In the middle of the pack here with Writer’s Digest’s 10 rules of writing and commentary from a panel of experts, this rule is one you hear a lot: write every day! The idea is to make writing a habit, not a chore and not even necessarily goal-driven.
Fiction writer John Dufresne advises following this rule. “Writers write,” he says. “Writing is work. And you go to work every day. It’s not a choice. If you don’t punch in, you lose your job.” Dufresne feels that if you’re a true writer, the daily routine of writing will come naturally to you and, if it doesn’t, you can’t really force it. “The good news,” he continues, “is that…your writing…goes on while you’re out in the world. Carry a pen and a notebook; gather evidence….The notebook becomes a repository and a source of material….Writing, you realize, engenders more writing.”
Novelist and writing teacher James Scott Bell disagrees. He explains that he used to set a daily word quota for himself, but there were days that life took over and he simply ended up doing something all day that left no time for writing. He’d get angry and disappointed at himself. Then he changed his daily quota to a weekly quota. “That way, if I miss a day, I don’t beat myself up,” he says. “I write a little extra on the other days.” Bell also has found it valuable to take off one day a week and one week a year from writing. He comes back reenergized and adds, “Plus, my projects have been cooking in my subconscious. The boys in the basement, as Stephen King puts it, are hard at work while I’m taking time off.”
I’m with Bell on this point. This is a lot like dieting. If you set very strict rules around your long-term goal, failing just once to obey them can derail you from your project altogether. And here on Write My Memoirs, you may not be “a writer.” Your memoir may be the only lengthy manuscript you’ll every write. So give yourself a break. I think a weekly word or page quota is a great idea, but writing every day? That’s a lot of pressure to put on yourself and probably unrealistic. I want you to stick with your memoir, so set realistic goals.