I recently came across this quote by Ray Bradbury:
“Just write every day of your life. Read intensely. Then see what happens. Most of my friends who are put on that diet have very pleasant careers.”
So, what’s on your diet?
When it comes to dieting, we’re usually encouraged to look at:
- How often we eat,
- How much we eat, and
- What kind of food we’re eating.
The same holds true for our writing and reading diets. So for the next two weeks I’m encouraging you to take a closer look at your writing and reading habits.
Of course, it goes without saying that everyone is different. The diet that works for you may not work for me and vice versa. The principle is the same for writing routines and reading choices.
The trick with dieting (as well as reading and writing) is to tailor your habits to your own needs. This week we’ll look at the different aspects of a good writing diet. Next week we’ll tackle the reading diet. As we go, think about the tweaks you can make to your writing and reading habits to increase your creative output.
The first thing with any writing routine is working out how often you write. Most writers recommend writing daily in order to get into a good rhythm. But there are some writers out there who write less frequently What about you?
No matter whether you write every day, every second day, or only every week, the important thing is to make sure you are writing regularly. Why? As Ray Bradbury pointed out in his quote, this is a diet. Binge eating doesn’t work for your body, so binge writing doesn’t usually work well for your Creativity or your mind.
No matter when you plan to write, make sure you have a specific time and place in mind. Schedule it into your calendar or set yourself a reminder on your phone. If you only write when you feel like it, then it’s too easy for other things to take the place of your writing. Make an appointment with your writing and keep it!
What about how muchyou write? Some writers stick to word counts. Other writers prefer to set a time limit. How do you decide how much you will write?
Whichever method you use, you want the amount to be achievable, something you can manage on a regular basis. Getting into a routine is hard, and there will be days when you miss your writing goal for whatever reason. Melissa Dinwiddie describes her goals as “ridiculously achievable” because they are easy to do every day and easy to return to if she misses a day.
Setting a goal for yourself means you can measure your success and improvement. You may start out with a goal of writing 100 words a day. Gradually that goal may increase to 500 and then 1,000. It’s great to have an overall goal of reaching a certain amount of writing a day, but remember to work you way up with achievable goals that you can realistically accomplish during each writing session.
Now, what kind of writing are you doing? Short stories? Novellas? Novels? Poetry? Songwriting? Are you writing romance? Science-fiction? Comedy? There are so many different writing forms and genres. Are you taking advantage of them?
A healthy diet encourages you to eat a variety of foods. So too a healthy writing life involves variety and even experimentation. We all have our favourite writing forms and subjects, but stepping outside our comfort zone from time to time not only allows us to learn and grow, but can also lead to very pleasant surprises. You never know whether you’ll enjoy something or not until you give it a go.
For example, I used to love writing novels and had no interest in short stories until several years ago. A friend of mine organised a “writers’ day” and requested each writer bring a short story with them. While preparing my contribution, I discovered I loved writing short stories and have greatly enjoyed writing them ever since.
Don’t rule anything out until you’ve tried it. You might discover a brand new outlet for your Creativity.
So, to recap, no matter what kind of writer you are, the writing diet goes as follows:
- Write regularly.
- Write achievable amounts each session.
- Use variety and experimentation in your writing.
Now I hand it over to you. What kind of writing diet works for you?
April 29, 2014 at 9:24 am
Tend to write 1,000 words a day, and then determine roughly 16 days. A take a short break on the ninth day, and then continue whenever I feel up for it. Generally I stay offline for an hour or two, though I don’t have the time set at the moment. But that’s to avoid be overwhelmed by constantly flooding twitter data.
April 29, 2014 at 12:36 pm
Good point, Sarah. Staying offline while writing can be very helpful, otherwise it’s too easy to be carried away by all the interesting things on the net. My own daily word count jumped once I decided to close my e-mail while writing.
April 29, 2014 at 3:16 pm
Well in my case its self-esteem. I tend to way lose it if I’m on for to long.:/
I’m deliberately pacing myself to 1K. Otherwise I’d go up to 3K, and then lose steam.
April 29, 2014 at 4:33 pm
Pacing is very important! Sometimes doing too much one day can wipe out your writing the next. It sounds counterintuitive but I’ve experienced it too. 1k is an achievable and repeatable goal. 🙂
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