Just Keep Writing, Just Keep Writing

Stephen King once said he told his wife he writes every day except Christmas and Thanksgiving. He went on to say he also writes on those days. I may be wrong about the days, but I do know he said he writes every day unless something really bad happens.

In the martial arts we have a philosophy of training every day. It doesn’t have to be much; practice a kata, do a few kicks, beat up someone that looked at you funny, that sort of thing. Okay, so I’m joking about beating people up for looking at me funny, but the remainder is true. A little practice every day is a good thing.

Most things we do – whether they be physical or mental activities – get better with practice. As long as the practice is good practice, anyway. I used to tell my students in Kenpo to practice their basics like they really meant them because in a stress situation, when your brain turns to mush, you’re going to fall back on what you’ve practiced. If you’ve practiced never kicking above the shins or putting your weight into your punches, guess what’s going to happen.

You’re going to get clobbered. And probably laughed at. And you will likely have brought dishonor on your dojo.

Writing works the same way: Practice will get you better at it. Or, at the very least, more efficient at it. The quality of your writing will only improve as you strive to improve it. Read a lot, write a lot. That’s Stephen King’s philosophy toward being a good writer. Just keep writing. It’s a job as much as it’s an art. Like any art, you’ll get better at it the more you do it.

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King knocks out about 2,000 words a day. If we follow the standard of 250 words to a page, that means he’s writing a 720 page novel every few months. Walter Gibson was known to write 6,000 to 10,000 words day. I’m nowhere near their league. My average is only 500-1000 words a day. Sometimes it drops lower, sometimes it goes higher, but it’s usually in that range.

So, why am I telling you this? In the realm of questions no one asked, “How many words does Eric Lahti write per day?” is probably toward the top of the list. Most people won’t find this information useful, but there’s someone out there right now wondering how many words a day you’re supposed to write to consider yourself a writer. The answer is as many as you feel like. Some people take a decade to write a book, others crank out a novel a month for decades (I’m looking at you Walter Gibson).

The goal isn’t to write the greatest prose on Earth, the goal is to write. Just like anything else out there, if you want to get good at writing, you need to write. If you want to get better at punching or kicking, go punch or kick things. And then write about that experience.

Maybe it’s just me, but if I don’t feel good if I haven’t written something every day.

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How much do you write a day?

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62 thoughts on “Just Keep Writing, Just Keep Writing

  1. I spread my writing between my novel and my blog. Probably about 500 words a day. Though I have been known to have a few bumper days if around 2000 😀 Thanks for the article 😀

    1. My blog suffers at the hand of my book. I’ll get cranking away on a scene and completely forget I have a blog. Then I look up and find I haven’t posted anything in nearly a week. Thanks for reading and good luck with the book!

  2. Hi Eric. Thanks for an interesting blog post. In answer to your question, I consider it a good day if I’ve managed about 2500 words. On a great day I’ve sometimes managed 4500 but those days are few and far between. I’ve read of writers who consistently write up to 10 000 words a day but I can’t get my head around that. Normally the scenes have to develop in my imagination and percolate for a while before I write them, so to try to force myself to such a high word count per day would be disastrous. And believe me, I’ve tried. I think each writer has to stick with what works for them. In the end it’s all about enjoying the process. 🙂

    1. It’s good to know other people dream up scenes and play them out in their heads before writing them, too. That’s the way I’ve always done it and I wondered if it was a strange way to do things.
      I think my record was about 5k in a day and I only managed that once. I rarely break 2k, but every now and then the scene just flows and I can keep going with it until my eyes get so blurred I can’t see what I’m typing.
      So true about enjoying the process. Writing is a labor of love and if someone can’t enjoy spending months writing a book (and month more editing and fine-tuning it), this isn’t a good field for them. 🙂

  3. Eric, I am probably closer to your daily word total as an average. I try and write 1300-1800 words a day, but if it is nearer a 1000, I don’t mind. Even if it like 117 (this Wednesday!) I accept that for some reason, I am not in the groove. Overall, I think I do okay, and as you say, it is about the journey and enjoying the experience. And Stephen King is rarely wrong!

    1. Heh heh. I don’t think it matters how much I write, so long as I write something every day. When we were travelling – early morning trip to Hawaii and late night trip back – were the only recent times when I didn’t write anything. It always feels weird to have not written anything.

  4. I’ve written pretty much nothing today apart from commenting on blogs cause I knackered my eyes over the last week with too much staring at a screen, writing between 1k and 4k words a day. I’m limiting myself to a few minutes at a time on the computer for the weekend but will probably write something later because I can’t not.

    It’s really interesting to hear about how much and how often other people write – this is good info, even if just to satisfy my curiosity! 🙂

    1. I had to get glasses. Whether that’s because I’m getting older or because I spend the day staring at a screen programming and the night writing, I’m not totally sure, but they really help. Glad you liked the post! 🙂

      1. I started to read that as “I walked out.” That has often been my fantasy. The “like that” part makes me think that I might want to do what you do. Or what that guy does.

      2. Most of the time, it’s just a normal day programming for me, but there have been a few where I finally found the solution to a problem that had been making me tear my hair out for weeks. Those are good days. Unfortunately, it sometimes requires banging my head against the keyboard for a few days to get them.

      3. Careful with that noggin of yours. I would guess that a job like yours would require a rather sizable brain. Use head gear. Or you could do what I did in college, when I took that one computer science class, and throw things and cry a lot. Though I do that now, and I admit it doesn’t help much.

      4. Oh, I’ve had my fair share of wailing and gnashing of teeth. Those weren’t my proudest moments, but I have come close to the abyss every now and then.

      5. The writing helps.

        I rarely go around reading other people’s blogs. Not sure why, though. I’ve come across some great ones, so you’d think I would seek out good ones more often. I’m glad I found this post in particular. You’ve given me hope that 1) I can and should keep up this writing charade and 2) that there are jobs out there that won’t try to kill me.

      6. It’s not a charade unless you let it be one. What’s that old saying about writing? A author is a hobbyist that didn’t quit or some such. Keep going.

  5. I was maintaining 500 words a day until I changed jobs and convinced myself to stop writing a few years ago. I returned to writing recently…a post is up on my blog on that. The return, maybe because I starved myself of writing for so long, has been frantic for me…about 1000 to 1500 words per day. Glad to find your blog.

    1. I had a dry spell for a while as well. But I found that it was because I was creating limitations for myself as to what I should be writing about. I’m more open to ideas now and my blog has evolved. There’s so much to inspire me now. Glad you’re back at it.

      1. I find my writing flows much more smoothly when I let the characters take over and drive the story. I’ve tried to plot things out, but aside from large-scale events, things don’t always wind up where I thought they would.

      2. It’s great how that happens. I find that with humor as well. Sometimes I say something clever but had no idea what I was going to say before it came out of my mouth. I love how unseen elements can drive our paths. Hope this made some kind of sense! lol

  6. I used to write huge bursts of 5000 words but then be tapped out for a day or two or three, until a week went by and I hadn’t touched my book. Trouble is getting back to writing when I’ve stepped away too long .
    Lately I’ve been more focused, and I write 500 to 1500 a day, not including blog posts and correspondence.
    Daily word counts are more satisfying. Sense of accomplishment keeps me motivated.

    1. It can be tough scraping out free time every day, especially if you’re really busy. I’d like to get mine to the 1500-2000 range, but I think that just ain’t gonna happen until I get discovered and can do it full time. 🙂

  7. I completely agree with the sentiment about not feeling very good if I don’t write. I try my best to write every single day. Sometimes I only manage a couple hundred words or a few paragraphs of notes. But I completely agree that continuing to practice every day makes you better. You grow, you become used to it and it helps your skill become refined.

    I have taken to making a monthly goal of words for myself every month as a minimum and try to bump it up every month to see if I can’t get myself to write a little more here and there.

    Thanks for this great article!

      1. Usually 10k minimum and bump it up depending on the month. My schedule gets a little hinky in certain months so I have to adjust.

  8. I went through a period feeling like my life was on repeat and I was uninspired. Also, my blog was very specific in theme. When the hard work I have been doing to change my life started paying off and I decided not to limit myself, I began finding such inspiration. I love writing things by hand, so a word count is difficult for me to say. I sometimes work on multiple pieces at a time, over the course of days. This post has inspired me to set aside a time frame for writing, as someone else mentioned (so many comments 🙂 ) since I’m not a fan of typing. I’ve been enjoying getting back to the craft of writing. Such a nice post.

  9. Hi..there’s a beautiful post. i’m glad I stumbled on it. I write around 700 words a day and I must confess, sometimes days go by when I don’t write. I must confess, my mind goes into this sort of editing mode even before I write down what I think that it’s difficult to achieve anything more than that.

    1. I do similar stuff, but I’ll have this great idea in my head and all these wonderful lines. They hit the screen and it looks disappointing. I guess that’s what edits are for.
      Thanks for dropping by and keep writing!

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