Do you like binge writing? Here’s why you shouldn’t

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This is my weekly installment of “writing about writing,” in which I scan the world to find websites, books and articles to help other writers. Today I discuss a blog post about binge writing…

Even though I’ve long cautioned against binge-writing I sometimes get feedback from writers who disagree.

Here’s what they say to me: “I’m so productive when I sit down and write for four hours.” Or, “when I’m on a writing roll, I want to take advantage of that time and not lose it forever.”

Even so, I retort, they’re running the enormous risk of burning themselves out. And they’re likely not nearly as productive as they could be if they wrote a little at a time, more regularly.

For these reasons, I was pleased to see Robert Wood make a similar argument in a post on the blog Standout Books. It ran under the unmissable headline, “Are You A Binge Writer? Here’s How (And Why) To Stop.” Here is part of what Wood said:

Binge writing is a poor way to get what you want, but it occurs precisely because you want something. There are many different ways of approaching the world, but this will be a useful thought for many authors trying to stop binge writing – there’s a better path to what you want, and binge writing closes it off.

The best approach is to structure regular writing time into your life. ‘Little and often’ is the rule, and while it isn’t as immediately electrifying as writing all day and into the night once a month, it does allow you to retain all the context you need to write a cohesive story.

The fear that prevents many people from letting go of binge writing, I’ve found, relates to worry about ineffective writing sessions. I like the response Wood has to that concern:

As you transition to this type of writing, you’re likely to have a lot of unproductive sessions. This is normal, and you can work through it – we train our brains to work in certain ways, and a brain that’s used to working under high pressure needs to adjust to getting ‘in the zone’ on command.

Writing doesn’t always feel comfortable. Nor need it. Just show up for your writing every day — regardless of how you feel — and you’ll be able to accumulate a significant number of words over time.

An earlier version of this post first appeared on my blog on Sept. 30/19.

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