Wednesday, January 23, 2013

'Write Every Day': How's That Working For You?

"Write every day." How many times have you heard that advice? It seems to make the top-ten list of every how-to-succeed-at-writing article ever published.

I've always thought of "write every day" as one of those inviolable rules of writerhood. Adding 500 or 1000 or even 100 new words to a project daily meant I was making progress, moving forward, eating that proverbial elephant one bite at a time. The trouble is, I can only reach that quota for so long before I slip up and miss a day. Then what? Write twice as many words the following day? Fall "behind" and risk sacrificing quality for churning out words? Abandon the whole thing and go and check if there's any Fudge Ripple left in the freezer?

Cal Newport, a computer scientist, is a prolific writer as well as an academic. He writes Study Hacks, an insightful blog on developing peak performance for students and professionals. He's also authored several books, including How to Become a Straight-A Student and his latest, So Good They Can't Ignore You.

In a recent blog post, "'Write Every Day' is Bad Advice," Cal asserts that striving to achieve a daily word count goal is counterproductive, given how the human brain works. He writes,"The problem for the would-be writer is that the brain does not necessarily distinguish between your vague and abstract goal, to write a novel, and the accompanying specific plan, to write every day, which you’re using to accomplish this goal. When the specific plan fails, the resulting lack of motivation infects the general goal as well, and your writing project flounders."

He continues, "When I’m working on a book, I instead approach each week as its own scheduling challenge. I work with the reality of my life that week to squeeze in as much writing as I can get away with, in the most practical manner. Sometimes, this might lead to stretches where I write every morning. But there are other periods where I might balance a busy start to the work week with half days of writing at the end, and so on. The point is that I commit to plans that I know can succeed, and by doing so, I keep my brain’s motivation centers on board with the project."

Read Cal's post and let me know what you think. Does writing to a daily word count goal work well for you? Do you use some other method to measure your writerly productivity? Or do you not worry about measuring progress and just write (perhaps the neatest approach of all)?

1 comment:

Jennifer Rova said...

Nice post. No, writing every day does not work for me. I am not sufficiently motivated to my writing to do so every day. I have developed other interests and tend to choose to do 1-2 per day when I have time. I don't write just to write.