Why you should write at your own pace

When I can write, my daily average is around 2,500 words (though I can easily hit 8-10,000 if I’m on a roll). I can keep up that pace for a month or two, just long enough to get a full draft out of NANOWRIMO, but then I might not write again for a year.

Some of my writer friends seem to think my ability to write so many words in one sitting makes them the oddities because they can only manage 100-500 words a day.

There’s a competitive streak in every writer, I think. I’ve certainly encountered it enough in the writing and roleplaying worlds: “she wrote more than me in that post”, “I have to meet her word for word”, “I’m terribly sorry but I can’t write as much as you”.

Maybe that all matters when you’re published. Maybe there’s a point where quantity is just as important as quality. Certainly, I encourage you to write like the wind in your early drafts and forget about all the technical stuff that goes into making a written piece great.

But I also call bullshit, guys. Writing is like the story of the tortoise and the hare; I might write faster than you, and someone else might write faster than me, but we’ll all get there in the end.

Go your own way

Set your own pace. Decide what you can realistically manage every day. If you write more, great! Pat yourself on the back, give yourself a lollipop, and move on.

If you consistently write less, adjust your daily goal.

The point of having a daily target isn’t to frustrate the hair out of your scalp because you failed again, but to give you something to work towards.

If a word count doesn’t work for you, tell yourself to write for twenty minutes every day instead.

Stop comparing yourself to others

Some of us can slog through an 8-hour writing day because we’ve got nothing else to do.

Some of us can hyper-focus and churn out 5,000 words in an hour, then not write again until the weekend.

Some of us can squeeze 100 words out of our lunch break or twenty minutes out of a bus ride.

Some of us have to sneak a few post-its while the toddler’s asleep.

We all have our methods and our madness; comparing one writer to another is like comparing apples to oranges. Set a goal for yourself and that works for you and stop worrying what everyone else is doing.

Keep a tracker

Keeping a writing tracker is  great way to determine realistic standards for yourself. If you know you can write 1000 words but you only write 100, you can try harder next time. But if you know you can only write 500 words, then there’s no point fretting that you only managed 498.

You might even start to see trends showing when you write the most and the least — data you can then use to maximise your output.

After all, what’s the point in trying to write before you’ve had your morning coffee if you do better right after lunch?

What’s your pace?

Just for the sake of curiosity, and to maybe prove my point that we’re all different, I want to know what your writing pace is. Do you splurge like me and then dry up for a month or a year or more? Do you write an exact 500 words every day? Do you count by pages in a notebook or by time on a clock?

Do you benefit from trying to best someone else, like NANOWRIMO’s word wars, or are you crippled by the thought that someone else can write more than you in a day?

Why you should write at your own pace
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2 Comments Add yours

  1. Cait Potter says:

    This is such an important post and I’m glad I saw it today. When i write I either hyperfocus or I can’t focus at all! I have days when my body hurts so much that writing, among other things, becomes a chore similar to climbing a large mountain. I know that sometimes I can write a lot! and that sometimes I can’t! And I honestly don’t see anything wrong with that, writing should be enjoyable not something that stresses me out. One thing i dislike is the ‘you have to write everyday to be a writer’ advice/tip/rule. It’s not accessible to a load of people for a load of reasons, one might be that you just don’t want to write every day, maybe today you want to spend time with friends or go shopping or do anything but writing. Writers write! but they’re allowed to do it on their own time, there’s no rush to be published if that’s your goal (despite what a lot of people might think), there’s always going to be space for your work.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Emma says:

      Hi Cait. I’m so glad this post means something to you, and thank you for commenting!

      I totally agree about the advice for writing every day. I’d encourage people to write as often as they can, instead, because that allows room for the improvement that can only come with practice, but also relies on personal targets rather than comparing ourselves to everyone else and feeling like we come up short.

      It’s a struggle to remember that sometimes, though. I catch myself feeling guilty for not writing for months even when I know there’s a perfectly good reason for it. 🤦🏽‍♀️


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