In addition to my regular work, I’ve been writing every day for the last three weeks. I’ve also been publishing an article each day during that time.
Given this, I’d like to answer the question: “Should you write every day?”
If you google this question, you will find many great writers who tell you that, yes, you should—and some equally impressive authors such as Cal Newport who tell you that, no, you shouldn’t write every day (if you’re not a professional writer).
In a way, the situation reminds me of legal questions: “Is it legal to do XYZ?” Back when I was a lawyer, we had this joke that you should respond to any legal question with the phrase “it depends.”
(“Is it legal to kill an alien from outer space?” “That depends.”)
At this point, you might ask yourself what this has to do with your predicament about the optimal writing frequency (and also why on earth lawyers get paid such high hourly rates).
Well, I forgot to mention the second part of the joke: after stating that “it depends” with a grave voice, you should then “entertain” the person with a long description of what exactly it depends on.
For instance, in the case of a stray alien from outer space, we need to know if they (not sure what pronouns aliens use) are definitionally included in “humans.” We also need to know what the alien is doing… are they attacking you and are you acting in self-defense? Or are they going for a friendly stroll?
I could go on but I won’t. Let’s leave your alien-cidal tendencies aside and return to your writing predicament.
The key to answering the question if you should write every day:
Context is important and differs depending on the situation. Most questions don’t have cookie-cutter answers.
The reason I mentioned that legal joke is because it’s true in so many other contexts, too.
- are you a (current or aspiring) professional writer or a hobbyist?
- do you want to rapidly increase your skills and are willing to put a lot of time and effort into it?
- do you have deadlines? Are these deadlines self-imposed or external? How close are they?
- what type of writing do you do? (short articles, long works, academic, fiction, popular nonfiction, etc.?)
If me mentioning all these details has you despair, fear not. Let me put my lawyer training into practice and provide you with some useful guidance on whether you should write every day (and I won’t even charge you a few hundred bucks an hour for it!).
Should aspiring professional writers write each day?
First of all, who’s a professional writer?
I define a professional writer as someone who makes the majority of their income (directly or indirectly) from writing.
By that definition, I’m not a professional writer because the majority of my income comes from client work, and I get the majority of my clients through referrals, not indirectly through my writing (which is a form of content marketing).
If you are a current or aspiring professional writer, you might have short-term sprints with an intense workload (here are some of extreme examples of that). However, in general, you want to find the right balance between productivity and sustainability.
You also need to find time in your schedule for work that’s not directly related to writing new content (such as promoting your work, editing previous drafts, etc.).
As a professional writer, you need to produce enough and keep your writing chops fresh. For most people, this requires writing regularly (whether that’s daily or just a few days per week).
At the same time, you also need to make sure your work is sustainable (there’s nothing less productive than a burnout). For most people, their work will be more sustainable if they take at least one, if not two days off each week.
In general, if you are a professional writer, you want to experiment with anything between two to six days of writing each week.
The fewer days you write each week, the longer your writing sessions will probably be, and the more you will exclusively focus on writing during those days.
For instance, viral author Tim Denning writes two full days a week and does work that’s not directly related to writing new content (research, editing, finding headlines, finding images) on other days.
In contrast, someone who writes every day might only spend a few hours writing new content, not the entire day.
Which of these approaches works better for you is something that you can only discover through experimentation. That said, I assume that a schedule such as Tim's works better for people who create shorter content (such as blog posts).
Someone who writes an entire book might want to focus on first getting a draft of the book done… and then editing it over a period of time.
Either way, make sure you establish a writing routine (here's what to do if you fall of the wagon).
Should you write every day if you want to rapidly increase your skills?
Regardless of whether you are a professional writer or a hobbyist, if you want to rapidly increase your writing skills, you should probably write every day.
So, to put this all together:
if you want to rapidly increase your writing skills, you should not only write but also publish each day for a certain amount of time (for instance, 30 days). Think of writing every day as a 30-day writing challenge where you focus on improving your skills.
Here's an article that will help you find ideas for articles.
Should hobbyists write every day?
If you are not a professional writer, don’t aspire to be one, and don’t want to rapidly increase your skills at the moment or have other writing goals you want to hit, just do whatever brings you joy!
If that’s writing every day, go for it! If you just like to write once in a blue moon, that’s also fine.
Whether you wonder if you should off an alien from outer space or write every day, context matters. Your unique situation matters.
Hopefully, that answered your question on whether or not you should write each day.
Oh, and legal questions aside, please don’t kill any aliens from outer space you happen to come across. They’re probably an advanced civilization so it’s better for all of us if you don’t piss them off, don’t you think?
This article is for entertainment purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. In fact, probably no article discussing aliens from outer space should be considered legal advice.
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