What is the value of daily writing?

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The Write Question is a weekly video podcast all about writing. Today’s question? How to persuade students of the value of daily writing. If you have a question you’d like me to answer you can email me, tweet me @pubcoach, or leave a message for me at the Skype account, The Write Question.


What’s the value of daily writing? That’s the topic I’m addressing today in The Write Question. I’m Daphne Gray-Grant, the Publication Coach, still in pandemic mode.

I have a question from Monique LaSalle, a  professor based in Montreal, Canada. Here’s what she’s asked by email….

What do you say to students who think they can only write productively in long spurts of time? Many of my students believe that it’s the ONLY way they can write! How do you convince them of the value of daily writing?”

Thanks for your question, Monique. In my experience, students don’t learn much if you just tell them something. You need to show them the value of what you’re proposing. 

So here’s what I suggest you do. Have your students download the writing tracking form from my website — it’s free! See link in the show notes below. Then, ask them to record their writing time and the number of words they write every day for one week, writing for as long as they want. AFTER THAT, ask them to do the same record-keeping for one more week. But this time, tell them they should write for no more than 30 minutes per day. They should also devote an equal amount of time to researching and planning.

After they’ve done this two-week comparison, ask them which system allowed them to produce the greatest number of words. And ask them which system made them feel better and more enthusiastic about writing.

I’m certain the vast majority will be more productive with the smaller amount of time. There are five important reasons for this:

  1. They will be more efficient because their time is short. Have any of your students ever caught themselves sitting and staring at a blank screen like zombies? They do this because they don’t know what to write next. But if they have a time limit, they won’t allow themselves to get stuck in this sticky wicket. Think about how breathtakingly efficient we all become when preparing to leave on holiday: We work quickly; we do only the most essential stuff. Your students will benefit by approaching writing with the same time-limited mindset. In fact, I think this is why so many students don’t start their essays until the night before they are due. They want the situation to FORCE them into working quickly.
  2. The short deadline will stop them from procrastinating. People don’t procrastinate because they are lazy. They procrastinate because the job they need to do seems too big, overwhelming or painful. By spending less time on the project each day, they are going to be making it a whole lot less intimidating. As a result, they’re less likely to procrastinate about it.
  3. They won’t run the risk of burning themselves out. While they may produce 1,000 words on one of their red-hot writing sessions, they’ll quickly discover that they’ll feel tired and worn out the next day and maybe even the day after that. But if they were to write 200 words every day for a week, they’d have 1,000 words by Friday!
  4. Writing for a short amount of time will appeal to their inner two-year olds. If your students dislike writing (or even if they just feel ambivalent about it) having a time limit will suddenly make the work seem much more attractive.
  5. They’ll have time to do other things. If your students insist on spending eight hours a day writing, they won’t have time for exercise, for listening to music and for chatting with friends – all of the things that make life worthwhile. Writing is a creative act and to do it we need to get energy from activities other than working.

Finally, let me wrap up with a quote from the fantasy writer Jane Yolen: 

“Exercise the writing muscle every day…Writers are like dancers, like athletes. Without that exercise, the muscles seize up.”

Monique, it’s hard to convince students of anything new, especially something that might feel counterintuitive to them. Try to do your persuading by helping the students figure out for themselves what will make them most productive. Or maybe, ask them to watch this video!


If you’d like to learn more about how to make writing a happier and more rewarding process, check out my latest book Your Happy First Draft. I don’t sell it in bookstores or via Amazon. The only place to buy it is on my website, link on the screen below and in the show notes.  


Writing tracking form (MS Word & PDF)

Your Happy First Draft

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