20 July 2008

Write every day vs. write productively

It's a debate that has filled pages of books, scores of message boards, and time after time, it's left unresolved. The question:

Is it better to write every day, or to write when you know you can write productively?

When I began writing, I was a "write productively" writer. I would go days without writing, but when I did sit in front of my laptop to write, I was able to get a great deal amount of work done. In college, due mostly to assignments and deadlines, I began to write more frequently even if I wasn't totally inspired to write so I could work more steadily toward deadlines and completing assignments. Now, as a full time freelance writer, I write every day for a minimum amount of time, regardless of my level of inspiration and whether or not I have a looming deadline. At the beginning of my day I look at my task list and create a list of goals for the day, and I don't leave my office until my goals for the day are accomplished. Writing a certain amount (or for a certain amount of time) is always on my goal list. Personally, I see writing as something that needs to be practiced to maintain (or improve) skill, so even if I'm not completing a project, I find something to write to help hone my skills.

I know this is a very personal choice akin to faith and political affiliation, so rather than try to convince you of one side or the other, I'd like to present both sides to you, and let you decide for yourself which you prefer.

Write every day
There are some who think the best way to write is to sit at their desks for a minimum amount of time each day and scribble. They are great at meeting their daily word count goals, and though sometimes they sit for a good deal of time staring at a blank page, they're certainly persistent.

One of the advantages of writing every day is that it creates a sense of routine for writers. You know that from this time to this time every day, you'll be writing. Ideas that come between writing times can be used at the time, or they can be saved until the next writing time.

One of the disadvantages of writing every day is that there may be times you sit and stare for the whole writing time without writing a word. This is not only unproductive, but can be very frustrating.

Write productively
There are some who think the best way to write is when inspiration strikes. They are the ones who keep notepads on their nightstand in case they wake from a dream with a great character, and though they may need to scramble to meet goals or deadlines at times, when they write, they write furiously.

One of the advantages of writing productively is that when you sit down to write, you'll have something to write. You won't feel like you're wasting time sitting at your desk with no inspiration.

However, a disadvantage of writing productively is that it can be sporadic, which can make it more difficult to make deadlines and word count goals since you're at the mercy of the muse.

There are certainly other considerations when deciding whether to write every day or to write productively. A large part of that decision is to examine your writing style, and figure out what works best for you. As I said, when I began writing seriously, I only wrote when I felt compelled to write, but as my writing life has changed, I've changed my writing schedule. Remember: if what you're doing isn't working, don't keep doing it because that will just be counter-productive.

The important thing is that whether you decide to write every day or write when inspiration strikes (or a combination of the two), keep writing! Figure out how to write and just keep filling pages!

And happy scribbling!

1 comment:

  1. Interesting analogy of every day vs. productively. I find that i vary my methodology.

    For some time periods I sit and write, even when no inspiration will come. This is the Zinsser style, and this usually produces volume.

    Other times I write productively. This is the Bradbury style, and usually produces quality.

    A business axiom states that quantity produces quality. That probably applies here.

    However, I never write without coffee in hand.


Add a little caffeine to my life...