Today I had what I would consider a “good” writing day. It’s a day when the words come easily, and I am able to spill a scene onto the page. That said, I didn’t do a ton of inventive writing today; it was mostly rewriting an old scene, adding a little to it, and editing what was already there. I don’t know if what I ended up with is actually “good” writing, but I could clearly see that I made progress. I began the day on page 42 of my manuscript and left around page 64. That felt good.
On some good writing days, I am able to write an entirely new scene from scratch, and often it comes to me as though from someone or somewhere else. That’s when the muse strikes, I suppose. It’s certainly not every day that happens — in fact, I would say it’s a rare occurrence! If I’m lucky, it might strike once a week. But days like that serve as reminders that I am a good writer. That’s not to say I am necessarily producing my best work or that writing isn’t tough or that I don’t have a whole lot to learn. It’s just that sometimes, once in a while, writing feels natural to me. It’s why I consider myself a writer.
On the other hand, I have plenty of days that I want to call “bad” writing days… but I’m working on that label. These are the days when the words don’t rush to meet me, and I have to labor at every sentence. My habit is to give up on these days, to quit after a paragraph or two and figure it’s just not a good writing day.
But I’m trying to work past that. I believe that to be successful as an author, I need to write consistently. That doesn’t mean I’ll never take a day off. I’m sure there will be days when life or my own emotions get in the way of my writing, and I need to take a personal day because the words just aren’t coming. Every artist needs to refill the well sometimes. But the vast majority of those days when words don’t come naturally, I simply need to stick with it.
To accomplish this, I will be writing in sprints. When words are flowing, I like to write for at least 45 minutes at a time — and sometimes I can type away for a good two hours. On those days, I don’t think I need to worry about sprints.
But on slow days, when the words are shy, I will write in blocks of time and give myself a break after each block. I am thinking 35 minutes might be the ideal block of time for me — enough minutes to settle into my writing session, yet still short enough that it’s not intimidating. I can do anything for 35 minutes, right? And then I get my break. I might need to give myself a reward during those breaks, such as a YouTube video or a cup of coffee. Whatever it takes (as long as it’s not too unhealthy), so I can keep pecking at my keyboard and produce something. Anything, really.
I won’t worry about my word count on those days. I won’t worry about quality, either. The point is to dedicate myself to the process of writing.
I’ve done this before, in fact — stuck with my writing even when I’m not feeling it. Not often, but enough that I have had breakthrough days where I ended up feeling inspired after trying to write. It’s like my muse just needed to realize that yes, in fact, I was going to write that day; it was late to the appointment, but it showed up when it saw I was serious.
Those still tend to be slower days for me. On a truly good day, I might write 5,000 words in an afternoon. On a breakthrough day, where my muse finally comes, I might start with a rather bleak 750 words followed by a sharp 1,500. That makes me happy.
But even if the day stays slow, I won’t mind. As long as I complete my sprints for the day, sitting in my chair with my fingers at the keyboard, I’ll consider the day a success. It might only be a 500-word day or a 1,000-word day, but that’s okay. Every little bit is progress, and there’s always time to edit later down the road.
If you are a writer, do you have “good” and “slow” writing days? How do you handle them, and do you ever let yourself off the hook for the day?