Stop writing yourself dry!

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Do you keep writing yourself dry? The next time you sit down to write, take some important steps to protect your future self…

Do you usually try to write yourself dry? Stop it!

But perhaps you don’t even know what I mean by that strange turn of phrase…

When I say, “don’t write yourself dry,” what I mean is: You shouldn’t write until…

  • You’ve said everything you want to say.
  • You have absolutely nothing left to say.
  • You’ve squeezed all the juice from the orange.
  • You’ve drained the battery and there’s not enough life left in it to run a small flashlight.
  • You’ve emptied the well — and there’s not a drop of water left, only gravel and twigs at the bottom.

And when I say writing yourself dry is a bad idea, I’m not referring to the need for “balance.” Although, of course, balance is important too. If you make time for fun activities — like going for walks, having coffee with friends or going to movies and concerts — you’ll find you have more resources for writing. More oomph. More creativity.

But the real problem with writing yourself dry is actually more serious.

First, it exhausts you.

Second, it leaves you blank.

Let’s imagine you sit down to write one day, and you’re blessed with the appearance of… let’s call it “flow” or inspiration — that magical circumstance when the words seem to pour from your fingertips. You have no hesitation. No doubt. Writing is easy — and fun, too!

What you’d planned as a simple 30-minute writing session soon becomes a two-hour one. And (this is fantasy land, but let me pull some numbers from the air), let’s say you write 2,500 words. You’re delighted! Proud of yourself, too. You’d never expected you’d be able to write so much in a single day.

But what happens the next day?

When you go to your desk then, you notice how tired you are. Even though you had a good sleep the previous night, you still feel worn out. And while you’re sure you want to write that day, pretty soon doubt settles on your shoulder and whispers in your ear.

You tell yourself, “I wrote 2,500 words yesterday,” amazed by your progress. “That’s 1,900 more words than I’d expected. Perhaps I could take today off?”

Also, you suddenly realize you don’t even know what to write next. While you were writing the day before, you used up all of your ideas. Not only do you not feel like writing today, you don’t even know what you would write about if you did.

In fact, this problem of writing yourself dry doesn’t even require a two-hour, 2,500-word bender. I have clients who used to write themselves dry all the time and, in fact, I used to do it myself.

When I was writing a blog post, I’d persist until I finished a section.

When I was working on my book, I’d work really hard to finish a paragraph or — even better — a chapter before calling it quits for the day.

But finally, I learned there was far more joy and much greater productivity in not finishing and, instead, leaving some work for the next day.


The backs of our minds play an important role in the writing process.

We not only need to research and think deliberately before writing, but we also need to let our minds think unconsciously. “Sleeping” on our thoughts helps as well.

There’s no need to get every idea out of your head and onto the page as quickly as possible. In fact, it’s usually better to let those thoughts and ideas marinate a little bit longer.

Did you know that Ernest Hemingway would always stop his writing sessions in the middle of a sentence? He wanted to give himself the incentive of an extremely easy first step when he went back to work the next day.

And what could be easier than finishing a sentence?

But if you don’t want to go that far, you can simply stop writing yourself dry. When you finish writing each day, make sure you’ve left yourself something to write about the next day.


My video podcast last week addressed how writers can better manage their sleep. Go here to see the video or read the transcript, and you can also subscribe to my YouTube channel.


Need some help developing a better writing routine? Learn more about my Get It Done program. There is turn-over each month, and priority will go to those who have applied first. You can go directly to the application form and you’ll hear back from me within 24 hours.


Are you regularly writing yourself dry? We can all learn from each other, so please, share your thoughts with my readers and me in the “comments” section below. If you comment on today’s post (or any others) by Feb. 29/24, I’ll put you in a draw for a digital copy of my first book, 8 1/2 Steps to Writing Faster, BetterTo enter, please scroll down to the comments, directly underneath the “related posts” links, below. Note that you don’t have to join Disqus to post. See here to learn how to post as a guest. It’s easy!


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