Should you write every day?
That’s the question David Perell posed on Twitter recently in a mini-essay. My short answer to that question is “Sure, but be careful.” Writing every day can be counterproductive if you aren’t deliberately writing to improve your work.
Here’s David’s essay in its entirety:
I get what David is trying to say here, and I think he’s directionally correct, but I don’t think “write every day” by itself is the best advice for improving as a writer.
Writing and publishing often will certainly get you past the self-doubt and fear of judgement that come with being an inexperienced writer. That’s a big step, but just writing anything every day is unlikely to magically make you better. In some cases, it can actually make you worse or stagnant.
One of the big meta lessons I learned from playing music is that practicing every day is just part of getting better. What matters is developing good habits while practicing consistently. My guitar teacher once said that practicing with bad habits – poor technique, posture, missing notes, etc. – is counterproductive because it just means you get comfortable playing with those bad habits.
A daily routine where you drill bad habits into your muscle memory and mind takes you further away from the goal of being a better musician. You might eventually sound OK, but you’ll always have a self-imposed ceiling on your abilities.
I think the same goes for learning any skill, including writing. Writing may be subjective in a lot of ways, but there are absolutely such things as bad writing habits. For example, if you’re just starting to really work on being a better writer, you might be thinking about things like:
- Spelling and grammar
- Developing your style and voice
- Structuring a piece of writing
- Writing effective transitions
- Combining sources into something new
- Editing your work
- Understanding how to tailor subject matter for different media
Writing every day with deficiencies in those critical areas, among others, won’t make you a better writer. You’ll just get good at being a bad writer.
Imagine writing every single day without ever realizing that readers find your style too fluffy, that you’re always trying to seem clever instead of clear, or that your arguments and points don’t really flow together logically and clearly. That doesn’t seem like a way to improve, even if you do it consistently.
Here are some things you can do to get better at writing beyond just cranking something out every day.
- Getting feedback from a good editor or good readers that specifically focuses on your problem areas
- Really focusing on editing and polishing work you’ve already done
- Writing in different formats
- Varying up the subject matter you write about
One of the biggest strokes of luck I’ve had in my career in content marketing and writing was having a tough editor early on when I worked my first agency job. She absolutely tore my first few articles apart, pointing out everything from shoddy grammar and style to illogical statements and poor flow between sections.
This was a little daunting at first because I thought she might tell my manager that I was such a bad writer that I should be fired.
Thankfully she was as kind as she was tough. She always made sure to point out what I did right and how I was improving with each article. With each rep, I got a little better.
I would have never been successful as a writer if I had just written every day with no editor. I would have just been more confident in my own poor habits.
Additionally, I was exposed to different subject matter, different clients’ styles and voices, and different formats for written content.
So I would reformulate David’s advice from:
“Write every day.”
“Work on the things you need to work on every day.”
That may mean you don’t publish daily. It will mean that you’ll improve your problem areas and hone your voice.
Don’t go too far in the other direction – to where you “polish” your work endlessly and never publish anything. Just focus on the hard things, publish when you’re ready, and keep going.