puddle - http://trish-mollygumnut.blogspot.com/
The thought-creative process of whatever I’m working on is happening much of the time when I’m not actually typing – so even when I’m not at the computer, I’m (or my sub-conscious is) working out plot extensions, problems with characters, wording of synopses etc etc. This becomes a problem with one is driving a car though.
Author, Sheryl Gwyther - http://sherylgwyther.wordpress.com
I do tend to get caught up in life from time to time, and at these times manage to get little down on paper. Self discipline is not my strongest point, and I find that writing under too much pressure kills my creativity. That said, my head is ALWAYS turned on, and it is often on leaving the computer that I think best – new ideas, problem solving, etc. When I do manage to sit down and get into something, I am then hooked. Perhaps this is the immersion theory Bren talks about??? So I think that being a writer certainly involves sitting down and writing — but it equally involves thinking like a writer at times that you are not at your desk. I like to think this counts as writing time!
Author Kim Rackham
I used to feel inadequate when I heard writers say they set aside a certain number of hours each (and every) day for solid writing. When many of those same writers then questioned the dedication of others who didn’t adhere to this rigid discipline… I for one would cringe.
Because I don’t think all writers follow that set rule – and I certainly don’t. It’s not that I’m not committed. And it’s not that I don’t love my writing. It’s just that I don’t work that way…
Kathryn Apel has written about this topic at her blog. You can read the complete post at
I’d LOVE to write every day but the reality of my kid-filled life is that it’s just not possible. Before kids, I used to love throwing myself into something for 12+ hours at a time. Now, I’m lucky if I get 12 min!! I still love the chance to work in chunks but they just don’t come my way very often. So, I write in snippets. And even on those days when I don’t actually get the chance to write, I’m thinking about my writing. I have journals to note down little ideas and tend to view the world through a writer’s lens now. I feel like although I don’t write every day I do something writing related every day, even if that means reading just a couple of pages of a children’s book before I go to sleep.
Author Karen Collum - http://www.karencollum.com.au
I think when you first start writing you should write every day so you create a writing habit. Many experts say that we create habits through repetition. Therefore, if we write every day – repetition – then within a month we’ve created the habit of writing. I find it difficult to not write every day because, after five years, I have a very strong habit. Having said that, at the moment, I’m doing research for a novel. Instead of writing, I’m reading background information. I hope reading doesn’t become my new habit. LOL!
I believe we all need thinking time. I also believe the best thinking time comes after writing. In my experience, I come up with plenty of ideas while showering, doing dishes, vacuuming and walking my dogs. Usually this thinking relates to what I’ve written that day and what I’ll write the next day. I’m not convinced that thinking time should be a substitute for writing. My partner, Rob Parnell, and I have been tutoring and assisting writers for years and many times people will use thinking, planning and research as a way to avoid the actual writing. So, as long as you’re writing as well, thinking time is important. My concern is when thinking time becomes an excuse to not write. This is why I’m all for creating the writing habit.
Author and screenwriter Robyn Opie - http://www.robynopie.com
I usually write something every day, but I don’t feel compelled to do so and never feel guilty if no words are committed to paper or hard drive. There’s so much to enjoy and experience in life, for me it’s just as important to live the moment and have experiences that, you never know, may one day influence what appears on the page days, weeks or years down the track.
After taking a fair while to plan non-fiction or develop a plot, I then write ‘seriously’. I always feel that it’s been a good day when I’ve worked so hard that I am collapsing physically exhausted at night, whether it’s been writing, gardening or painting the house. So when I’m in writing mode, I might do so from 3am until I fall asleep in my chair at 11pm, but moving around and doing a mixture of things feels better. My efficiency is much improved by deadlines.
Author Peter Taylor - http://www.writing-for-children.com
When I have a deadline, I keep off email. And let’s face it, if a publisher needs me to reply that urgently, they’ll phone. Think sometimes I write myself out in emails.
A game of patience lets my mind wander, and I often find I leave it halfway to jump into the work. I also need to be showered and dressed and wearing a watch to work properly. I think this might be now I’m full time writing I treat it more as a job. I think it probably is a good idea to write every day, but sometimes life gets in the way. So I try and enjoy the break, and often the ideas flow in. I love writing scraps on envelopes and backs of tram tickets. I wonder if this let’s me play with my work, as it’s not as formal.
And sometimes I plonk myself in front of the computer and force myself to write. Inspiration seems to kick in eventually.
Dee, while I’d like to say I write everyday, I don’t. Sometimes I’ll go for a couple of weeks without getting much down. My mind is usually still mulling over writing matters during that time though, and I’ll jot down any ideas and stuff that materialise.
I’m not very good at grabbing moments here and there for writing, I like to have a good block of time set aside. But that depends on what I’m writing too – with a pb text I can grab a spare half an hour to work over a troublesome paragraph or sentence, for longer stuff I tend to get frustrated if I have to keep an eye on the clock.
Historically, the first term back at school each year tends to be the time I’m most likely to get lots of daily writing done.
Author Trudie Trewin - http://trudietrewin.com
But when I stop and look back at what I’ve written over the year, I’m always surprised at how many stories I’ve actually written, re-written or sent out. Obviously the writing time I manage to squeeze in at nights, on weekends and in-between work contracts adds up to more than I think.And on days where I don’t get to write a word at all, my mind tinkers away at my stories; scheming, plotting, and coming up with new ideas. It all seems to balance out in the end.Author, Julie Nickerson - www.julienickersonwriter.wordpress.com
Thanks everyone for your great contributions to this discussion. I think this just goes to show that there are no rules in writing. It’s finding what works for you.
To me, the most important thing that has come out of these discussions is obvious, but true.
You can’t be a writer, unless you write – when, how often and where, is entirely up to you.
Hope you’ve enjoyed this post. Thanks for the question, Melissa.
If you have a writing question you’d like answers to, feel free to leave it in the comments section of this post.