Recently, I’ve brought up the fact that my progress on my novels went up significantly when I ignored that “true authors write every day” advice and stopped trying to make myself write in every spare moment that I had.
Now, this article is not here to say that you can just shrug your shoulders and never push yourself to make progress — because you DO have to write to finish a story, and that means you have to make writing a habit. That might require you to write even when you’re not 100% inspired and raring-to-go.
What I am saying is that that guilt-tripping yourself for not writing enough is antithetical to the writing process as a whole. There are much healthier ways to get yourself writing again, which I’ll cover in another article in the future.
So for today, here are some reasons why you might want to slow down, stop with the self-flagellation, and take a good look at how you approach the pace of your writing.
One: You spend less time rewriting plot beats you didn’t give yourself enough time to think on.
My typical mantra is that some writing is better than no writing, but there’s an exception to every rule, and this is that exception.
If something isn’t working, and you force it anyway, the end result is not usually work you’re proud of. It’s work that you’re going to look back on and groan quietly to to yourself about as you realize that you need to restructure, rewrite, or remove the whole chapter.
(You don’t want to know how many chapters I had to move, remove, or delete from Shadow Herald when I was rushing on it. Too many.)
A lot of authors will joke about how daydreaming is a part of the writing process, but they’re not far off the mark. There are a lot of very good epiphanies to be missed by rushing ahead without thinking first. My best writing usually comes not from jotting down a chapter as fast as possible, but instead, from reflecting on what direction I want the story to go in before I put it on the page. Slowing down can give you time to plan.
Two: You spend less time berating yourself for not having written yet.
When I was younger, I wasted a lot of time lamenting exactly how much time I’d wasted, which was a double waste of time.
A real author wouldn’t get stuck on a chapter like this for so long, I bet! I couldn’t even work on fixing the outline today. What kind of writer am I? I can’t believe I’m such a slacker! I’ll never get anywhere like this.
I can guarantee you, plenty of “real” authors have gotten stuck or slacked in the writing process, and plenty more in the future will do the same.
Instead of getting worked up about it, I’ve found it more helpful to take a neutral approach toward my past procrastination. I did not write when I wanted to. That isn’t good, but that is something I can work on in the future. I cannot change the past — no matter how much I may curse my prior self — but I can make an attempt to do better later, and so can you.
Three: You spend less time burned out and unable to write at all.
Burnout is common among us creative types, especially in a day and era where we’re encouraged to be monetizing our hobbies and hustling for our jobs.
Not everyone believe in writers block, but you certainly should believe in burnout.
The folks who push and push and push themselves over their limits just to keep make progress will not only fall into frustration if a rough period in their life causes them to slow down, but they also end up being less productive overall. I would know — I’ve been that person before, making myself do a chapter a day for a week, then collapsing for the rest of the month.
And spending that time burned out, funny enough, can make you reluctant to go back to writing because you feel like crap for not having written. It’s a bad cycle.
An author isn’t a machine built for penning down prose. Most of us have dayjobs and other responsibilities to take care of too. Learning your limitations and using what you know to set yourself a sane, consistent schedule will let you write faster than hobbling your way from burnout to burnout.
And this also means that…
Four: You spend more time actually enjoying the process.
Not only does constantly pushing yourself when you’re already tired make writing less fun for you, but I guarantee you, the reader notices when the book feels forced. I’ve had beta readers point directly to the chapters I grit my teeth to force out and tell me that they weren’t as interesting as the other chapters.
Being able to take a breather and appreciate where your story is going will do wonders for the story itself.
Five: If you’re not writing, there’s usually a reason for it.
“Right,” some of you will think, “and that reason is that I’m lazy.”
I am physically incapable of reaching through the computer screen to give you a disapproving flick on the nose, but rest assured, I am sitting here with a very stern look on my face, beaming my disapproval into your brain with all the psychic power I can muster.
Because — get this — when you attribute your inability to write as simple laziness, you might be missing out on the real problems you’re having underneath the surface.
I had a ton of problems I was ignoring back when I chalked up my difficulties to laziness.
If you are consistently avoiding writing; why is that? Examine it! Is there something else in your life that’s more pressing, and is that eating up your time and energy? Do you have a mental health issue that needs to be addressed? Are you just not excited for this particular project — should you try writing something else?
It’s impossible to find the solutions to these hurdles if all you’re focused on is feeling like a bad author for not writing enough.
Remember; you can always pick up the pen again, no matter how long it’s been.
And that’s it for productivity advice for today. If you find this helpful, then you can support me as a creator by buying me a Ko-fi or purchasing Shadow Herald, my debut dark fantasy novel! Thank you, and have a lovely day.
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