How to Keep Writing When the Chips are Down

Ways & Reasons to Start Your Day with Writing

Professional authors all have one nugget of advice in common—keep writing; write daily; don’t stop writing. Every day, just as you live and breather, you have to commit to putting pen to paper even if you grind out garbage. Even if you delete it all the next day. The only writing commandment is Thou Shalt Write. Every. Day.

Why Writing Every Day is Hard

My luck, pictured above.  You can’t wait for the right time to write because there’s no such thing. If you keep playing your hand, waiting for the chips to stack up, so you can write, you’re just going to find yourself with a dwindled stack and nothing to show for it. Write. Now.

My luck, pictured above. You can’t wait for the right time to write because there’s no such thing. If you keep playing your hand, waiting for the chips to stack up, so you can write, you’re just going to find yourself with a dwindled stack and nothing to show for it. Write. Now.

If you’re like me and you have a job, an alter-ego, a husband, a few small children, a meatsack (body) to keep healthy, and a sleep schedule to maintain (or you’re just the worst), then you know that there aren’t enough hours in a day. It’s not possible to parent, make dinner, clean the house, run the rat race, pay the bills, read the e-mails, attend the webinars, do the job, and then, then, when you’re mentally drained to the point that words don’t even make sense—write.

Never mind that there are extra obstacles. For example, my husband has been chronically ill for the past nine months, which means his chores have become my chores because I said “I do” one day to caring for one another in sickness and in health. I should’ve added the addendum “unless it gets in the way of my writing, then you need to go live with your parents”. I’m kidding. Kind of.

I do love writing. I’ve built my career around it. I teach. I edit. I studied writing. I studied editing. So, by all accounts, I should be writing every day, right? No matter what, right?

Boy, you’d think that. Every day, it’s something. It’s hard to roll with the punches when they keep landing upside your head.

 The Secret to Writing Every Day

Here’s the secret. Life isn’t going to change. It’s not going to get easier. There will always be something whether it’s a Herculean work project, a home renovation, or a chronically-ill spouse, something I’m currently dealing with, it will be something.  

Yesterday, I was all set to werk it, harder than Missy Elliot, when they said my husband needed to be admitted to the hospital after he finished his chemotherapy. I had to pop, lock, and stop what I was doing, go pick up one of his dump trailers from the repair shop since he wouldn’t be able to do it, swing by the house and pack a bag of his things, and then take him to the hospital and wait to consult with the doctor.  I got home just after seven. My kids still needed to be bathed and tucked in to bed. Despite accomplishing this in record time, my brain was “flat busted” as my three-year-old says by nine PM. Work wasn’t happening.

Now, not every day is that extra. Sometimes, they’re like today where my kids are a little nuts, and I have to pause every ten seconds to say, “I’ll get your (snack request) when I get up,” and, “get that out of your mouth,” and, “leave your sister alone,” and, “flush the potty!” (Aside: I told my three-year-old to flush the potty, and she said, “No, I don’t want to.” I ended up winning the subsequent negotiations, but let’s just say my work environment is less-than-conventional. Imagine telling Janis from accounting to flush the potty (or so help you God) or suggesting that Bill from sales to take the toner cartridge out of his mouth.)

 Overall, great job. I have some notes for minor revisions, but otherwise, this is really on the right track. Keep working with the writing and tweaking and perfecting it as you modify the paper per the comments.

Despite my hellacious day yesterday, I did, in fact, end up writing, and I don’t mean “work” writing. I mean my writing, the writing that you as an author are tasked to do every day, come hell or high water.

Why You Should Start Your Day with Writing

How? I started with writing. After a few perfunctory quick tasks, I started my day with my writing. Prioritizing your writing signals to yourself and to others that you’re a serious writer. Even if you don’t have an agent or a contract or a finished or published book, you have to start somewhere. Prioritizing your writing by getting up early and writing or by making it the first thing on your daily do list (if you have a flexible workflow like I do) is the only way to make your writing aspirations happen.

 I recommend starting your day with writing because all too often, budding writers will make writing the last thing they do, and while some writers can do this, it’s hard to commit to sitting down and rocking your word count when you’re physically, mentally, and emotionally beat. Some do it and do it well—Gillian Flynn penned Sharp Objects after hours as an Entertainment Weekly writer, so there’s your inspiration.

Tips for Writing Every Day (No Matter Where the Chips May Fall)

  1.  Whether writing in the morning or the evening, self-care is essential for making sure you get your wordplay time in regardless of what else is going on. Get lots of sleep.

  2. This means cutting back or cutting out the alcohol if you drink.

  3. Watch less television or lay off of it all together.

  4. Verbalize your writing goal to friends and family. This will keep you on task.

  5. If you write in the morning, don’t start anything else until you’ve fulfilled your writing commitment, no matter how important the task is. I always have important, deadline-driven client work. I have to choose to put my writing first because if I don’t, there’s always a client or a student or a deadline that needs to be tackled. If I put my writing last, I’ll never get to it.

Writing every day no matter what is simple, but it merits reprogramming your brain and reprioritizing your day. It might seem terrifying or even impossible to make some of these changes, but if you want to write, you’ll do it. It’s your life. Assert your authority over it by prioritizing your writing, by making it the first thing you do every day once you sit down at your desk or by kicking other time-consuming or mind-numbing habits and make writing your must-do evening ritual.

Once daily writing becomes habitual, you’ll find time for it no matter what life throws at you, no matter what happens with that other work (the work that will always be there). Life doesn’t get any easier to manage. It doesn’t slow down (at least not for a long time), and you can’t speed up. Instead of trying, just reroute your course. You’ll still cross the finish line, but this way, you’ll be a winner.

Looking for an editor who’d sooner die than give up on you and your writing? Contact me, Vonnie York by clicking here or by sending an e-mail to As always, peace, love, and prose (and the OXFORD COMMA TILL WE DIE!)