In Praise of the One-Hour-a-Day Writing Schedule

For years, I had an extremely rigid writing schedule: I wrote 2 times a week for about 3 hours at a time. I’d usually do two days writing and one day editing, and I’d write somewhere around 4-5,000 words a week. It worked, it was wonderful, and I kept it going for 7 whole years.

And then I moved.

My whole schedule changed. My work schedule was different. My husband’s schedule was different. We were in a different time zone, I couldn’t talk to my friends or family at the same times I used to, I couldn’t sign on games at the same time and expect anyone else to be on, and I definitely didn’t have 3 solid hours, twice a week, to write.

So after whining and dragging my heels and trying desperately to make my 3-hour-super-runs work, I gave in. I decided to write one hour a day, every day. (Well, okay: Every weekday. I still keep my weekends beautifully open.)

I expected to hate it. But honestly? It’s great.

Here’s why. And before you start, a disclaimer: All of these are obvious. There’s a reason that you see Stephen King recommending “1,000 words a day” and not “a 3 hour super-rush where you write a 4,000-word chapter in a sitting.”

1. It’s easier to find a free hour than a three-hour block of time.

“Writing every day” felt like a huge, onerous task simply because I was used to “writing” = “an entire evening of work.” But an hour is easy. An hour is nothing. Pretty much everyone has an hour of free time somewhere in their day.

2. It’s not a big deal if I miss a day.

Life happens. Sometimes you have to go somewhere, do something, or work late. When that happened on one of my old 3-hour writing days, it was tragic–I had either reschedule my entire week, plan to write my full 5,000 quota in a day, or accept that I’d have a really pitiful week.

Missing one hour? Totally doesn’t matter. I can make that up easily.

3. It’s OK to stop if I’m not feeling it.

Some days suck. Some days I’ll just stare at the screen, hate every word I write, and discover that nothing is coming out of my brain at all. On a 3-hour day, I had to force myself to write stupid words on stupid paper and hate each stupid, stupid word, because otherwise I wouldn’t get anything done all week.

But if I’m having an awful day now? I can write 200 words, throw up my arms, and come back to it tomorrow. I can make that up later, too.

(That said, it’s good to push through writer’s block. But having to do it under the threat of an entire wasted week leads to a whole lot of unnecessary stress.)

4. It encourages me to keep writing instead of stopping after a chapter.

When I wrote a couple times a week, I usually had a concrete goal: Write until I hit the end of a chapter. That’s when my multi-hour writing spree could end.

But when you’re writing every day, you can’t really say “I’ll hit the end of this chapter and stop.” So you just… keep going. And going.

And, surprisingly, I’m actually writing more. I don’t have a “stopping point” if I have to write every day. And because of that, I’ve had exceptional weeks where I’ve cranked out 8,000 words. That isn’t normal for me, and it probably isn’t sustainable, but it never would have happened on my “write a chapter a week” schedule.

Basically: It’s just an easier schedule to maintain.

Obviously, you should schedule your writing time around your schedule, and any schedule works as long as you’re making meaningful progress.

But I’ve been pleasantly surprised. I thought “writing every day” would be super hardcore, but this is actually easier. I thought “write 1,000 words a day” was just a way to strongarm new, aspiring writers into writing on a schedule–on any schedule–but no, it’s just good advice.

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