On Momentum and Consistency for Writers

Photo credit: crdotx on Flickr
Fun fact: I don’t actually write every day, 365 days a year. 

When I’m not first-drafting, my writing schedule looks like this: 

Mon, Wed, Sat: write a blog post. 

Tues, Thurs, Sun: edit and schedule blog post.

Every day (if applicable): work on revisions or edit CP MS. 

Sometimes in between those, I’ll write posts I’m not going to publish any time soon for the hell of it. And sometimes I brainstorm book ideas. And as much as I can, I try to get some reading in, which isn’t technically writing, but it’s related and just as important. 

And yet, despite my relatively lax writing schedule, whenever I see advice out there about writing every day, I share it. And I’ve even said it myself—writing consistently is important. Because it is important. But I think writing consistently might really work best for everyone in slightly different ways. 

When I am first-drafting, my writing schedule is different. Because on top of everything I listed above, I write at least 2,000 words a day, seven days a week, no exceptions until the first draft is complete. 

Same goes for when I’m revising, as I mentioned above—I try to keep it consistent until the task is complete. 

Why? Because for me, what works is momentum. It’s like mental physics—when I stop doing something, it is so much harder for me to start up doing whatever it is again (it’s Newton’s First Law…except in my mind). This applies to just about anything—exercising, reading, and definitely writing. 

That’s why when I did NaNo last year and accidentally wrote 5,000+ words a day the first couple days in a row, I decided to stick with it—the momentum was working for me, but I knew if I let the word count drop a day, then it’d be twice as hard to get back to it. So I didn’t let it drop until I was done. 

But then after fast-drafting, I usually need a break. Sometimes, if I have another project ready to go, it’s a week, but usually it’s a month. And during that break time, I go back to my so-called relaxed writing schedule, which is what I posted above. 

But the thing is, this is what works for me. And while I think consistency is key both to improvement and actually making progress, I think it’s important for everyone to figure out what kind of consistency works for them. Maybe it’s writing five days a week, maybe it’s just all day Saturday, maybe it’s a couple hours Friday-Sunday. 

Or maybe it’s like me—every day in spurts, with break periods in between. 

The point is, everyone works differently, and as long as you make an effort to improve your writing in some way consistently, you’re on the right track. 

Do you write every day? What does a normal writing schedule look like for you? 

Twitter-sized bites: 
Writer @Ava_Jae discusses the importance of momentum and how consistency varies from writer to writer. (Click to tweet
Do you write every day? Join the discussion at @Ava_Jae's blog. (Click to tweet)


Emma Adams said...

I write every day, 1-2000 words depending on the project (I'd love to be more prolific, but I have a tendency to lose momentum if I work for too long on one thing - sometimes switching projects helps!). But I never take even one day off if I can help it, because it makes it doubly hard to get back into it! I spread my drafts out over 2-3 months, but when I'm editing (especially during a major revision), I'll usually stop working on other projects and put a crazy amount of hours into revising intensively. I need to have the whole "big picture" in my head when I'm editing so it's even more important to keep up the momentum, even if people think I'm crazy! :P

Ava Jae said...

I started keeping track of word counts mostly to assuage guilt for feeling like I didn't write enough, but if you don't struggle with that, that's awesome. :)

As for the schedule thing, that's totally understandable—I think our non-writing schedules often dictate how we set up our writing schedules.

My Fridays are my free days, writing-wise. I do whatever I want (even if that's nothing at all). :)

Ava Jae said...

What you talk about is exactly what I meant about momentum. I totally understand what you said about not taking a break, because you're right, oftentimes it is much harder to get back in the swing of things once you've broken your streak. That's why I don't stop in the middle of a project.

Go you! Super productivity for the win.

Tina Fariss Barbour said...

I agree that we should find a consistency that works for us. I tend to try for the every day thing, then I fail and give up. Did you figure out your schedule by trial and error?

RoweMatthew said...

Your way makes a lot of sense. I hate that feeling of trying to struggle back into the routine of regular writing again. A problem I have is that if I have a really good day for writing, the next day I feel I'll never be as good a that last day and it just wears me down.

Ava Jae said...

That feeling you described is exactly why I set a word count goal for myself. I know as long as I've met that goal, I've had a good writing day, and if I surpass it, great, but it's not a requirement. That way, I can avoid the guilt of thinking I didn't write enough. :)

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