How to Write Every Day and Not Burn Yourself Out: A Ten-Step Guide
1. Start with small daily goals.
I’m not saying that you can’t go from zero to a hundred all at once. It can be done. But it’s not the best way for most people to approach this challenge. Notice I say best and most. If you think you can go from writing zero words a day to writing 2,000 words a day and maintain that for the rest of your writing life, go right ahead.
2. … but have an overarching goal in mind.
3. Write at a set time, in a set location.
A couple other tricks that I also recommend are even more specific. Use a specific kind of music, if you like to write to music, or light a specific candle so that you’re always smelling the same thing when you write. All of these can serve as additional mental cues to get you in the frame of mind to write.
Do all of these, of course, to the best of your ability. If your schedule changes constantly, you may have difficulty maintaining a constant writing “schedule.” Still try to carve out similar sized and located time frames to write during. You’ll find that this tip will help you both with writing every day and with writing productivity.
4. Turn your inner critic off.
In some stages of the writing process, the inner critic is invaluable. We need the inner critic when we’ve gotten to the editing and revision stages. But when it comes to writing, we need to write. And that means that if you’re going to write every day and get anything done, you need to turn your inner critic off. Just write. Even if you’re hitting a dead end on your project, write something else. Write anything. Write nonsense until the nonsense becomes sense again. Write trash, resting assured that you can throw it out later.
This is how I’ve always functioned. I tend to get into a funk in between novel projects in which I start something new every day. Eventually, one of those ideas catches. It’s frustrating, but it happens. If I let my inner critic get the best of me, I don’t get anything done. So I shut it off and give myself time to work things out on paper.
5. Reread some of your previous day’s work before you begin writing each day.
If you don’t want to rewrite, just take five or ten minutes to reread some of your previous day’s work — a page or a couple paragraphs or whatever you please. This will help get you into the right frame of mind to start writing right away.
6. Stop to check if you’re having fun.
At any rate, if you’re not having fun, stop and think about what you’re doing and what you could do differently. If you’re not excited about the idea you started with, change it up. Turn that inner critic off and give yourself the freedom to explore various ideas before settling into one. Writing is a joy. If writing isn’t a joy to you, then you may want to consider why you’ve started writing in the first place.
7. Make time to read.
Personally, I always carve out a chunk of time in my afternoon to read. Maybe it’s only a few pages. But I read something. If you don’t have the time to read a book, read the news. Or read some blog posts online. Read in your genre and outside your genre, inside your space and outside your space. Learn something new through reading. Read, read, read. Your writing will improve as a result.
8. Celebrate your victories.
9. Don’t beat yourself up over “failure.”
10. Recognize your limits.
What doesn’t feel amazing is the come-down. As much as you may think, sometimes, that you can sustain writing 10,000 words a day, you probably can’t, just like I probably can’t (for long). As I said in the beginning, if you think I’m wrong, go ahead and give it a shot. I won’t say it can’t be done. There are some published authors who do it. For obvious reasons, they’re among the most prolific of writers.
There are a lot of reasons why it’s better not to trod the line or test the boundaries. We all have human limits. At the very least, we need sleep. Could we write eighteen hours, sleep six, get up, and repeat? We could. Would we be happy and productive doing it? Probably not. Again, we all have limits.
By all means, figure out what your limit is. Currently, I write around 5,000 words a day combined on everything I do — blogging, poetry, fiction writing — and this may or may not be my limit. I don’t really know, because I’ve never tried to push too far past it. Above all else, I want to avoid burnout. Burnout is a writer’s nightmare. I’ve felt it maybe once in my life, pushed through it, but don’t want to go there again. I don’t want you to have to go there, either. So it’s best to maintain a healthy recognition of your limits.
I hope that these tips have helped you get a grip on how to write every day, while avoiding burnout. If you enjoyed this article, try my article about whether writing can become an addiction. If you’re loving the content on Voyage of the Mind, we’d love a tip on Ko-fi. You can buy us funny virtual coffees for $2 a pop. We’d really appreciate the support!
I’d also love to hear your voice in the comments. Tell me what you think about these ten tips. Let me know if you’re going to embark on a journey of writing every day! Talk to me about anything.
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