Writing: There is no one size fits all

Hi, SEers! You’re with Mae today for the first Mae Day of June. Summer is the time when I’m the least productive as a writer. I think that’s true of many of us as we become distracted by nice weather and outside activities. The again, maybe you’re highly prolific during the summer. If so, good going, and keep at it. I do a lot of daydreaming, plotting, and jotting story development notes during warm weather, but actual writing time takes a serious hit.

Which brings me to a statement you’ve probably heard more than once:
“To be a writer, you must write every day.”

Nah. I think not.

There is no one size fits all for writing.  As with anything, there are “best practices” for growth, but—especially with a creative endeavor—there has to be wiggle room. We’ve all heard it said, “find what works for you and stick with it.” There’s a difference between only writing when you feel inspired and carving out time to write in an already overflowing schedule. Most of us work regular jobs in addition to writing. If not, we’re all balancing family time, home projects, pets, health/exercise, and more. It’s a lot, so cut yourself some slack, especially when it comes to writing every day.

Chapter 1 message on a white background against view of an old typewriter and paper

For decades, I’ve stuck with a “write on the weekend” schedule. It’s a routine that works for me. I slack off in the summer, but I still use my weekends to plot and make notes as mentioned above. Some writers might consider that sacrilege. I consider it exercising my creative energy in a different manner.

It’s been said that writers pass each day writing or thinking about writing.

Yep. I’ll embrace that one.

I know many writers who write every day and make it a part of their daily routine, just as they make dinner or exercising part of their routine. It works for them. Stephen King is a proponent of writing every day (although Mr. King doesn’t have another job on the side). Whatever your habit or routine, there is no wrong way. As with most things, it all boils down to what works for you. Remember—when it comes to writing habits, there is no one size fits all. Do you agree?

Share your thoughts in the comments below. Ready, set, go!

Bio box for author, Mae Clair

75 thoughts on “Writing: There is no one size fits all

  1. Pingback: Writer’s Lift Wednesday #19 – ArmedWithCoffee

  2. I admire folk who can find a regular writing routine – like writing on the weekends. I tend to write whenever my guilt over not writing gets intolerable 🙂
    I write in bursts; sometimes it’s all go all the time, other times I won’t write for months. I wish I had a more dedicated routine but I just can’t seem to stick with it. Maybe when my debut book is published it’ll push me to write more!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. What a great post, Mae! And, you are right, one size does not fit all. I think your observation about summer being less productive than winter is probably spot on just because of the weather change. But, I do write every day in some form or another. In my “ideal” world, I would write first in the morning, then check email and catch up on social media. But there’s one slight problem. I am obsessive about keeping my Inbox down to a minimum and cannot stand it when it’s overflowing as it is now, with me being gone for two days. So, I think to myself, “I’ll run through email right quick, then open my story.” Well, you can guess how that goes. Down rabbit holes I go. So, I wind up writing what I can before I leave for work at 2 pm and then will often write into the night when I return home. Whatever works for everyone is beautiful! Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I’m the same way about my inbox, Jan. It’s one of the reasons I went to using the Reader in WordPress instead of receiving email notices when new posts are made. It drives me nuts (and seriously stresses me out) when my inbox is overflowing. And going away for a few days or vacation is the worst when it comes to clean-up. Yes, many rabbit holes to go down!

      I like your idea of writing first and then looking at email and social links, Much more productive when doable. Thanks for sharing your writing habits. I love hearing how everyone works differently!

      Like

  4. I loved this post! I’m a creature of habit, so writing every weekday works for me. When my fanny hits chair, it’s time to write. But I belong to a writers’ club, and every single one of us approaches writing differently. We have plotters, pantsers, plantsers, and you name it. And we all write great stuff (yes, I’m prejudiced). And we all do it the way it works best for us. That’s why I often say that I can only share what works for ME. What I do wouldn’t work for some of my best writer friends. And what they do wouldn’t work for me. It doesn’t matter. Each person has to find what works for her/him..

    Liked by 2 people

    • I completely agree with you, Judi….we each need to ferret out what approach works best for us. You’ve clearly done that. I love that the members of your writing group all have different takes on what works for them and what doesn’t. My former critique partner used to write scenes out of sequence as they came to her, then go back and string them together. I’d NEVER be able to do that, but it was her regular manner of writing. It sometimes made it hard for me to critique, LOL, but when she was done she’d have a finished book. I think it’s interesting how we all work differently. Happy writing!

      Like

  5. Super post, Mae! I’m finding my way right now. Two days = two rewritten chapters. With most creative endeavors, I don’t think there is one right answer for all.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Hi, Pete! That is wonderful progress you’re making. Way to go!
      I absolutely agree that we all have to work our writing schedules in our own way. I wish you continued success as you work through your WIP.:)

      Liked by 1 person

  6. No One Size Fits All! Although I love and continue to be inspired by Stephen Kings’ “One Writing,” I do my own thing! Summer is a great time for reading, gardening, watching monarch butterflies journaling and jotting down notes, ideas and an occasional poem. 🙂 Happy Summering! xo

    Liked by 4 people

  7. Great post, Mae. Recent health issues caused me to take pause and reflect on how my days were structured. I needed to reassess everything that had previously worked, and change my priorities. I finally had to acknowledge and accept that the life I once knew had changed irrevocably and that there was no going back there. I had to move forward. I have the freedom of being able to write 24/7 if I choose to. That is a luxury to be sure. But … if my muse has decided to jump a stagecoach and get the hell out of Dodge I simply can’t write at all. Forcing it just makes it sound … forced. Sigh. I sit and stare at a blank page and the frustration hits. (Not a good look). It’s winter here now, and back in my used-to-be days this was my prime writing time. The fingerless gloves are on standby. Now I wait.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Soooz, I am so sorry for the changes you had to face. Health issues will certainly take a toll on creativity so it’s no wonder you’re looking at a blank page. I don’t believe your muse has deserted you, but if your normal routine of writing isn’t working right now, maybe change up your routine. Writing exercises are great way to get the creative mojo flowing again. I know you’ve been posting a few on your blog—I’m determined to play one of these days.

      Or maybe start on something brand new and fresh. Something different that you haven’t tried before. We all have dry spots. I fully believe you will power through this one. I’m sending you good vibes for creative energy and wishes for happy writing! ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I tried setting a schedule for me to write every day, but when I couldn’t write during that time slot, I got frustrated. It was then that I realized that it was counterproductive for ME. So, now I schedule a little time for reading/writing/editing/daydreaming. This takes away some of the pressure but keeps me with some creative space every day. It’s a new schedule, so we shall see if that works better for me. 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

    • Wishing you well with the new schedule, Yvette! You made a good point—sometimes when we set rigorous schedules for ourselves, we also set ourselves up to fail. At least, I know I have. Much better to cut ourselves some slack and work out what does fit into our life instead of trying to squeeze someone else’s idea of production into our day/week/month. I like your pace much better 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  9. I did mostly document and business writing during my last ten years of work. Whenever I tried to write, my words were so formal and rigid. The commute in the LA traffic didn’t help to loosen my brain. I couldn’t write the way I did in my younger age until I was retired. I took a children’s writing course and did quite a few assignments. I just revised one story, had it professionally edited, and hired an illustrator to do the artwork. I’ll see what happens next. I published several children’s book in Chinese when I was in Hong Kong 40 years ago.

    Oh, thank you for having my poetry on your Kindle. It’s my memoir in poetry. 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

    • Miriam, I am delighted to hear you are moving ahead with the children’s book. Commuting in LA traffic must have been horrific. I’m a small town girl, so the thought is also terrifying for me. It would certainly sap my creativity!!

      I look forward to discoing your memoir in poetry (how unique). Happy writing!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Hi Mae, I just contacted the illustrator and asked to see the sketches. He has not responded yet. I hope nothing goes wrong. Two illustrators disappointed me and I even asked one of them for a refund.

        Yes, living in large cities has its disadvantage. There’s too much distraction.

        Thank you for reading my poetry, Mae!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Fingers crossed everything works out with the illustrator, Miriam, It’s terrible you’ve had such bad luck in the past. Remember that “three time’s a charm”. Hopefully that holds true with illustrators 🙂

        Like

  10. I agree with you 100%, Mae. Thank you for this post. There’s no one size fits all in writing. For some years, I wrote every day and published my poetry. When my first granddaughter was born in September 2017, my schedule was changed as I traveled from California to Oregon once a month to see my granddaughter. I’ve been doing that until Covid19. I think authors are in different situations and different stages in their lives. Many have full time jobs that are not involved in writing.

    I think your first quote is an ideal practice, Mae. I felt guilty when I went away from the writing conference and realized that I wasn’t writing 2000 words every day. I took part in the NanoWriMo one year and couldn’t keep up in the final week because of the Thanksgiving family gathering. With family and grand kids as priorities, I settled with your second quote and try to write and think about writing without feeling guilty. I sometimes write in my garden with pen and notebook then transfer to the computer and keep the writing in several folders of WIP.

    Liked by 3 people

    • I think we put too much pressure on ourselves, Miriam, when it comes to writing. We need to cut ourselves some slack when we don’t hit that highpoint of writing every day. Heck, I sometimes go weeks without working on my WIP. I’m coming to realize it is what it is, and I can only do so much. Family takes priority (I hope you can get back to traveling to see your granddaughter again soon).

      My day job sucks a lot of energy from me, and I hope to be more prolific when I retire, but that is still years away. I’m all about embracing the second quote—I may not write everyday, but I certainly think about it. 🙂

      BTW, Songs of Heartstrings is now on my Kindle and my TBR. I’m sure it will bring peace and restoration to my spirit.

      Liked by 2 people

  11. I am one of those who does write every day. It is the only way I can do it. After one thousand words or so on the WIP I’m totally burned. Of course, on top of that is a daily blog that adds a few hundred more. I think maybe it is the pace I’m comfortable with so I stick to it. I do agree a writer does not have to write every day to be a writer. Good post, Mae.

    Liked by 3 people

  12. I am an opportunistic writer, Mae. I write in the early morning over weekends and sometimes during the day, if I can. I write during my lunch hour if I can and in the late afternoons if I manage to finish work at my set finish time of 3pm. If I am not busy at work, I sometimes take a day off and write. I work hours and hours of overtime during my busy periods, often up to 12 hours a day, so I have an arrangement with my company whereby I can take more time off during quiet times. It has worked okay until the last three months of lockdown. It is insanely busy so I haven’t had much chance to write during the week. That is life and I accept it.

    Liked by 3 people

    • I can relate to that Robbie. My field also has insanely busy times and other times that are quiet. During the busy months, I rarely have the ambition to write but I do force myself on the weekends. I only get a half hour for lunch and I use that for blog visits and comments, but on occasion, I may work on story edits. I think it’s a knack of writers to squeeze in time wherever we can. I hope things get back to normal for you soon. I know the lockdown has certainly sapped my creativity,

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Good question, Mae. I am not an everyday writer. I do think about it everyday though:) Summer, as well as the holidays, has a lot of commitments and events to which I give my full attention. I like to think those moments end up in my writing. Have a great writing weekend…or not! Xo

    Liked by 4 people

    • I think about writing every day too, in some form or another, Denise. Like you, summer and holidays tend to exact a toll on my production. I’m going to add this wretched pandemic to that list too, because it’s done a job on sapping my creativity. I am, however, starting to come out the other end—in time for pool season and plotting. Hopefully, I can squeeze some writing time in too 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  14. I’ve felt so guilty about what I should and shouldn’t be doing and it’s hampered my writing. Social media often leaves me feeling drained because it’s like dusting – you never get on top of it, there’s always more of it drifting down, covering the area you’d cleared. I have stacks (literally) of books waiting to be read and I’d like to write reviews for all of them but I could do that every day for at least a year and still not be on top of it. Then there’s the books I’d simply like to read for the heck of it. I’d reached the point recently where I felt guilty taking time off to simply enjoy a book. That’s when I knew I had to change. I’m cutting back on social media and telling myself that it’s fine to snuggle down with a book and forget about everything else for a while. I love my family and my garden and if I’m needed by either of them I immerse myself in the experience and tell myself that my writing is always there waiting for me but I should enjoy these other opportunities when they present themselves without feeling irritated with them because they’re in the way of my writing. Thinking this way has actually eased the pressure I’ve felt and has actually given me the impetus to spend more time at my desk. Everyone’s different. This format helps me but might sound the death knell to the creativity of someone else. Which takes me back to the excellent title of this blog – there is no one size that fits all.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Exactly so, Trish. And I understand your feelings about social media, in particular. Parts of it I love, parts of it, I hate, and ALL of it can be a time suck if you don’t watch out. I do know that if my family, especially my grandkids who are growing up so fast, lived nearby, I’d allot time for things with them over and above anything else, even writing. And as you say, some of the other activities in life inspire creativity, so that when we do have time to write, we are often more productive. Great response, my friend! 🙂 ❤

      Liked by 2 people

    • Trish, I love your comparison between social media and dusting. You hit the nail on the head!

      I do love connecting with my friends online, visiting and reading blog posts, but it does take a lot of time. I disappear offline every weekend. I may pop in now and then on a Sunday evening to try to catch up, but normally I let things go until Monday—which means I have a big backlog waiting for me. And like you I have a MAMMOTH list of books waiting to be read. Reviews are probably the only thing I have a handle on, as I write them within 24 hours of finishing a book. That way, I never have to play catch-up. But I have so many books I want to read, many from friends and indie authors, and others from NYT bestselling authors. It’s hard to juggle everything and still find time to write.

      I like that the changes you’ve made have actually given you more freedom to write. My dedicated time for writing is Sunday afternoons, and for the most part that has worked well for years. I guess it’s just a matter of finding what works for each of us. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts and leaving such an insightful comment!

      Liked by 2 people

  15. Reblogged this on The Write Stuff and commented:

    Do you hold fast to the idea that all writers should–must— write every day? Check out what Mae Clair has to say on this subject in her Story Empire post this morning, and weigh in while there, with your own ideas on this matter. Then, as always, please pass Mae’s thoughts along far and wide so others can consider the question, too. Thanks, and thanks to Mae for a great Friday post! 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  16. I live where it’s broiling outside from late spring through fall. In summer, I’m stuck inside in the a/c, as it will be triple digit temps more often than not, and even early mornings or evenings are too hot for me. So, summer is actually a better time for me to write steadily, IF I were to choose based on outdoor conditions. I don’t, though. I write when I have time, and aim for daily, though that seldom happens.

    I want to write every day. I don’t have decades left in which to tell my stories and improve my craft. But things happen to intervene, and for some time, I got frustrated and angry when I had a day where I didn’t find time to write. Now, what I try to do is accept that some days, I’ll write for several hours, and others, I might not get to write at all. I’m learning to be okay with that, because that’s going to be how it is, and staying upset about it is not good for creativity.

    I agree with you 100%, Mae, that no one size fits all, whether the subject is writing, or pretty much anything else. We have to find what works for us, and then make it happen in our own way. Thanks for a great reminder! Sharing this post!! 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

    • Every time I think I want to retire to Florida, I always think of you talking about how hot the summers are, LOL.

      I can see where summer would be a more productive writing time for you, but as you said, situations can change day to day. I too feel that I want to write every day but the reality is far different for me. And like you, I’m learning to be okay with that. I’m writing something every week but sometimes it comes down to blog posts, book reviews, and critique feedback for friends. Sometimes weeks go by without me adding a single word to my WIP. I do get bummed about that, but then I stop to think about all I HAVE accomplished, and quit stressing about it.

      I’m so glad you enjoyed the post. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts. I love hearing how differently everyone works!

      Liked by 3 people

      • Me, too, Mae. I don’t think there’s a right or wrong way to do it, at least not as far as when you write is concerned. You have to find what works best for you, and be adaptable. And you might find that what works best today is not what will work best in the future, too. Our circumstances do change over time. I enjoyed the post, Mae, and was happy to pass it along. 🙂

        Liked by 2 people

  17. I love this post. I think a lot of people speak in absolutes to make themselves look like an expert. No single thing will work for everyone. I’ve proven that I can be productive by writing on weekends. I’ve learned a few tricks that work for me, but might not work for anyone else. I have a couple of projects to finish up, then I’m planning on takIng a break. I’ll still be storyboarding and trying to come up with new things, and that counts too.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Storyboarding definitely counts. I do a lot of plotting in my head while in my pool, then I scribble notes in a tablet when I get out. I count that toward creativity and potential story ideas, even resolving scenes on a WIP.

      I’m a weekend writer too, Craig. You’ve been very prolific, so you’ve definitely found a system that works! So glad you enjoyed the post,

      Liked by 2 people

  18. My “day job” (and I use quotes because I’m often working well into the evening and sometimes even the night) is as a writer and editor. I’m usually burning the candle at both ends and in the middle. But I can’t go long stretches without a break, either. Lately, I’ve been trying to take time off on the weekends—even from email and social media. It’s done wonders for my mental health. And I don’t think my productivity has suffered much because of it. Since I take the time to decompress and recharge, I move faster during the week, so it all balances out.

    I’m about to finish a massive project, then I’m going to try a different daily process. I’m hoping that works out and helps me be even more productive.

    Before life changed so drastically, I think my least productive season was summer, as well. I liked the slower pace and did enjoy pool time. But I think my least productive MONTH was January. I always get the winter doldrums, and the barrenness of January after the pageantry of December always slows me down. It’ll be interesting to see how I do this summer (without a pool and with a different set of people in the house).

    Thought-provoking post, Mae.

    Liked by 5 people

    • Staci, you know I am a huge proponent of taking weekends off from social media. I’m with you that it does wonders for decompressing and it helps me face the coming week re-energized. I do admit, that Mondays are usually hard because of playing catchup, but those two days of me/family time are worth it. And for the most part, there is usually an afternoon of writing (or story plotting) as well.

      That’s interesting about January. I think I’m probably the opposite. Because of Thanksgiving and the “pageantry of December” (what a great description!), I’m usually feeling pangs from going so long without writing. By the time January arrives, I’m ready to dive in. But I do get winter doldrums too. They usually hit me in February.

      I’m glad you enjoyed the post. And I think you should set designated hours for the day job 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  19. Fully on board with that second quote. Some days you can only think about writing. Others is nothing, but writing. I’ve noticed that nearly every time I run into an author who talks in writing absolutes they bring up Stephen King. Somewhere along the line, he became this patron saint of writing rules. A lot of those people have never read any of his books too.

    Liked by 5 people

    • King definitely makes his thoughts known about writing. I remember reading long ago that the only day he doesn’t write is Christmas. I have yet to read his book “On Writing” but I do have it on my shelf. One of these days I will get to it.

      I’m definitely on board with the second quote too, Charles. It’s how I operate! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • That book was assigned to me in college for a fiction writing course. The genre changed every semester and I happened to get horror, which I had no interest in. Ended up handing the book off to a friend who loves King before the class was even done. I found it interesting, but didn’t like that people take it as gospel.

        Liked by 2 people

      • I haven’t read it yet, so I can’t comment on the content. I’ve heard great things about it, but I don’t take the advice of any author as gospel. We all have to do what works best for us, and what works for King may not be a fit for everyone. Writing every day certainly isn’t a good fit for me. I wholeheartedly disagree with him on that point!

        Liked by 1 person

  20. Breaks are always important. I’ve heard that, too, that writers should write everyday but I think writers need to do what works for them. I agree that it is different for everyone. A good post to ponder ❤️

    Liked by 4 people

    • I am definitely a writer who follows a habit that works for me, LOL. When I had publisher deadlines I put out 2 books a year, which I think is fairly productive for only writing (or mostly writing) on weekends. I did, however, feel a lot of pressure. Now I embrace breaks when I have the opportunity…like summer and the pool 🙂

      Glad you enjoyed the post, Tessa!

      Liked by 2 people

  21. I don’t think we need to write every day to be a writer. We take time off from our regular jobs, why wouldn’t we with writing? I’m opposite in that I tend to get a lot of writing accomplished in the summer. Not that I don’t enjoy the outdoors – I do, but when our temps start to reach the triple digits, I like to be in the air-conditioned indoors during the hottest part of the day.

    Writing or thinking about writing? Totally agree. Fun post today!

    Liked by 4 people

    • Marcia said the same thing about weather and triple digits. Wow! When it’s that hot, it’s miserable.
      Last year we had a week of 100+ degree days and our pool was actually too hot to enjoy. No fun at all 😦

      I’m glad you enjoyed the post, Joan. I love hearing everyone’s thoughts and how they work!

      Liked by 2 people

  22. I used to write every day, and then I needed some down time. So, as a rule, I’ll write Monday through Friday and will take the weekend off. Having said that, I haven’t written anything for a few weeks. I’m reading instead, lols. It feels like a much-needed break. Thanks for the perspective, Mae 🙂

    Liked by 5 people

    • Breaks are good for re-energizing, Harmony. I take breaks from social media on the weekend, and I have a Friday through Sunday break from my “day” job, so why shouldn’t we take breaks from writing, too? And there are many times I have thought I would just love to read, read, read, and be a book blogger. Then, of course, several days go by and urge to write starts screaming at me, LOL.

      Glad you enjoyed the post, and enjoy your reading break! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    • Hi, Cathy! I am SOOO with you about reading. I just realized that although I may not WRITE everyday, I pretty much READ everyday. It’s my way to relax and unwind in the evenings.

      I love being outdoors, too. I’m actually sitting on my covered patio as I type this.

      Thanks so much for visiting and commenting. Sending you wishes for more beautiful, warm days in the UK!

      Liked by 2 people

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