I wrote every day…for 5 years–what have I learned?

On December 31, 2015 I unofficially resolved to write something every day of 2016. I told myself it was “unofficial” because I wasn’t very confident that I could actually follow through.

But I did. I wrote something–be it a free verse poem, a page of a story, a paragraph describing a trashcan, or a dialogue between two people I invented on the spot–every day for a year. And when that year ended, I started writing every day of the next year.

December 31, 2020 marked five years of this insanity. I never thought I would make it this far…but here I am. 1,826 consecutive days of writing.

It’s not every day one reaches such a milestone, so I thought I would take the opportunity to tell you a bit about the experience and share some of what I’ve learned. (Of course, all the progress I made wasn’t solely due to the fact that I was writing every day. Age had a lot to do with it, as well as the fact that four of those five years were spent getting my degree in English. But writing every day was still a huge part of my growth as a writer.)

What Happened in Those Five Years?

…I wrote a lot

This goes without saying. By writing every day, I amassed a substantial amount of writing. While a lot of it was simply writing for the sake of writing and will never see the light of day, I believe that even the most bland or cringe-worthy pieces contributed to making me a better writer.

I pursued ideas I otherwise wouldn’t have done anything with

There are times when inspiration comes on so strong that you feel you have to write. If you’re excited enough about an idea, you’ll be motivated to explore it.

But sometimes…you’re not that motivated. Maybe you have an idea, but it’s not that exciting or interesting. Maybe it’s something small or intangible. Or maybe it’s downright stupid.

Normally these ideas might not go anywhere. But when I had to write something that day, I couldn’t wait for the ideal inspiration. Otherwise easily dismissed ideas such as, “I could write a scene where someone falls asleep in an elevator” became that day’s writing. Often times the result was a scene or description just as aimless and pointless as expected, but sometimes I was surprised by how the idea developed as I kept writing.

I learned to take myself more seriously as a writer

For a long time I would say “I want to be a writer”, as if I wasn’t a writer yet and wouldn’t be one until I published a book or received some other kind of external validation. But by writing every day, I was able to show myself how seriously I take this.

I noticed this especially as the years went on and I saw peoples’ reactions to what I was doing. Because writing every day is, by very nature, something that happens gradually, I wouldn’t really realize how much I had accomplished until I told someone I’d been writing every day for two years and they responded with something like, “Whoa, that’s a long time!” or “That’s so impressive!”

By working this hard and enduring this long in a commitment to my writing, I was able to show myself how seriously I take this and how important it is to me.

I wrote books!

When I started this in 2016, I had never completed a draft of a book.

I now have seven.

AND THEY ALL MEAN SO MUCH TO ME AHHHHHHH.

The Entertainers aesthetic. All pictures taken from Pinterest.

By forcing myself to write something every day, I became more disciplined–and then I was able to apply that discipline to working on novels.

Another plus was that, even when I hit writer’s block, I couldn’t skip a day. I knew I had to write something that day anyway, so a lot of times I would go ahead and force my way through the writer’s block to keep working on my novel (instead of having to come up with something else to write about).

I created so many new characters that I love and stories that excite me and…and…!!!

Bear with me while I get all sappy and drag you with me down the rabbit trail of memory lane.

My Seven Darling Books:

The Chess Cafe 2016-2017

Chess // Beach Boys // Sandwiches // My clueless MC discovering there’s more to life than routine // Friendship

Untitled (but I still call it Writing Everything in my head because that’s what the word doc was originally saved as…) 2017

My nameless protagonist son just wanting to go home // Lost and lonely // Finding small beautiful things // Psychological disorders // Abuse // Unconventional storytelling

The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Claus 2017-2018

Nicholas being an anxious beanpole // And so incredibly awkward // Fairy tale characters // Family tension // Weather // Jack being the greatest character I invented on the spot

The Entertainers 2018

Shakespeare // Polite psycho // Piano // Boys who are practically brothers // A very vague Oliver Twist retelling (but only if you squint at it through the fog at night) // Manipulation and abuse

Phoenix 2019

Just a dash of magical realism // Foster care // Brothers // Jackson being perpetually ready to attack anything and everything that might hurt Phoenix // Abuse // Stationary store // Trust issues all the way // Painting

Untitled Nicholas Claus Sequel 2020

More anxious beanpole, fairy tales, weather, and Jack // Elves // Father son relationships // Golde picking locks // Long naps

Four Princes (Three of Whom are Dead) (Am I actually keeping this title? I have no idea)? 2020

Princes // Murder…? // Castle corridors and great halls // Mystery // Super sketchy jester // Roland just wanting to chop vegetables and avoid his problems

So where do I go from here?

On January 1st, after much deliberation, I came to the decision to bring this streak to an end. Why, you ask?

Overall, this has been a positive experience. I grew a lot as a writer, and I’m proud of all my hard work. But this kind of resolution also had its cons.

  1. I never got a break. It’s great to push yourself, but there are days when there’s so much going on and you’re completely burnt out, and it’s physically painful to find something in your brain to write about (there were many days when I ended up writing a half a page description of what it feels like to be completely exhausted)
  2. I had a hard time getting myself to edit things. If I was writing a new scene or adding a section to an existing scene, I counted it as writing something that day. But reading over a chapter and only ending up tweaking a few sentences and fixing some punctuation? I didn’t think that really counted. So if I was going to do that kind of editing, I still needed to write something else on top of that and… time and brain power are in short supply.
  3. I don’t want it to become all about the streak. In some ways, the streak was a good thing. The more days I had behind me, the more motivated I was to keep going. But if I just kept going…I think the pressure would keep mounting up and become oppressive. What if I woke up one day after nine years and realized I’d completely spaced out and forgotten to write the night before? I’m the kind of person who would totally have a breakdown over something like that. Cutting it off voluntarily at a nice milestone like 5 years feels like the best way to preserve my sanity. XD

*

While I’m no longer writing every single day, I’m still wholeheartedly pursuing writing. I’ve recently been obsessively thinking about my latest WIP (and I’m SO EXCITED ABOUT IT). Not having the pressure of writing every day has left me free to devote a lot of my time to brainstorming (and writing very important notes about the new characters I’m developing like, “Albert is so sleep deprived”).

Am I glad I made the resolution in the first place and pushed through for five years? Absolutely. This has been an incredible growing experience for me. I’ve come such a long way.

But am I ready for a change of pace? Yes, I am.

Here’s to hoping I finally get around to some serious editing this year πŸ™‚

What are some New Year’s resolutions you’ve made in the past? Do you have any writing goals for this year? What is something you’ve accomplished that you’re proud of? What’s something that has helped you grow as a writer and/or a person? Do tell!

20 thoughts on “I wrote every day…for 5 years–what have I learned?

  1. Great on you for writing every day for so long. That already sets you apart from the swathes of wannabe writers who only talk the talk. Wishing you a great time finding your change of gears, and that you find the perfect schedule that works out for you. Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! Oh, no, don’t be scared, I don’t want to scare anybody! XD Yikes, the burnout is so real. The number of times that I wrote, like…a paragraph about a snail or a rabbit or a bug who never did anything with their lives….yeah, it was a lot of times.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow, that’s really impressive! And also…an excellent idea. Last year, I made a resolution to take a picture with my DSLR camera every day, and lo and behold, by the end of the year, I knew how to shoot on manual. So it seems like doing *something* every day is an excellent way to get better…so I may just adopt your idea!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! Ooh, that’s so cool! The consistency and repetition of doing something every day does seem to be a great way to improve at something. (There was a period of time where I stretched every day and I got so much more flexible! And now I’m…not very flexible. *cries* I’ve gotta get into that habit again!)

      Like

  3. I am seriously so impressed right now, I’m like dying. And I need to leave in five minutes for a job interview so I need to revive before then (I don’t think they hire corpses) but WOW WOW WOW.

    I think it’s really cool that you decided to try doing this, and then that you…did it. For five years. I’m thinking of trying something of the same thing, because I’m genuinely inspired. And just doing something EVERY DAY really does do strange things. Like, I almost never practice my violin and feel like “wow, I got better today” – almost NEVER. There is the occasional break-through, but it’s rare. And yet, when I started I could barely hold the thing correctly, and ten years later I could play Bach concertos. And it’s just because I practiced almost every single day. (I should really get back to doing that.)

    Okay I HAVE TO GO BUT I LOVE THIS. AND I WANT TO MEET NICHOLAS.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, and journalling! I started journalling when I was sixteen, and although I sometimes write random drivel and sometimes go missing for two months, I’m pretty sure that’s helped my writing ability grow a LOT. Mainly because I often try to describe people in my journal and describing people is hard and I’ve kind of learned a lot about how to do it more successfully, I think, from all the trial and error? (Details. It’s all in the details.) Anyway…yeah. To answer that question. And I’m rather curious now if you journal!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Ooh, practicing describing people in your journal sounds like a great habit. I have journaled some over the years, but it’s been very spotty. My “current” journal was started in 2016, is not full yet, and often has more than a year between entries. I’m pretty sure the most recent entry was last summer and basically consisted of “We went hiking today! Now here’s a list of Oliver Twist characters as animals!” XD I would like to start journalling more though…

        Liked by 1 person

    2. THANK YOU SO MUCH. I’m so glad you’re inspired! Really and truly, it makes me happy πŸ™‚ Ahhhh, I have so much respect for people who play the violin. (Of course, I play the air-violin marvelously, but people who actually play the real thing–great respect.)
      Ok, but why aren’t they hiring corpses? What is this discrimination?
      Nicholas is a wonderful human (if I do say so myself) and I sincerely hope to get his story published someday so you can read it πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

  4. wOw

    This is so cool and your books sound really cool and I want to try this now. Like the idea of having eclectic drafts of (seemingly) hundreds of novels that I could just own? That I wrote? That ties to my life timeline very cleanly?

    Also I’m very impressed with your reasons to end the streak. I applaud you for your maturity as an artist.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. what

    wHAT

    WHAT

    1826 consecutive days of writing?? HOW. WHAT ARE YOU, ERIK. [That would be a lot of pressure, plus I guess you’ve learned good habits (like how to cope with “I don’t feel like writing…” when it’s mostly laziness, oops, I need to learn this) and are now a more mature writer who can move beyond. If that makes sense.]

    All seven of those stories sound amazing! [“Four Princes (Three of Whom are Dead)” made me snort… xD ] But yes I would like to read all of these emotions pls.

    …did I say emotions? I meant stories.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I DON’T KNOW WHAT I AM (though I’m hoping to discover I’m actually some kind of ostrich, because that would be lovely). Yes, I’ve become very Wise and Mature. I have metaphorical gray hair and I call everyone “my child”.
      Thank you! I mean…I fell like emotions and stories could be considered synonymous??

      Like

  6. Wow! That is amazing! *applauds* *applauds even more over your decision to take a break* You’re doing amazing things with your writing, but you deserve the break and your reasons are so, so true. ❀

    Liked by 1 person

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