I have been writing every day for over 8 years. When I first started that daily journey, I thought it would be a road to creating a massive daily output. My goal was to write 1,000 words every day. But here we are, 8 years later, and my daily word count for the last month has been around 300 words per day—which suits me just fine. One of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned from daily writing is that you must write at your own pace.

Hypothesis: Writing More & Writing Faster Is Better, Right?

I didn’t have a big picture idea of why I wanted to write 1,000 words every day. I didn’t really know what that would look like or do for my writing life other than allow me to write more books faster.

I knew authors like John Scalzi and Stephen King write over 1,000 words a day and I felt like that was The Bar. If you wanted to be a pro writer, that’s what you need to do. Write 1,000 words every day. (Write more if you can.) But consistency over 1,000 words is the only way to do it.

(That is a lie, if it needs to be said at this point.)

Experiment: Toxic Thinking Discovered

I knew I’d have to work my way up to writing 1,000 words daily, so I started with a low bar. Each year I raised the bar for the minimum number of words I would write daily. After four years I was up to writing at least 250 words every day, with 500 words met most days. You want to know how many days I wrote over 1,000 words that year? 46. My most productive year, I only managed to write over 1K on 71 days. You know what I learned from this? I can’t write 1,000 words every day!

You know what else I learned from this? Over those eight years I’ve written almost two million words. I don’t need to write 1K every day to be productive.

Thinking you must write any specific number of words (or any specific number of days) to be a “real” writer is simply toxic thinking. If you’re fitting writing in when you can, placing writing somewhere in your priority list, and getting writing done, you are a real writer. There are no other caveats that must be met.

Conclusion: Write at Your Own Pace

Every writer has to figure out what works best for them. Some writers write every day. Some writers spend months thinking and planning without writing a word. Some writers spew forth 6,000 words on vibes.

When you write at your own pace, you can find a natural rhythm that allows you to do the work of writing with as little stress as possible. (I do not say no stress, but less stress, because you’re following your natural flow.) Writing as many words as makes sense to you, saving your energy, devoting your time to other priorities, or generally having a life beyond writing is very necessary! Just because many writers find success using a specific method does not mean you’ll find success from that same method. You have to find the pace and process that works for you.

 

I definitely understood this lesson somewhere around year four of my daily-writing journey, but it’s really hit home recently as I very slowly work on drafting my next novel. Other important things are taking my time and energy, which means I can’t put even 250 words into the novel every day. But I’m getting words on the page when I can and every day I can get 500 or even just 250 words written, I know I’m writing at a pace I can manage.

 

 

For full access to The Write Life and more about what I’ve done to assist with my creative life, sign up on Patreon for $1 or more per month. You’ll also receive a personalized thank you in a future edition of The Write Life.

This month has been chaotic and exhausting! Even though that’s part of the write life, it isn’t the part I feel like commemorating and discussing this month. Instead, let’s talk about upcoming events and where you can find me and my advice in the near future!

Upcoming Workshops

Writing Advice You Can Ignore

Virtual Workshop — Thursday, June 6 at 7pm ET (click to register)

Orange background with squiggly lines and confetti around the text "Writing Advice You CAN Ignore by Alli Martin," one of two upcoming events available online.I’m teaching a new workshop this June called Writing Advice You Can Ignore. Most writing advice is well-meaning but not one-size-fits-all. Because of that less-than-universal quality, some advice can do damage to writers who try to follow it or make those writers feel like “they’ll never be a real writer.” I’ll be covering several common pieces of writing advice to break down why the advice is given, when you should ignore it, and when it might actually help you.

If you’re struggling to feel like a Real Writer because you can’t follow some advice you’ve been given, check out this free workshop to discover it’s not you, it’s the advice.

Time Management for Writers

Virtual Workshop — Tuesday, July 2 at 7pm ET (click to register)

Dark blue background with organized boxes framing the text "Time Management for Writers by Alli Martin," one of two upcoming events available online.About a month later I’ll be sharing one of my newer workshops, Time Management for Writers. This workshop steps you through how to make the most of your writing time and how to prioritize your writing to actually finish projects.

This workshop is great for writers who are struggling when they sit down to write and for writers who are struggling to find any time to write.

 

Both virtual workshops are being hosted by the Orange County Library but are open to anyone from anywhere. When you register at the workshop links above, if you don’t hold an OCLS library card, just skip that part of the registration and know you are very welcome to attend!

Book Launch

But before those other upcoming events, I’ll help helping my friend José with the book launch for his middle grade book Benny Ramirez and the Nearly Departed.

I’m very excited to support my friend who has been an amazing contributor to the writing community. This is truly an occasion to celebrate!

If you’re local to Central Florida, join us in Orlando at the Dr. Phillips Barnes & Noble on Saturday, May 4. The festivities (including a reading and signing by José Pablo Iriarte) begin at 2pm.

 

 

For full access to The Write Life and more about what I’ve done to assist with my creative life, sign up on Patreon for $1 or more per month. You’ll also receive a personalized thank you in a future edition of The Write Life.

Starting a new writing project can be overwhelming. Even when I’m excited, there’s so much ahead. There’s words, time, decisions, commitment—and when I think about how many words it takes to draft and revise a novel or how many things are still undecided or how many hours (and then days, weeks, and months) are between me and the end of my book, it can stall my momentum. So, it’s important for writers to have some idea of how to create writing motivation.

Lack of motivation isn’t the same thing as a lack of desire. I wanted to dive into my novel back in November, but I only managed to work on it for 15 days before the end of 2023. (Which for some of you probably sounds amazing, but as a daily writer, it’s much less so.) Some of those distractions were related to life—the holiday season, illness, commitments to friends and family—but some of it was from a lack of motivation. Luckily, writers can create writing motivation, it just requires some ingenuity, a toolkit, and knowing yourself really, really well.

Create Writing Motivation

Identify the Easiest Goal

Start by identifying the easiest goal that will also make you feel good about your progress. There are three rules to follow when identifying this easiest goal:

  • Choose something you can achieve every time you sit down to write.
  • Choose something that also gives you room to exceed your goal.
  • Choose something that will feel like progress.

For example, if you usually write 250–300 words when you sit down to write, your easiest goal might be to write 100 words on your novel every time you write. 100 words is less than you normally write, so you know it’s achievable, and since you normally write more, you have room to exceed your goal and feel great about your progress. And just imagine the day you write 500 words. That’s five times your usual goal! Now that’s a lot of progress.

Goals you might consider include:

  • word count
  • time spent writing
  • completing scenes or beats

Track Your Habit

Record each time you meet your writing session goal. You can use any kind of tracker you like but use something that will create writing motivation.

Physical or visual trackers can be good for seeing how small progress grows. You can mark days on a calendar, fill in blocks on a bullet journal, award yourself stickers, or use an app with a visual component (various graphs and chains are common in tracker apps).

It can also be helpful to have a tracker that automatically accumulates your progress. Like, a word count tracker where you fill in daily word counts, but the tracker informs you of how many total words you wrote and on how many days you worked. That data can help motivate you on future weeks and months to challenge yourself to reach a little further—or it can let you off the hook, so you know you’ve got padding for any rough days ahead.

Break Your Plan into Manageable Chunks

Stop looking at your novel as writing and polishing 100,000 words, or even as writing 30 chapters. Don’t think about working on your novel for three hours every day for eight months (or the end math on that being 720 hours).

Start with that big picture, and then break it into smaller and smaller chunks until you find the chunk that sits comfortably in your head and motivates you to write.

You might need to break your novel into:

  • which chapters you’ll write each quarter of the year
  • which chapters you’ll write each month
  • how many scenes you’ll write each month (or week)
  • how many words or hours you’ll write each week (or day)

How you divide your plan into chunks doesn’t have to match your easiest goal—and may help if it doesn’t! Keeping an eye on time for your easiest goal and word count for your plan can provide multiple ways to create writing motivation. If you don’t have twenty minutes to write today, but you can quickly slap together your planned landmark of 200 words, you’re more likely to write than assume it’s a wasted writing day.

The Key to Motivation

The real key to learning how to create writing motivation is to give yourself as many motivators as you can. Word count goals, time goals, scene or chapter or date goals can all help move you forward—as long as they speak to you.

You might rely on a few rewards or prizes along the way, too. Some days that negotiation for a hot chocolate if I write 500 words is the thing that gets me from 437 words to over 500.

Accountability buddies, social media check-ins, and other ways of reporting your progress to someone can also create writing motivation. Knowing yourself, knowing what motivates you, and adapting other people’s suggestions to what you know will help YOU create writing motivation is the difference between starting your project and finishing it.

 

 

For full access to The Write Life and more about what I’ve done to assist with my creative life, sign up on Patreon for $1 or more per month. You’ll also receive a personalized thank you in a future edition of The Write Life.

I made a difficult decision this month to break the chain. After struggling to find the time and energy to work on my novel in any kind of meaningful way, I took a hard look at my writing life. I assessed what my days were like, what my stress levels were like, and why I kept putting off writing. I looked at my motivations and distractions and my goals. My precious, precious goals.

I’ve been writing at least 250 words every day, and after five years I decided it was time to break the chain.

Evolution of a Goal

When I first set the goal of writing 250 words every day, it was a path to a specific end goal. I wanted to move from being a daily writer to someone who writes 1,000 words every day.

I got it in my head from reading the habits of prolific and successful authors that the only way to “Make It” was to write 1K–2K every day. Which I was not doing. (Which I currently have no hope of growing into either, but we’ll get to that.)

My first steps on this path had gone well. I transformed myself first into someone who wrote daily, and then into someone who wrote at least 100 words a day, and then into someone who wrote at least 250 words a day. And most days I wrote more than that!

The original plan was to continue to up that goal every year—or whenever the minimum word count seemed “too easy”—but then I had a reality check.

Reality Check: Getting Intentional

So, like, writing a minimum of 250 words every day is fine. I was able to write 250 words when I was distracted by DragonCon, sick with covid, depressed, throwing up from a food allergy, and in many other really sucky situations.

But many of those times when I was writing those 250 words under less-than-ideal circumstances, I was also not writing intentionally.

I had fallen into the trap of writing literally anything to not break the chain—and then amassing starts of projects I was never planning to continue (mostly because they were babbling for the sake of word count).

I made the decision to write from a project list or with a specific project series in mind (like Writer Resources posts). And things got better. For a year or two. But I still had a problem.

Break the Chain (When It Binds You)

Whenever time was short, my stress was high, my mental health was low, my exhaustion had a vice grip on my brain—I wanted to write the easy words and keep putting links in the chain of 250 words a day.

“Easy” writing for me often equates to nonfiction posts or presentations about writing. In the last year, while I’ve been suffering another round of severe depression and heightened anxiety, I have written way, way more blog posts than fiction.

I have a specific end goal in mind again—a different goal than trying to write 1,000 words a day (which I have also given up as crazy-pants-thinking I don’t need in my life)—that goal is to write a draft of a novel. While writing 250 words a day would help that goal, it’s too much pressure right now.

At the start of a project, while I’m hemming and hawing, questioning my decisions and direction, and just figuring it all out, I don’t need the added pressure of making sure I’m hitting a daily word count. And trying to hit that daily word count was preventing me from putting time into my novel because I knew those weren’t easy words, I wouldn’t hit my 250 goal, and stress! Not writing! Ahhh!

And that, my friends, is why it’s time to break the chain. I have moved away from the original goal, the revised goal is no longer serving me, and it’s time to find some new habits to help support the writer I am today.

(But, uh, still a daily writer… FOR NOW.)

 

 

For full access to The Write Life and more about what I’ve done to assist with my creative life, sign up on Patreon for $1 or more per month. You’ll also receive a personalized thank you in a future edition of The Write Life.

The end of the year is a time for reflection. For writers, that reflection often includes taking assessment of how many things we published or finished, or maybe how much progress we made in a novel—or if you’re an industrious little tracker (like someone around here), how many words, hours, or pages you wrote over the year. Inevitably that reflection turns to the future and to setting writing goals.

Writing goals for the new year should be set on your previous goals, the progress you made, and what your priorities are now. Frequently I’ll look back on goals I made and realize I didn’t even remember setting those goals, which means I did nothing about them over the year. (And ultimately means they weren’t actually that important to me and I probably should have set different goals.)

Let’s talk about how to set better writing goals that support our long-term writing hopes and short-term realities.

Setting Realistic Writing Goals

Define Your Priorities & Reality

Before you start dreaming up writing goals, you need to decide what’s important to you. While that should include what’s important to you about your writing life, it should also consider everything else about your life.

If spending more time with your kids or learning how to knit has become an important part of your life, you need make time for it. Balance your writing goals against your other goals and priorities so everything fits together.

Your writing goals don’t always have to be about doing more. Sometimes making a writing goal to write for only 1 hour per week, or to write 100,000 words fewer than last year, or to write 1 novel instead of 3 is the right call. You’ll feel more successful when your goals match your reality, and you can check them off instead of continuing to shuffle them to next year.

Limit Your Goal List

One of the mistakes I’ve made in the past is trying to tackle too much at once. A list of writing goals that is ten items long has at least six things that will be forgotten or ignored. It’s too hard to focus when there are too many goals, and it’s too easy to forget what you’re not actively working on.

Three or four focused goals that meet your priorities and reality are more powerful than ten goals you wish you could achieve in a perfect world.

Subjective & Objective

Many writing goals are objective:

  • Did you finish your novel?
  • Did you write 200,000 words?
  • Did you write every day?

Those goals all have an easy yes or no answer, and you can check your progress throughout the year and have a good idea if you’ll achieve your goal. (For example, if you need to write 100,000 words in October to meet your word count, you can probably assume you’re not going to make it.)

While it’s good to have a goal you can measure, in a creative life it can be demoralizing if you realize you won’t reach your goals. When you know your goals are out of reach, it can be harder to make any progress toward them, which defeats the whole purpose of writing goals!

Instead of basing all your goals around objective metrics, include some goals with a subjective component. These goals might include something about craft development, your mindset toward writing, or how you feel about your work in progress. What’s something you want to change about your writing life or process? What’s a goal you can set to put you on the path to the change?

Writing Goals

Taking this advice, here are my four writing goals for 2024.

  1. Write 200,000 words.
    It’s me, you knew there would be a wholly objective word count goal.
  2. Complete a novel draft.
    The planning is complete, and the draft has started! If you want to follow this journey in detail, check out the Behind the Novel tier on Patreon. I’ll be talking all about my novel writing process (successes, frustrations, and failures) over the course of the year.
  3. Clear more mental space for writing.
    I’ve been working on getting my physical space more organized in an effort to declutter my mental space. I want a physical space that lets me drop my baggage and focus entirely on my work. While there are some objective elements to this goal, how much mental space is cleared is definitely a subjective assessment.
  4. FOCUS.
    If I do nothing else, I want to focus on what’s in front of me and not let other projects or ideas distract me—even if they’re really cool! (I do have some leniency for other projects that have been sitting on the burners, but the most time and focus over the year needs to be on the novel until it’s got a full draft!)

So, that’s what I’m working on next year. What are your writing goals for 2024?

 

 

For full access to The Write Life and more about what I’ve done to assist with my creative life, sign up on Patreon for $1 or more per month. You’ll also receive a personalized thank you in a future edition of The Write Life.

Saying you’re going to write a book is easy. So is deciding to write 250,000 words this year. It’s also easy to say you’re going to write 1,000 words every day or get a story published. Writers have no trouble setting goals—the difficult thing is taking actions that will actively support your writing goals.

I’m great at making goals and getting distracted. It’s not that I forget the goal I made—I’m just really good at finding other interesting projects that demanded my attention, time, and energy. In some ways it’s a form of procrastination. There could also be a little self-doubt or imposter syndrome worming their way in there if the goal I set feels bigger than what I think I can accomplish. Whatever the underlying cause of the distraction, I wind up working on things other than my intended goal.

So how do you support your writing goals instead of getting distracted?

Support Your Writing Goals

Keep Your Goal Centered

A sculpture of a hand supporting a tree that is growing lopsided, much in the way that you need to support your writing goals using whatever props you can.

Photo by Neil Thomas on Unsplash

The first thing is to keep your goal centered within your writing practice. If you’re planning to write a book, set daily, weekly, or monthly targets to help you achieve that goal. Those targets can be the number of hours you work on the book, the number of words you write, or some other measurement of progress.

Give the book pride of place in your writing schedule. Devote the most time and energy to that book. If you have other writing obligations (most of us do), try to either work on your book first or devote more quality time to your book on another day.

Ignore Distracting Opportunities

Don’t take on other time- and energy-consuming projects that are unrelated to your goal. If your goal is to get a short story traditionally published in a magazine, don’t work on a novel. Devote your time and energy to reading and understanding and writing short fiction.

Becoming a slush reader for a magazine can help you with your research in that regard—it can give you an insight into what publishers are looking for in a short story within your genre. But agreeing to review novels won’t support your short story publishing goal. (And at some point, you might want to give up that slush reader job to focus on your own writing.)

Goals Take Time

Goals take time to achieve. Remember, it’s easy to list your goals, but it’s much harder to achieve them. Even the fastest novel drafters don’t show up to the page with an empty mind. They’ve spent time thinking about the story, if not writing down their planning.

Give yourself space to focus on your goal and work toward it a little at a time. If you have a deadline, set landmarks to help you get to your goal. If you don’t have a deadline, find other landmarks or ways to ensure you’re working toward your goal and making progress.

And progress does not mean 1,000 words a day, even if that’s your goal. Progress can mean writing 250 words per day for three months, and then upping that daily word count. Give yourself time to get there!

Adjust Your Behaviors or Responsibilities

If you’re able to, adjust your behaviors and responsibilities to align with your goal and focusing your time and energy on that goal. Instead of reading only fiction in your downtime, read books on novel writing or publishing. Instead of blogging those novel reviews, blog about short story reviews.

Or if you have a Patreon and are shifting your goal to writing a novel, maybe change one of your reward tiers to talk about the novel writing process. (Which is what I’ve just done—details at this link!)

If you have other writing responsibilities you normally perform, consider how they can work to support your writing goal, and then shift them so your goal is centered in your writing life.

 

Achieving your writing goals is possible, but first you have to support your writing goals! Look at the other things you do and ask, “how is this going to help me meet my goals?” Make sure you give yourself time and energy to devote to projects and tasks that will help you make progress. And while you’re doing all that—give yourself the grace to make a misstep and course correct. Adjusting your schedule, expectations, and focus is all part of the writing process!

 

 

For full access to The Write Life and more about what I’ve done to assist with my creative life, sign up on Patreon for $1 or more per month. You’ll also receive a personalized thank you in a future edition of The Write Life.

If you’ve been following along for the past year, you already know I’ve been taking a long break from novel writing to take care of my parents. With the major illnesses under control, and adjustments and new routines established, I can finally inch back into novel writing. This means refamiliarizing myself with plans, getting back into the characters’ voices, and figuring out what’s been percolating in my head while I’ve been away. In short, it’s a novel writing return!

I know I’m not the only one who’s been in this situation—coming back to a novel after a long (sometimes years long) break—so I wanted to share what I did this month to reconnect with my novel.

Take Stock Before Writing

The first step is all about taking stock and figuring out where you left off. For this novel, it included reading over the outline and making notes where the plot seemed a little draggy. (Turns out in the two years away, the outline did not magically fix itself.)

I have many different parts of this story drafted, but since I’m working from a new outline, I decided to not bother rereading any drafts. I will be incorporating things from previous drafts, but I think I’d prefer to revisit those as I get to each scene since my outline is so detailed.

I also discovered I created a writing schedule, which will help with the next step….

Update the Novel Plan

Updating the novel plan starts with updating the outline. I only had a few notes to address in the opening chapters, but they required shifting scenes and chapter breaks, which also created a need to update the story map. (The story map is a document that tells me who is in each scene, where it takes place, and which plot threads it involves.)

The novel plan also includes plans for how to write the novel, specifically what my writing schedule will be. The schedule I previously devised had me writing 3–4 scenes per week, and while I aspire to that level of productivity, it’s just not realistic with my other obligations.

Instead, I looked at the estimated word count of each scene and then doubled that number (because I know the chaotic, word-heavy way I draft). Keeping a realistic goal in mind, I decided I am unlikely to write more than 4,000 words per week, so that base schedule has me writing 1–2 scenes per week.

Renewing Voice

Reconnecting to a novel includes reconnecting to the characters. Because it’s been a hot minute since I wrote anything substantial for these characters, I wanted to reacclimate myself to their voices. I picked a few moments and various character combinations to write about and went at it!

Making my novel writing return by starting with some odd moments let me approach the writing at a slower pace while I was still finishing plan adaptations. It also meant I could test some of my plans to see how much I can actually write on a busy day with my new routines and schedules.

Novel Writing Return!

The hardest part of the return is to stop dawdling and get writing. That means officially writing a scene that will—gulp—go into the novel.

So that’s for next month! 😅

(Seriously, updating the outline and story map took longer than I originally thought it would—but no regrets about that time spent! For me, the planning stage is important to keeping my brain on track and untangled as I draft. Other writers struggle with the planning and revision; my writing struggle is drafting.)

I am coincidentally starting my draft in November, though not doing NaNoWriMo. Anyone else setting ambitious writing goals outside of a challenge structure?

 

 

For full access to The Write Life and more about what I’ve done to assist with my creative life, sign up on Patreon for $1 or more per month. You’ll also receive a personalized thank you in a future edition of The Write Life.

Ask a publishing professional what you should write next, and they’ll never tell you. “Write what you want to write,” they’ll say. They might say writing what you want will produce better results, or that no one can guess a trend. But there’s another aspect I’ve never heard someone say but am now realizing is essential to the creative process: You have to trust your gut.

Trusting your gut as a writer applies to many different aspects of the creative process. You have to trust your gut when you’re drawn to write your next project. Or when you’ve chosen a weird name for your main character. Or when your characters go off your planned course, but it feels inevitable and right in your gut.

There’s also a point when all your research looking for the right home, agent, or editor for your manuscript ends, and you just have to trust yourself to make the right choice. Sometimes you just feel good about something, so you send your email off into the world because it feels like the right time, the right person, and you hope.

That hope is part of the publishing process, too. It’s the thing that keeps writers going after a stack of rejections and years of work and refinement. It’s what pushes writers to write the next thing, submit the next story, and do it all again, despite the difficulty, frustration, and feelings of failure. But we keep going because something in our gut keeps pulling us forward, and we keep trusting it to lead us in the right direction.

I’ve been too in my head about writing recently. I’ve been too caught up in the “right way” to start a novel. Too busy analyzing where to best spend my time. Too lost thinking about writing instead of slapping words on the page like a writer. I haven’t been spending much time listening to my gut, and that has got to change.

I’ve had a lot of distractions this month (mostly in the form of covid), so I haven’t made much progress on this change, but knowing what my next steps should be is making me feel more confident about my writing future.

How about you? Do you trust your gut when it comes to writing? Any suggestions on how I can get better at trusting my gut again?

 

 

For full access to The Write Life and more about what I’ve done to assist with my creative life, sign up on Patreon for $1 or more per month. You’ll also receive a personalized thank you in a future edition of The Write Life.

This month has been A. LOT. There’s no other way to describe it, honestly. When life becomes a lot, there’s often nothing you can do about it except hold on, ride through, and hope you can figure out how to get some writing done while everything else is happening.

Many other writers would (and should) take a break from writing when faced with all the chaos and uncertainty I dealt with this past month. I find solace in maintaining my writing streak and keeping one element of my life somewhat steady, so I continued using daily prompts as a low stress way to take a break from writing while continuing to write regularly.

I also made progress drafting a new writing workshop about how to evaluate writing advice and decide what fits your life and what can be discarded. (Look for that in 2024.)

And I spent my time not stressing about life to stress about getting ready for DragonCon—which is happening right now!

If you’re hanging out around Atlanta, you’ll be able to find me at these fine panels over the weekend (schedule subject to change, as is the will of DragonCon):

FRIDAY

    • 11:30AM Stargate: The TV Movies and Beyond
    • 2:30PM Coping Strategies in Military Sci-Fi Media
    • 7:00PM It Was Kang All Along

SATURDAY

    • 11:30AM Mythology and Religion in the Worlds of Stargate
    • 7:00PM BFFs in the MCU

SUNDAY

    • 8:30PM Firefly: It All Comes Out in the Wash

MONDAY

    • 11:30AM Titans: Brother Blood
    • 2:30PM Guardians: Rocket’s Story

I’m on exclusively fan-focused panels this year, though I’m sure I’ll discuss some writerly worldbuilding during the mythology and religion panel, and I’ll be talking about the importance of relationships in action stories while discussing Marvel friendships, and I’m already planning a little English 101 exploration of protagonists to lead off the panel on Rocket Raccoon. (They may be fan panels, but I always bring my writing game.)

If you are someone who follows me on the internet and are able to find me at DragonCon, don’t be shy about saying hello. I’m always happy to chat with fellow writers and nerds.

 

 

For full access to The Write Life and more about what I’ve done to assist with my creative life, sign up on Patreon for $1 or more per month. You’ll also receive a personalized thank you in a future edition of The Write Life.

No daily writer even wants to think the word “burnout.” But at the end of June someone directed that word at me, and I had to accept that part of my recent problem is related to burnout.

It was pointed out that the last year has been, um, stressful. Putting my career on hold to take care of my family was one kind of stress, but then coming back to my job with my hair on fire, desperate to jump in and make things work better was another kind of stress on top of that. Add to that daily struggles, my own chronic illnesses, isolation and loneliness, and the state of the world—it’s been a lot. So, yes, I am burned out, even if it’s not the creative burnout I fear. (And that’s not to say that all the other burnout isn’t sapping my creative energies.)

I decided to take the end of June to clear my plate, so I could spend as much of July as possible relaxing and refueling.

There was one problem with my plan—I’m a daily writer. I can’t stop writing. So, if I’m not working on my novels, short stories, or anything else that is “for work,” what can I write while still taking this very necessary break?

A Writing Break for Burnout

I decided the solution was daily prompts.

I obviously enjoy writing to prompts and had first thought to dig into my vast resources and pre-select a few that jive with me. But that might feel a little too much like what I do monthly on Patreon and might encourage me to “do something” with whatever I write. The point right now is to not do anything. To keep up my writing practice without trying to set a goal, make something perfect, or even refine it in any way. If I stumble across an idea I want to develop later, great, but everything I’m writing currently should come with guilt-free disposability.

I downloaded an app promising daily prompts and resolved to use them regardless of how much I liked the prompt on its own. And the results? Have been pleasantly surprising!

Knowing whatever I write is meant for My Eyes Only has provided much more freedom than I usually experience while writing. I haven’t needed to worry about coherence and can jump from thought to thought or moment to moment without trying to find a transition or make a note to figure it out later

There’s also no pressure to write anything of substance or quality because no one is going to see it. I don’t have to release it for any audience or please anyone with what I’m writing. Everything can suck! There are no right answers! These are just words to keep my writing streak alive and keep myself connected to creativity!

Having the rule to write to every prompt, even if it’s not one that really engages me is another form of freedom. The first question I ask the prompt is “what will I do with it?” instead of “do I want to do something with this?” That subtle twist of language shifts my focus from me to the writing (and from the future to the present) and has allowed me to write something for every prompt.

Bonus: because I’m not editing and am just putting words on a page, I can complete my 250-word daily minimum in 10 minutes without any fuss!

More and more I’m feeling like using a daily prompt randomly supplied might serve as a good warm-up for my normal writing routine or as a way to reconnect when I’m feeling out of sorts. Has anyone else tried using daily prompts like this? What’s your experience been like?

 

 

For full access to The Write Life and more about what I’ve done to assist with my creative life, sign up on Patreon for $1 or more per month. You’ll also receive a personalized thank you in a future edition of The Write Life.