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Write every day, no matter how little or how poorly

The way to prevent writer’s block is to write every day. But fear of failure often prevents us from doing it. We’d rather complain that we didn’t have enough time to do our best work. Or that the elusive muse wasn’t with us.

But let’s be honest with ourselves. The real reason writing is hard and we don’t want to do it is because although we are ostensibly alone at our desks, in truth we have a dozen or more editors, mentors, and critique partners living in our heads, commenting on every blessed word. It’s paralyzing. Can we be blamed for avoiding this?

She walked quickly…
An adverb? Seriously? You can’t write that, you ninny! You know better.

You know what I mean. Who wouldn’t rather watch TV than deal with that?

Write anyway. Be willing to be bad. Tell the critters in your head to take a break. Crap writing can be edited into good writing. But a void can’t be. The words don’t have to be good. They just have to be there.

Years ago, I scoffed when a fellow writer recommended carrying a notebook and just jotting things down in odd moments. Waiting in line at the post office, or the doctor’s office, or any other office where you’re waiting around with nothing better to do. I scoffed, until I tried it. I learned something surprising.

The “muse” will show up if you do. Because you know, “muse” is just another word for “think.” I’ve written whole scenes in notebooks that way. Some of them were even good enough to keep in my book. When you develop the practice of putting words together regardless of whether you’re “inspired,” you become a more productive writer.

Over at ACFW’s Novel Track, as I mentioned once before, the brilliant Terri Main came up with a great idea: Ten words a day. Most Novel Trackers set a monthly goal of 10,000 words or more. That requires writing more than 300 words a day, every day. On a good day, that would take me half an hour. But what if I don’t have half an hour? What if I spent the whole day on paying work, and then had a night class and stopped at the gym, and now it’s just a few minutes till bedtime?

Then I write for a few minutes. I write at least ten words. The point isn’t to finish the novel. It’s to make forward progress, even if it’s one stinkin’ sentence, every single day.

I’ve found that doing this lets me put a story on the back burner without it getting stale and unfamiliar. Stirring the pot every day is a small win. It keeps me in touch with the characters.

Writing every day is training that prevents writer’s block, which is just a kind of inertia: an object at rest staying at rest. By writing every day, you keep your writing muscle from ever being at rest.

About Kristen Stieffel

Kristen Stieffel is a writer and freelance editor specializing in speculative fiction. She's a member of the Editorial Freelancers Association, Christian Editor Connection, and American Christian Fiction Writers.

2 comments on “Write every day, no matter how little or how poorly

  1. Good advice. I have to do that when Nano’s on (curse you, accountability!) because sometimes things get crazy and I don’t have a chance to write a thing. But if I can cram in a paragraph or two over lunch, then the story’s not sitting still. Like you said, it has inertia.

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