Goins, Writer

On Writing, Ideas, and Making a Difference

Why You Need to Write Every Day

Write Every DayFor the longest time, the writing life intimidated me. I thought of myself as a “writer,” but I was afraid to claim that moniker in public.

After all, writers wrote all the time, and I didn’t. I felt like a fake. Maybe you have, too. Then, I learned the secret to prolific writing:

Don’t write a lot. Just write often.

Spending five hours on a Saturday writing isn’t nearly as valuable as spending 30 minutes a day every day of the week. Especially when you’re just getting started. The idea is repetition — developing a discipline of showing up, making this a priority, and working through The Resistance.

If you want to get this writing thing down, you need to start writing every day. No questions asked, no exceptions made. After all, this isn’t a hobby we’re talking about; it’s a discipline.

What makes a real habit

It should come as no surprise that habits practiced once a week aren’t habits at all. They’re obligations. Or maybe, at best, cute little hobbies.

And let’s not kid ourselves here. If you’re doing something once a week, it’s probably only a matter of time before you stop doing it altogether. The only thing you need to know about writing is that you must do it. The rest is just showing up.

Jack Cheng says that 30 Minutes a Day is enough to form a new habit. He shares in this post:

When mastery is the goal, spending an exorbitant number of hours in one sitting will likely lead to burnout. We don’t go to the gym expecting to put on 20 pounds of muscle in a single, day-long workout. Instead, we do several short workouts a week, spread out over months.

Our bodies need time to heal; our muscles time to grow. And the same goes for that muscle inside your skull. When trying to develop a new skill, the important thing isn’t how much you do; it’s how often you do it.

Learning to fail

If there is a second part of this lesson for writing daily, it’s this: become comfortable with failure.

Another helpful resource on this is Behance’s “10 Laws of Productivity” article (where I found the reference to Jack Cheng’s post) on The 99 Percent website.

Here are some excerpts:

Trial and error is an essential part of any creative’s life. As Ze Frank says, usually when we execute an idea for the first time, it kinda sucks. The important thing is to synthesize the knowledge gained during the process to refine the idea, and create a new-and-improved version…

With projects that require a serious infusion of creative juice – developing a new business plan, writing a novel, or just learning a new skill – it’s incredibly important to maintain momentum. Just as when you run everyday, the exercise gets easier and easier, the same thing happens with your brain.

Stimulate it regularly each day, and those juices start to flow more freely.

Get started now

This was the best advice I’ve received all weekend. Of course, blogging here forces me to write nearly every day, but I’m learning that isn’t enough.

I’m opening back up a writing project that I put on the shelf a few months ago. It’s time to stop treating it as a hobby and turn it into a habit.

What about you? Is there something you’ve been putting off? Time to pick it back up? Share in the comments.

Don’t wait until tomorrow. Get started now. Spend 30 minutes today taking it one step further in the development process. So what if it sucks? You need to get those juices flowing.

Then, do the same thing tomorrow. And the next day. And the one after that. And so on.

Recommended reading:

Do you write every day? Why/why not?

About Jeff Goins

I help people tell better stories and make a difference in the world. My family and I live outside of Nashville, TN. Follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or Google Plus. To get updates and free stuff, join my newsletter.

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  • http://thebookcollection.wordpress.com thebookcollection

    great advice. writing is certainly like a workout.

    hope you get to check out this site!

  • http://wanikki.wordpress.com wanikki

    Jeff Goins

    Thank you for;

    “Don’t write a lot. Just write often.”

    Good sound advise

    Power to you

  • Karl Dahlfred

    thanks for the encouragement to keep going. I am striving to blog once per week, and also have a book outline that I need to get off the shelf and keep plugging away on.

  • http://jokiloki22.wordpress.com JokiLoki22

    I agree with this for sure; I try to do 1,000 words a day of creative writing, and, whenever possible, a blog post as well. Being out of town and just getting back today have limited my ability on the last one, but the creative writing has been coming along well. Thanks for the good article!

  • http://evanshawblackerby.com Evan Blackerby

    Jeff,
    Great.
    Thanks.
    Evan

  • http://jeffgoins.myadventures.org Jeff Goins

    Thanks for the comments, guys.

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  • Jason Goldfarb

    Exactly what I needed this morning! Thank you.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      awesome. my pleasure.

  • Andrea Cumbo

    I’m taking a day to rest up, Jeff . . . but tomorrow, I’m back to it . . . thanks for this reminder.  

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      Rest is good

  • http://avajae.blogspot.com Ava Jae

    This is so true–if you’re a writer, the best thing you can do is write something–anything–every day. 

  • http://thecormierfamily.org/Jason/ Jason

    I cannot remember if it was Hemingway or Steinbeck who made the same suggestion.  Very good post and a needed reminder for me.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      probably both

  • http://blackalchemy.wordpress.com/ Hs Mcmickle

    Excellent post, great suggestions! I love your phrase “after all, this isn;t a hobby we’re talking about; it’s  discipline.”  Those words ring so true – even if my passion to write is with me every day, it requires commitment and discipline to be a writer.  I try to write 1000 words a day, but on those days where life completely gets in the way, I force myself to write at least one sentence, and then try to nurture it into another 250-500 words. Some days it works, so days, well, not so much.  But as you said, the key lies in the frequency of the practice of the craft.

  • Anthony V. Toscano

    Jeff, Although I think your advice about writing something every day can be helpful — maybe even necessary — for many writers, I do not write every day. I’m a talented writer. So are you. Most talented writers I know — or have read — insist that waiting for inspiration is not a good thing to do. I wait for inspiration. Most talented writers I know — or have read — insist that one should write through a first draft without stopping, and then edit the completed draft. I edit as I write, sometimes sentence-by-sentence, sometimes word-by-word. I consider writing much like working with wet clay. Most talented writers I know — or have read — insist that writing work that sucks is better than not writing at all. I believe that most of the writing I find on the Web sucks, and that many writers might have seen better to post their work only after rewriting and polishing it. (As well, I agree with Ted Sturgeon’s 90% rule.) Many talented writers I know — or have read — seem to enjoy giving writing advice. I think most such advice — if contemplated for too long a time — ties creative muscles in metaphorical knots. I’m new to your website. I admire your writing style, your persistence, and your dedication. But as far as writing advice is concerned, the best advice of yours I’ve read is to write something dangerous. Writing about writing — and I, too, am guilty of this sin (e.g. this very paragraph) — is safe.

  • Yagerdelagrange

    Super tips, Jeff.  I don’t write every day because I’ve been too busy revising which IMO isn’t the same for me as writing.  I actually miss writing (from scratch, that is) and am itching to start a new book.  But I need to revise the one I finished a few months back and now send out query letters.  It’s the part of the “process” I don’t really enjoy that much!
    Patti

  • http://barrypearman.blogspot.com/ Barry Pearman

    The secret of your future is hidden in your daily routine. Mike Murdock  

    I try to write something everyday. Even if it will never reach ‘print’ it helps to disentangle the random thoughts and feelings spinning around in the thought blender. 

    Perhaps I will use my random thoughts somewhere or not. That is not the point. Its processing the dance steps that Daddy, Spirit and Jesus are revealing. 

    Today I am conducting a funeral for a friend. Writing has helped me grab the thoughts and feelings. I hope and pray ‘the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart’ will move others into a closer dance. 

    Thanks for the post Jeff, love your work!

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      great quote

  • http://talesofwork.com kimanzi constable

    I think you hit it right when talk about writing everyday to form habits. I write everyday because I love to write, also because I want to get the word out about my passion as soon as possible.

  • http://profiles.google.com/nataliesisson Natalie Sisson

    So true you don’t go to the gym once a week for 5 hours to get fit, you space it out and do other sports too. Same applies to writing!

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      i don’t know why we think the two are different. most disciplines practice the same basic habits.

  • http://twitter.com/Paul_Wolfe Paul Wolfe

    Jeff

    Agree totally – you absolutely need to write every day. 

    The latest neuroscience confirms that this is the ‘optimum’ way to practice and get better too – if you’ve not read The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle I highly recommend it.  Not only is Coyle a good writer, he tells a ‘good story’ – the importance of a brain substance called myelin in attaining high levels of excellence in your chosen discipline.

    Guess how you generate myelin?  Lots of daily practice.  (And daily practice that’s of a specific type – Coyle calls it Deep Practice).

    Paul

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      hi paul. i will check that out. you would know, my friend. the same goes with playing an instrument. there is no way to work around the importance of daily discipline.

  • http://www.ricardobueno.com Ricardo Bueno

    I’ve made writing part of my daily routine. More importantly, I’ve come to realize the type of environments that make me productive and I know when I tend to do my best writing (as in what time of day). Still, I can do better. 

    As for other habits that I’ve been trying to regain… Going to the gym. So far, I’m on a 6 day streak – I’ve hit the gym for 2-3 hours a day. It both hurts and feels good at the same time. Really, it’s more about regaining energy to have more hours (or feel like I do) in the day. Less energy drinks, more natural energy if that makes any sense. 

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      nice

  • http://www.ricardobueno.com Ricardo Bueno

    Hey Paul, I’m gonna have to check that book out :-) 

  • http://www.ricardobueno.com Ricardo Bueno

    Hey Paul, I’m gonna have to check that book out :-)

  • http://www.justcris.com Cris Ferreira

    Jeff, it feels like this post was written for me. This is definitely something I need to work on, starting now.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      it was. ;)

  • http://twitter.com/theflyingcashew Pamela Karina

    A long time ago, I realized the need to write every single day but somehow I lost the habit. Then, I thought I could regain the habit by just binging hours and hours into short little weekends…. it’s not fair to the craft of writing and it turns out that writing is not nearly as good or as enjoyable as it is in small spurts.

    Though there’s a long way before I get back to the daily writing schedule (I need to quit my second job for one), I am determined to slash my schedule (and physical things) down to a minimum so that I have room for the things that I enjoy. :)

    Great post :D

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      thanks, pamela. blogging can be a great way to get started again.

  • http://popparables.com Keri

    What’s amazing about writing is that you don’t have to write just for “the project” you’re working on.  I feel like any kind of writing-anything that helps you put pen to paper and get your thoughts and ideas into words, is helpful and gets the creative juices flowing. Thanks for taking time to write this, Jeff. 

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      agreed

  • Lia London

    I actually blogged about this back in July.  You’re right.  A writer writes every day!  http://lialondon.net/archives/106

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=513800729 Sean Thompson

    I discovered that I can get a decent 300-500 words during my lunch break in a crowded cafeteria.  Going for 5 days this week… the outcome will be worth the odd looks.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      wow. amazing. there’s no excuse!

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  • http://adamsokoloff.com AdamSok

    Jeff, I appreciate the simplicity you bring to the issue. It’s a mindset, and about priorities.  Most people say that don’t have time to business blog, but do have time for TV, and other non-income producing activities.  It’s very interesting.

    So let’s say that your priorities are there, then you’ve made a great point.  When I am writing at my best, it’s when I do it often, overcoming my writing fears and lifes little (or big) obstacles.

    Terrific post Jeff.  Thanks for the push!  -Adam

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      exactly

  • http://jeremysconfessions.com Jeremy Statton

    Like Zig Ziglar says, lasting change comes slowly by making small advances over a long period of time. You have to have a vision for it.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      indeed

  • http://www.jeffrandleman.com Jeff Randleman

    Great thoughts.  I journal, and I try to do so everyday.  There are days that I miss.  often my blog posts come out of my journalings.  And sometimes I mix it up, writing poetry or stories, etc.  Thanks for the great tips!

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      it’s important to note that we need to give ourselves grace. sounds like you’ve got a good mix of discipline and grace, Jeff.

      • http://www.jeffrandleman.com Jeff Randleman

        I try, but sometimes, I don’t give myself enough grace…

  • http://twitter.com/RavenousReader RavenousReader

    Flannery O’Connor had a great viewpoint on this. She wrote every morning for two hours, and advised her young writer friends to do the same.  ‘You need to show up in the same place every day,’ she said,’ because if a good idea comes along it will know where to find you.’

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      love that

  • http://shewritesandrights.blogspot.com Bethany Suckrow

    I try to write every day, even if it’s just a sentence or two. And I try to blog 3-4 days each week. It’s a whole lot easier now than it was even one year ago.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      and it gets easier. and more natural. keep it up. soon, you’ll be able to do more than you realized or thought you could do.

  • http://thomasmarkzuniga.com TMZ

    Since starting up a blog two months ago I’ve gotten in the habit of writing for it just about everyday, which has been a great habit for me to get into. Now if I could just get in the habit of writing more creatively again…

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      one step at a time.

  • http://eveningrevolution.com/ Jonathan Manor

    I haven’t been working on my book since I’ve moved to San Diego.  There was just too much with moving, trying to find work, and trying to find my place on the weekend to be thinking about writing anything that really matters.  I just wrote a good post on my blog, but other than that, I decided to keep a small journal that I leave in my closet because I see it every day.  I tend to write maybe 2 to 7 times a day in it.  It mostly consists of dreams, the long entries do, but I write about almost everything.  I feel like it keeps my engines revving. 

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      fascinating

  • Kelley Simpson

    As a stay at home mom I started a photography business, and when I’m working I LOVE it I can’t stop taking pictures or printing them out. I have such a passion for it but knowing the time it takes to build my business, I tend to become inactive. This week I have been planning on throwing in the towel on the business. Last night I even “tweeted” I am going to quit on the business and give up on the dream. 
    After reading your post and following all the links to each site/resource, I’ve decided to give my self one more chance. My first plan is to do something, however small, everyday. I will commit to work no less than 30 minutes and no more than a couple of hours each day. I never thought of doing this but I can see how the creative juices are allowed to start moving without stoping everyday life.

    Thank you for taking the time to put all of this information together. I’m sure it’s not a coincidence  that I read this today, right after asking God to show me what His will would be for this part of my life.

    I will jump from the cliff into the world of faith again and see if smarter is better than longer. 

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      interested to see what you find.

  • Navya

    I love this post. The part about writing for three minutes a day as opposed to five hours over the weekend is what I liked best. Earlier I thought that it is best to write when you are in the mood to write, but to really hone the skill within, it is best, as you say, to write everyday whether you want to or not. 
    The “Jerry Seinfeld” link was wonderful, too! Thanks! 

  • Navya

    Writing for thirty minutes, I meant. My bad! 

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      Hah! I was thinking that was a pretty low bar.

  • Lara Schiffbauer

    When I started writing a couple of years ago, I read the book Writing Brave and Free, and the authors said to write at least 10 min. every day, precisely to create the habit of writing.  I follow that rule still – usually ;).  When I find I’m not writing or meeting daily goals, I return to the expectation to write for just ten minutes.  Often I end up writing for longer, and I get back on track!

  • Yvette Porter Moore

    I really take this to heart..I have been writing everyday for five months and now it is a habit.  I don’t write hours and hours, but usually between 20 minutes to an hour a day depending on what the topic is.  

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  • http://www.mustardseedyear.com Jason Wert

    I write every day.  God told me to. :)

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      Good reason

  • http://twitter.com/joshlipovetsky Josh Lipovetsky

    Amazing advice, Jeff. Pretty much every meaningful thing I’ve achieved in my life so far, has been through daily commitment and being determined to stick it out no matter the circumstance. Your success as a writer and a person depends upon how you handle your bad days.

    All the best,
    Josh Lipovetsky

  • http://twitter.com/DustinTwiggs Dustin Twiggs

    It really is a great post. I have seen that painters take on this same challenge, to paint a little each day, and I too am trying to apply the idea to my writing. 

  • http://inhisloveministries.blogspot.com/ Pilar Arsenec

    This is such a great post… Thanks Jeff.

  • http://crumbsandkernels.tumblr.com/ Po-Yi L.

     Thanks for sharing this. It reminds how important it is to take some time each day — even if it’s only 30 minutes — to write.

  • http://www.koundeenya.com/ Koundeenya

    That was amazing. I just loved the quote

    “Do not write a lot. Write often”

    Awesome

  • John

    I been writing journals pretty much everyday at goodnightjournal.com but my writing skill does not seem to be improving. :( any book recommendations? 

  • saad

    Hi Jeff,

    I am not a native English person and my writing skills are not even of the amateur standard. Because of my inability to write my thoughts in English, I often feel helpless. Can you recommend me, how to improve my writing skills . . . .!

    Saad

  • Saman

    This is great advice and I started writing daily about a week ago. Currently I have problem of ideas flowing into my mind and hope regular writing will fix the issue. When I write I also try to integrate the new words or phrases I learned into meaningful sentences.

  • http://repossible.com/ Bradley

    In case no one believes this, I’m almost a year into Writing Every Day.

    What’s been perhaps the most exciting part is what has happened that I didn’t expect. I thought I’d just be “journaling” and “blogging” but I’ve turned the new habit into a MACHINE. I’m now the one who gets it done–and who gets it done everyday. In fact, I called it a challenge in the beginning, but now it’s just The New Normal. I just do it. It’s just part of my day. Automatically.

    Jeff, what might be interesting is to hear from your writer fans who have managed to get back into the writing habit and see where it’s taken them or what it has achieved for them. I’d be there are a variety of successes and many unexpected.

    Thanks for posting!

  • Lev Raphael

    I don’t entirely agree and recently posted about it:

    http://getitwriteblog.wordpress.com/2013/10/14/do-you-have-to-write-every-day/

  • Jem

    This is great! Thanks Jeff!

  • Kai

    Right on Jeff, let’s see what happens. Thanks for that.

  • sandi

    ok I have a short story that I am working on. The leader of our writer’s group suggested that I seriously COMMIT to this. I do want this to be more than a hobby. Take it to where ever it is to express what it is to express. Thank you for your encouragement.

  • http://kinzasheikh.blogspot.com Kinza Sheikh

    I always find this the most challenging part. I want to write, I have many novel ideas floating in my mind which I want to write. But making a time to sit and write everyday, by far it has been a very intimidating task. That is really killing my productivity too :(

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