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Why Writing Every Day Isn’t Enough

This post is by Michelle of Wicked Whimsy.

One of the most common pieces of advice given to aspiring writers and, by extension, bloggers is to write every day. The idea of a daily writing practice is thrown around as though it’s a cure-all for any malady.

Don’t get me wrong, I try to write every day, but the advice as it’s given is missing an important component. And it can be downright harmful in its closely related form: “Write every day—it doesn’t matter what you write, so long as you’re writing”.

The problem

Recently, I had a stint of a week or two where I was writing almost constantly, and all of it was for the viewing of others: blog posts for my blog, guest posts for other blogs, client work.

When things slowed down a bit, I took a week long breather since I had a backlog of blog posts‚ I was still writing daily at 750words.com and my private journal, but that was it.

And, to my surprise, when I sat down to write again, I found it nigh impossible. The words simply refused to come. I couldn’t figure it out—I had found it so easy to write only a week before!

The new version: write for others every day

There’s a big difference between writing something that you know will be private, and writing something that others will see. I propose that if bloggers want to keep the ideas coming, keep writing, and most importantly, keep improving their writing, then writing every day isn’t enough.

Instead, you should be making it a point to write for others every day. Why?

There are two main reasons:

  • You hold your writing to a higher standard. If something is private, you have no pressing motivation to keep improving it aside from your own drive. Sometimes that’s enough, but sometimes it’s not. If you know that your writing will be in front of hundreds or thousands of people (or even just the one paying client), you definitely want to make sure it’s up to scratch.
  • It keeps you in a quality writing mindset. Writing for yourself is often an entirely different experience than writing for others. It gives you a moment to pause and reflect on your day, tease out thoughts you might not have known you had, and record your experiences. These are all totally fabulous things in their own right, and doing these on a regular basis might (eventually) make you a better writer. But they’re not the same thing that you need to be taking into consideration when you’re writing for other people. When writing for others, you need to think about headlines, subheadings, ease of reading, and how well you convey your message. If you’re not actively practicing writing for others and maintaining the mindset that comes with it, then chances are your improvement will be nonexistent or marginal.

It could also be argued that writing for others makes you more creative, but several other talented bloggers have recently addressed that idea here on ProBlogger, so I’ll just point you towards those posts for that debate.

You don’t have to write an entire, polished post every day. Depending on your schedule, that might not even be possible. But do try do something like writing a post draft or editing another post, just to keep you in the groove of writing for others. You could even make commenting a part of this practice—as has been proven in several ProBlogger posts, commenting is a vital part of growing your blog and your brand. A well-crafted comment makes both you and the blog you left the comment on look better.

Do I think a daily writing practice is vital? Definitely. I also think that bloggers are in the business of writing for other people—so that’s where our focus should be. I still write for myself every day, but now I know better than to fail to put the focus on writing for others every day.

Michelle Nickolaisen is a rainbow-haired writer, blogger, and all-around creative maven making her way in Austin, TX. She writes at Wicked Whimsy about saturating life with constructive creativity, among other topics.

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Comments

  1. I can’t write every day. I don’t have inspiration. So instead I write every two days. Its important not to write many times, its important to write often.

  2. Great insights.I look forward to reading what you’re planning on next, because your post is a nice read, you’re writing with passion. Really, i am thankful for the new things and i have learned reading from your post also picked up some great ideas.Thanks a lot.

  3. I try to write everyday even if it’s just a paragraph since I have three blogs covering three subject I always can switch if I’m having a writers block with one of the subjects.

    • Having 3 blog is a good idea , It certainly give you the option to decide which creative juice flows into writing.On the other hand, writing for others is a good way to improve one post as well.

      Thanks for a another great post

    • Michelle says:

      Switching back and forth between blogs is an excellent idea! Whenever I get stuck on one project, I try to work on something else. It switches gears and lets your subconscious work on the original – usually when I come back to the original project/item, I know what I need to do next.

  4. dotCOMreport says:

    Writing every day is very important for a writer (blogger) but I love this angle you introduced: Write for others everyday. Great advice!

    • Especially if you’re just starting out. Giving away your content and proving you’re worth the time of your community is a good way to boost your profile in the community and traffic to your own blog.

      • Michelle says:

        Definitely; I think it’s important to publish as regularly as possible & provide great content to help build readership and community. Writing every day with the intent of having what you’re working on publish helps to make that happen.

      • Byron Davis says:

        I can not agree more. Even writing one long essay, and then breaking it up into 3 or 4 blog post and scheduling them out over the week. I find that helps. But content that “adds value” to the reader is paramount!

  5. Wayne says:

    Nice to see another Austin writer here!

    Personally I think the reason that the advice “write every day” is given so often is that it IS the most fundamental missing component in most writers list of needed habits. It is always easier to make a daily habit than to make a non-daily habit, but after that habit is acquired then upgrade it by writing for someone else daily.

    Thanks for the good article

    Wayne

  6. Hi Michelle,

    Some interesting facts here, I suppose everyone that takes a good read here is thinking, boy! Does that sure ring true. A lot of us do struggle with writing everyday, I get bogged down with a lot of other things that keep me from posting everyday.

    But I do agree with you, that bloggers should try to keep in mind that they’re writing for other people. It’s good to come across posts like this, just to trigger that mindset again.

    Eamon

    • Michelle says:

      Hey Eamon!

      I don’t post every day, but I do try to write every day or edit writing that will be shown to others. I post about 3-4x a week, so that gives me a nice cushion of content most of the time in case I need to take off writing for a while (like, say, for the holidays!). Thanks for the kind words :)

      Michelle

  7. I think you should write when you are inspired and that may come multiple times a day or none. Don’t write just for the sake of writing.

  8. Cultivating the discipline to practice effective writing on a consistent basis is what’s important, I think. Within that framework there is the flexibility to focus where I’m most productive at that time.

    Thanks for the inspiration!

    Enjoy,
    Christine Hueber

    • Michelle says:

      Yup, I know there’s the great discipline vs. inspiration debate in regards to writing (and creativity in general), but personally, if I don’t actually work at a writing practice, everything goes downhill. Thanks for the comment & compliment, Christine :)

  9. Yeah, I’m down with this Michelle, very much so. I like to call it ‘forced cognition’. In other words, when I write for others, I force my brain muscle to get its tail in gear. And because of this, it learns and grows and gets better at what it does, and in this case, it’s ‘writing’.

    This is also why I keep writing over the holidays. It’s a time of great inspiration. It’s a time of ideas. And I love it for that.

    Keep up the creativity! :-)

  10. Kathy Condon says:

    For the last three months, I have made it a priority to write daily. Now I am posting on my blog at least three times a week. What is interesting, now that I am writing so often, ideas for the next blog pop up consistently. In addition, since I made a decision to make sure my blog continuously contains topics about communication, it keeps me in a define niche that is serving me very well.

    • Michelle says:

      That’s exactly what happens with me, Kathy! When I’m writing a lot & it’s all writing for others, you’d think I’d run out of ideas, but I find myself having more ideas than I can write down. An interesting & definitely positive side effect in addition to the benefits I listed in the post.

  11. I’m unable to write at my usual capacity as I broke my dominant arm before the holidays. Typing with my left hand is getting faster but not fast enough for my brain. I have felt handicapped by this. I am hoping to use this time to explore other mediums for communication and ways of writing. I have also found that starting writing again after a layoff of even a few days to be problematic so am keen not to stop entirely.

    • Michelle says:

      Aww, I’m sorry to hear about your arm, Alison! I’m sure you’ve already thought of it, but you might try doing video or audio posts and either posting them as-is or having someone transcribe them for you (I think it can be done very inexpensively via services like Amazon’s Mechanical Turk) and then posting the transcription. Or there’s voice-to-text software, but I think that’s more expensive. I hope your arm heals swiftly & that you find a way to keep up your writing practice!

  12. Bank says:

    In past few weeks I have been trying to write up something everyday but I soon realised that it was crap I then try to write good ones 2-3 posts a week

  13. Shane Arthur says:

    @Michelle: Online writing prompts provide a great way to bridge the gap between personal writing and writing for others. They are also a great way to crush the blank page. Thing I like the most is they are just…plain…fun. How many copywriters can say they had fun with what they wrote each day? (Click on my name and you’ll see such a prompt site. It’s great fun.)

  14. Andrew Nhem says:

    Interesting post!

    The thing that gets my gears going the most is writing for the sake of solving something.

    It could just be because I’m wired that way, but when I tackle a problem I’ve solved for an employer, all these tangents come out of it, creating even more threads or ideas to riff off from.

    While there are only so many days in a week to guilt your way into writing for, there are plenty of problems and puzzles to open your mind to.

    I wonder if that’ll stimulate anyone’s publishing calendars…

  15. Shaun says:

    It Is Very Aggressive post. Like Other Thousands of posts from Darren. Darren has always proved to be a good learner and a good teacher too.
    I have implemented numbers of techniques from Darren And The Followers on My Blog.
    If some one provide me feedback about my blog and if is liked than, I’ll pay all the credit to Darren The Best.

  16. I feel that writing for others every day is important. If I don’t, I do get out of sorts and it takes a day or two to get back in gear. The longer I don’t write the longer it takes to get going again. Unfortunately, I took off about 5 days over the holidays, so I am trying to get back into the swing of things!
    Bernice
    http://livingthebalancedlife.com/2010/christmas-2010-what-worked-what-didnt/

    • Michelle says:

      I’ll admit, I didn’t keep up over the holidays either and now I’m playing catch up too. Good luck getting back into the groove!

  17. Thanks, I found that helpful. Maybe I’m one of the “others” you’re writing for.

  18. Thank you for this insight. A few months ago, I struggled with trying to find the right writing pace. I write a blog about overcoming obstacles and achieving personal success. Though I love to write daily, many of my readers said the content was often too substantive to process daily. After taking a poll, I decided to cut my blog posts down in size & frequency and add a weekly newsletter that goes deeper. My list is growing quickly and I’m able to choose what I want to write each day (short vs. deep). Everyone is happy.

    Speaking directly to your point, write for others, I wholeheartedly agree.

    Cynthia

  19. Marco Ricci says:

    Writing everyday is not mandatory, in my opinion.

    A lot of “rockstar bloggers” don’t post very frequently.

    But, it’s true, when they write it’s usually something remarkable to others.

  20. If you want to write, then write everyday. If you find that you hate writing, do something else. While this may have demanded an entire career shift, for bloggers, this could be as easy as switching to creating audio or video content instead of written content.

  21. I can’t write every day. I only have inspiration to write once a week, sometimes not even. That’s why I hired writers for my blog, so that I could concentrate on marketing. I could do marketing all my life, every single day, and would never get tired:)) It’s much more interesting than writing.

  22. The Padrino says:

    The more you write the more Google indexes you and I would say for every 1000 blog post expect to receive around 100 unique visitors each day.

  23. Crawlcraft says:

    having more than one blog (2 or 3) and writing daily in all of them means to have no other job. otherwise looks imposibile to me.

  24. Interesting idea. I’m not sure I agree. I think the imperative to write for others every day would get a little grinding for me, but then, I suppose I do it naturally because I do write comments and e-mails daily even if I only do blog content and other for-others’-eyes writing two to four days a week.

    Perhaps a happy medium for people like me who dislike “rules” would be to filter everything you write through an awareness of what someone else would think of it. Even if I’m writing in a private journal, I reach for the best words possible, the most unique phrasing and description. It’s a way to stay on my toes when I DO write for others. So to that extent, I agree with you. If you’re doing private writing and being lazy about it, it’s not doing your writing skills any good.

  25. cd904 says:

    I’m new to blogging.. less than a month in. Right now I am finding it difficult to write everyday. I am getting about 3 times a week.. Im trying but i have to find inspiration. For me right now i think Quality is better then Quantity.. I hope I’m not making a mistake. I’m doing a 90 day challenge starting in January, so I am interested in seeing if writing every day will come easier since I will need to report my progress.

  26. Mitch says:

    That’s interesting. I have 3 blogs, and one of them I write every day, often way in advance, while the other two I’m less active, but still get it done. And it seems the one I write every day is easier because I write about whatever I want to write about, whereas the other two are specific as to topic.

  27. Roberto says:

    I write every day, but I don’t publish everything I write. Some times I just do it to keep ideas flowing.

  28. I find it almost impossible to write every day – therefore when I have time free I will write a “long” post and publish it in say 2 or 3 parts on consecutive days.

    1. Good for search engines – shows me posting regularly.
    2. Brings people back for more – the more they visit my site the more likely they are to become subscribers and then promoters.

  29. I want to write everyday and I have 3 blogs that need writing. First thing in the morning I take a long hot shower and the ideas start popping into my head. Hey, it’s not the most scientific method but it works for me.

  30. Michael says:

    Thanks for the article. I needed some inspiration to step up my daily writing, and the focus of writing for others is a great reminder.

  31. ArgentTree says:

    I’ve got one blog, but I’m covering three or more primary topics. Something that I’ve found to be helpful is my iPhone and the voice recorder function. If I’m strolling around and I have an idea on something that would be fun to write about, I talk about it briefly for the recorder.

    Also- my creativity tends to come in spurts. Sometimes I’ll sit down and write three or four seperate entries, and save them all as drafts. Then I’ll go back, polish them up, add some pics and maybe some youtube content, and then set them to publish one per day. Building up a general buffer, if you will.

    I’m also trying to write for people, not only because I like to write and support their sites, but because I’m hoping that they’ll someday maybe want to write for mine! Building a community is a lot of fun. :-)

    Good posting!

  32. Anto says:

    I find it is dependent on the topic that you are writing on. I stick to a specific genre that I am extremely familiar with (soccer) so it is pretty easy to continually produce content.

    I also find it useful to create draft posts as I think of new areas to be explored!

    Nice post Michelle.

  33. Cher Cabula says:

    Lately I’ve found myself having a “writer’s drought” in my main blog and writing more and more on my personal blogs instead. Thankfully I have chanced upon this post. Hmmm just in time for the new year too, maybe I should develop a new writing habit.

  34. I run multiple blogs, like many others, so I don’t have as much time to guest blog as I would like. That and I am finding more and more blogs in my niches that don’t link back to my blogs (i.e. they use systems where you have to log in). So leaving comments isn’t helping a lot either.

    I want to find more places to spread my site around the net.

  35. Rakesh Kumar says:

    Everyday writing is very hard to me because i give my most time to my job and family.

  36. Nova says:

    Michelle, you could not be more spot on. Ever since I’ve been reading Problogger, I’ve been writing every possible day for others. Reading quality posts here has changed my focus and boosted my creativity. Sure, I still write things just for the fun of it, but now I know how to channel my energy and that’s made a big difference.

  37. chris says:

    I try writing everyday but there are many times that i am drawing a blank, I try my best to write about ways to help other people. I usually write about domains and how to sell actual products and even with these 2 ideas, writing everyday is somewhat hard to do.

    I took your advice and gave it a rest and what do ya know – I am able to come up with better topics, better advice and it IS attracting more readers!

  38. LatestGirls says:

    Writing daily sucks out all the creative juice from a person.

    I want to write daily but then don’t want to compromise on quality :(

  39. GinaMarie says:

    Best advice about writing I have read this year so far. I def see the difference. When writing everyday just for myself it’s fairly easy but I have so much trouble when it comes to writing polish articles. That is because I don’t practice writing in that way so when I do have to write for others my skills are off. That makes a lot more since to me. Thanks for the advice because I will definitely be applying it.

  40. aRttHh says:

    Well, definitely writing everyday doesn’t cut it for me LOL. The thing is that I need to be like, I guess you could say “inspired” or “motivated” by certain subject and then I just let the ideas flow, I know that it may be bad at times because I truly write whatever I’m thinking in the moment, but the thing is that I think there’re different kinds of time for writing, I don’t write in the same way for my blog than when I’m writing for my book. My point is that, I don’t think it has anything to do with writing everyday, the point is to write something that has value for the readers.

  41. Mike Haydon says:

    Great advice Michelle. I’ve changed how I work so I’m writing for others every day. So this post is a timely confirmation I’m possibly on the right track :) Thanks.

  42. Hi Michelle,
    The difference between writing for public consumption every day and just simply writing is massive. I really struggle with hitting publish and my blog ‘cos I think the article’s not quite polished enough. As a result, my WP admin is full of half-finished drafts. One of my 2011 resolutions: to hit publish on my posts a lot more often ;-)

  43. riaz says:

    Thanks, it is good and informative and having good work…….,……. Once again thanks World Pictures

  44. I usually have a a couple of dozen articles in draft (er, just counted, almost 70 in various stages of development – some just one liners or a phrase for the central idea). Sometimes the best way for me to keep writing every day is to be able to skip around and attack what inspires me. When I was serially trying to produce each article, it was often agony.

    I like the notion that well crafted comments are part of our daily writing. More than once I’ve decided not to submit a comment I had written, but instead turn it into a full article for my own site. I also keep in a log most of the comments I write. I find them a great resource for key phrases and notions that I inevitably want to use later.

  45. Betty says:

    These are great points. I have never really looked at it from this point of view.

  46. Ranice says:

    Hi. I just recently started blogging and I see to it that I write quality posts everyday. But then ideas are starting to end and probably in the next few months, Im afraid I would be lacking ideas.

    I’m no writer and what I’m blogging about is definitely new to me.

  47. Gargi says:

    Great advice! The most consistent daily writing I do is journaling, which does not fall into the ‘write for others’ category. Clearly it does not build the writing muscle needed to write professionally. Time for me to try your advice!

  48. Aaron Geiger says:

    I think the crux of this argument is “writing quality work,” and that’s not something that comes every day. Since I’m trying to get a social writing community off of the ground, I have to write constantly; it’s difficult since I’m a grad student and a full-time book editor. I’ve been trying to insert quality “features” in between found material and topical information that is readily passed along. I think when I do write quality work, I learn much in the process, which is why I started doing this in the first place. Anybody out there with me on this?

  49. I would agree with that. I write full-time for a college info company and also for my own travel website.

    Yes, that adds up to a ton of writing a week BUT I have definitely improved my writing SPEED (and not to mention my writing skills). I don’t hem and haw over post. I know I’ve gotten it right the first time. I guess you could say it helps you learn to trust your writing instincts!

    I would also point out that it is important to take breaks and to not feel like you have to work 7 days a week. Pump out the content during the week then give your brain a complete vacation and time to refresh over the weekend (whatever that means for you) so you are ready and on top of things when Monday rolls around!