Productivity & Routine / Writing Tips

Writing Every Day vs. Writing When Inspiration Strikes

Should you write every day or only when you’re inspired — it’s a question that many writers, from novices to seasoned authors, often grapple with. On one side, there’s the belief in the discipline of daily writing, a routine that keeps the gears of creativity constantly turning. On the other, there’s the idea that the best writing springs from moments of inspiration, when creativity naturally flows.

Finding the right approach is like choosing the perfect pair of shoes. What works wonderfully for one person might not suit another at all. It’s not just about adopting a routine; it’s about finding a rhythm that syncs with your personal life, your creative process, and your writing goals.

Some writers thrive on the regularity of a set schedule, while others find that their best work emerges spontaneously, in bursts of inspiration. The key is to understand what works best for you and your writing, shaping a routine that supports your creativity and productivity.

Writing Every Day

The philosophy of writing every day has its roots in the belief that like any other skill, writing improves with regular practice. Famous proponents of this approach, such as Stephen King and Ernest Hemingway, have often preached the gospel of daily writing. They argue that the discipline of sitting down to write each day, regardless of mood or inspiration, is essential to honing one’s craft.

This approach does come with a host of benefits. Discipline, for one, is a muscle that strengthens with use. By writing daily, authors develop a routine that gradually becomes second nature, making it easier to tackle even the most daunting projects. Consistency also plays a key role in this. Writing every day keeps the ideas flowing and can help maintain a clear narrative thread, especially in longer projects like novels.

Another significant advantage is skill improvement. Just as a musician practices their instrument daily or an athlete trains regularly, writing every day sharpens a writer’s abilities. It provides continual practice in structuring sentences, developing characters, and weaving narratives, allowing writers to refine their style and voice.

However, this method isn’t without its challenges. Writing every day can lead to burnout, especially if the writer feels compelled to produce a certain amount of work regardless of their mental or emotional state. There’s also the risk of forced writing, where the quality of work may suffer because it feels like a chore rather than a creative outlet. For some, this approach might stifle creativity, making writing feel more like an obligation than a passion. Balancing the discipline of daily writing with the need for rest and rejuvenation is crucial to making this approach work.

Writing When Inspired

Writing when inspiration strikes is like catching lightning in a bottle – it’s about seizing those moments of intense creativity and passion. This approach waits for a spark of inspiration to fuel the writing process, leading to bursts of productive, enthusiastic work. When the muse visits, the writing can feel effortless, filled with a vibrant energy that can be hard to ignite during more structured sessions.

One of the biggest advantages of this method is the heightened creativity it often brings. When inspired, a writer’s work can take on a life of its own, leading to fresh, exciting ideas and passionate prose. This approach also helps maintain a fresh perspective. When not bound by a daily routine, writers can approach each session with a sense of novelty and enthusiasm, which can be especially beneficial for keeping the narrative dynamic and engaging.

However, relying solely on inspiration has its pitfalls. Inconsistency is a major one. Inspiration can be fickle, and periods of high productivity can be interspersed with long stretches of inactivity. This can be particularly challenging for writers working on longer projects or facing deadlines. Procrastination can also creep in, with the lack of a regular routine making it easy to put off writing sessions. Moreover, without the discipline of a regular writing schedule, some writers might find it difficult to develop and hone their skills consistently.

This approach requires a careful balance – harnessing the power of inspiration when it strikes, while finding ways to gently encourage and nurture creativity during quieter times. For some writers, the spontaneity of writing when inspired can be the key to producing their most authentic and engaging work.

Balancing Discipline and Inspiration

Finding a balance between the discipline of regular writing and the spontaneity of writing when inspired is like trying to capture the best of both worlds. It’s about creating a routine that leaves room for those bursts of inspiration while still maintaining a steady progress.

One way to achieve this balance is by setting a flexible writing schedule. Instead of a rigid daily word count goal, consider setting aside a specific time each day dedicated to writing, but with the flexibility to write more when inspiration strikes. This approach can provide structure without stifling creativity.

Cultivating inspiration is another key aspect. Sometimes inspiration needs a little nudge. This can be done through various activities like reading, exploring new environments, or engaging in creative cross-training, like painting or playing music. Keeping a journal or idea notebook can also help, providing a space to jot down thoughts and ideas as they come, which can be developed during scheduled writing times.

Staying motivated and productive is crucial in any writing routine. Setting small, achievable goals can help maintain a sense of progress and accomplishment. Celebrating these small victories can boost motivation. Additionally, joining writing groups or workshops can provide a sense of community and accountability, which can be incredibly motivating.

Another tip is to regularly revisit and adjust the writing routine. What works at one point may not work later. Being adaptable and willing to tweak the routine can keep it effective and enjoyable.

Balancing discipline with inspiration is not about choosing one over the other, but about finding a harmonious blend that works for each individual writer. With the right balance, writers can enjoy the structure needed to complete projects while still experiencing the joy and creativity that comes with writing inspired.

1 Comment

  • Mark Hayes Peacock
    January 30, 2024 at 09:32

    My stories find their essential form between 3 and 5 a.m. Dialogue comes almost unbidden and the initial issue/problem emerges almost full-blown. When I sit to transfer those things to print, a story may suddenly veer in a different direction or a character may do something I don’t expect, but whatever might come out as new usually fits within he guidelines of that early morning “writing”. So what kind of “process” is that? It works, so I don’t need to label it but I’m sure I never could teach it.


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