Getting Past “Write Every Day” Writing Advice

When I was in my 20s and 30s and wanting to be a writer (and yet not quite, um, writing), the only type of writing advice that seemed to come my way was some version of Hemingway’s credo “You must write everyday no matter what.” That advice never helped me or made me write. I couldn’t force myself to write, and the fact that I couldn’t only made me feel worse about myself. On top of being a dilettante who fancied herself a writer when she barely wrote, now I was undisciplined and weak–the writing equivalent of a person who “can’t stay on a diet.”

And yet deep down, I knew writing was the work I needed to do, and so even though I felt like there was something horribly deficient about me, I started showing up places where I could learn from other writers. I saw a handmade sign in a rural Utah grocery store and the next week I was sitting on the floor of a poet’s desert trailer scribbling on a notepad. I heard about a writer’s retreat in the mountains and there I learned about the triptych. I started to write and to write quite a bit–not because I was meeting a daily quota but because it made me happy. I was excited about the work and didn’t want to stop. I rediscovered the joy of creativity I felt as a child making batiks with my grandmother JoJo, that feeling of discovery and mastery that filled me with focus and purpose.

Of course, this sounds like wildly dangerous talk. If we only wrote when it made us “happy” or “excited,” how would one ever complete the enormous task of writing a novel or even complete enough revisions to make an essay publishable? And it’s true, that there’s a lot of showing up come sleet or hail that has to be done eventually, but I find I’m willing to do that once I’m engaged, and I’ve never become engaged telling myself I should or by forcing myself to write. I know the write-x-number-of-words-a-day edict works for many writers and I think that’s terrific. But I find that for many of us, it just doesn’t.

In fact, I find that many of my students are similar to me; they will do the work that’s needed, once they’re engaged. The focus of my upcoming Writing Is My Drink Webinar is teaching writers how to create the conditions that will allow them to write more and to write with greater focus and vision. Because most of us long to get to our real work. We’re not lazy. We just haven’t found the road in yet.


At JoJo’s making batiks in 1968. Clearly, I had to use a lot of discipline to get the work done here.

*The next Writing Is My Drink Webinar starts January 5, 2015. Details here.











About Theo Pauline Nestor

Author of Writing Is My Drink (Simon & Schuster) and How to Sleep Alone in a King-Size Bed. Learn more about my courses, editing, and coaching at
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8 Responses to Getting Past “Write Every Day” Writing Advice

  1. Well said! I’ve often grimaced at the “Write everyday or else you will suck forever” advice. In fact, I wrote about it myself here: I’ve seen this written in too many places, from writers I respect. But each writer has to decide how writing fits into their life. As I mention in the post, English poets Wordsworth wrote far more than Coleridge. Both are studied today as great poets.

  2. Topazshell says:

    I like the way you chose to write. I’ll bet it’s fun sitting with a group of writers writing a poem, etc.

  3. says:

    Ms. Nestor, I am interested in but cannot attend the July webinar and would be interested in attending one in August or September. Thank you, Alison Browdie

    • Theo Nestor says:

      Great, Alison. I plan on teaching subsequent webinars but not sure when they will be. If are a blog subscriber here, you will see announcement of future classes. Thanks for your interest!

  4. I know. Excuses, excuses. I’m praying I can finally get a break by Halloween. I just moved and bought my own home with all the work that comes with it. Dumped my senior citizen writing group and found a real one at the community college. Haven’t told them yet I’ve never been a college student. 🙂 I’m old, doing it alone but by golly, I’ll get there soon. I’m just catching up on posts I missed while painting my house, deck and shed. It finally looks like home and I have a spot to write and learn. I’ll keep an eye out for the next possible webinar. I’m ready…almost.:) You keep me motivated.

  5. I write when the character’s speak or when a scene plays out in my head or when I read a phrase, quote, or anything else that triggers a desire to write.

  6. I write when the character’s speak or when a scene plays out in my head or when I read a phrase, quote, or anything else that triggers a desire to write.

    Sometimes I decide to force myself to write but all that happens is a lot of editing, which is okay in my book.

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