A regular writing habit


Your menu for March: My blog  follows on from the quote about writing every day; I’ve had a query about writing a synopsis; there are ten new writing prompts to try,  two more book recommendations and an article on the use and misuse of Sentence Fragments.

Do you write every day? It doesn’t have to be a thousand words on your latest project! Although if it is, that novel will get written so much more quickly! And I don’t think Jane Yolen means that e-mail to your bank manager or the shopping list. But writing something connected with creative writing every day is a very good habit to get into.

            There’s a theory that to be good at anything creative or athletic, you have to put in 10,000 hours of practice before really succeeding*. Using very rough maths, let’s say you’ve been writing for 30 years: that works out at one hour a day for every day of those thirty years (with perhaps a few days’ break). Doesn’t sound a lot, does it? But can you remember when you last devoted a whole solid hour to your writing?

            So often, particularly recently, my writing time gets divided into 10- or 20-minute bursts which isn’t great for continuity or flow. And I’m sure you all, with family and work responsibilities, can say you’ve been there.

            But I am certainly in agreement with that well-worn cliché practice makes perfect.

I’ve been running creative writing classes for the past 17 years and I can definitely say that I’ve seen a huge difference between those who do the weekly exercises, go in for competitions and are forever working on a writing project, and those who do sporadic bits of homework because they “just don’t have the time.”

            What it comes down to, I believe, is your desire. It really is no use saying you want to write a novel if you don’t put in the work on a regular basis. And by work, I don’t necessarily mean Hemingway’s 500 words a day. Brainstorming an idea; creating your plot points; character profiling; researching; blogging; all are areas of creative writing that will build up your skills over the days, months and years. Just like an elite athlete. Practice makes perfect.

Some authors who wrote every day: 

Arthur Conan Doyle     3000    “Anything is better than stagnation.”

Frederick Forsyth        3000    “12 pages a day, 3,000 words, 7 days a week. But it’s the research that takes the time. And yes, I have to force myself to write. Sounds ungrateful, I know.”

Graham Greene            500    “I have always been very methodical, and when my quota of work is done, I break off, even in the middle of a scene.”

Ian McEwan                  600 “I am writing 600 a day and hope for at least a 1000 when I’m on a roll.”

Lee Child                     1800    “I write in the afternoon from about 12 until 6 or 7.”

Barbara Kingsolver     1000    “I wake early with words flooding into my brain. It’s a relief to get to the keyboard and dump them out.”

Happy Writing!


*That theory came from Anders Ericsson, a professor at the University of Colorado, who wrote a paper called The Role of Deliberate Practice in the Acquisition of Expert Performance. His research was based on the work of a group of psychologists in Berlin who had studied violinists.

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