I used to be of the camp that believed writing inspiration was something that only sparked occasionally, and you had to absorb it as fully as possible before it left.
Even though I’ve written professionally for much of my life, for my own passion projects, I would put them on the back burner because the Muse hadn’t hit me.
It’s easy to walk around saying that I’m just not inspired, so that I never have to confront an empty page.
And it doesn’t have to be true for you either.
Figuring out how to write a lot can seem daunting with so many opinions out there, but I believe in keeping it simple. The more complicated something is, the easier it is to make excuses around it.
And if you’ve found this post, I know that you’re ready to show up to the page and get to work.
So, let’s get started and get you writing.
Write Every Day
Steven Pressfield said it best when it comes to how to write a lot:
“The most important thing about art is to work. Nothing else matters except sitting down every day and trying.”
Woah, woah, woah.
This isn’t something you can reserve for the weekends when the rest of the week has fallen away, and you believe you can concentrate.
I say that because that’s the lie I fed myself for years.
But the only way to write more is to be writing more.
You’re not committing to it being good, but you are showing up to provide yourself with a starting point. Even if you only write a paragraph the first few days or fill your page with “I don’t know what to write”, you have opened the dam and inspiration will come.
Set a Sacred Time
Once you make the choice (because all of this is a choice, whether you’re showing up or not), to write every day, pick your sacred writing time.
Are you a morning person who loves the quiet before the rest of the world wakes up?
Do you enjoy sitting down in the afternoon as work is winding down and evening activities are about to enter at full force?
Or do you do your best work late at night when you’ve done everything you’ve needed to for the day?
Experiment with times and find the space that works best for you. There’s no universally magic time for writing. It’s the time that you’ve set aside for yourself and the work that is non negotiable.
Anthony Bourdain would wake up between 5 and 6am to write after working all night in a kitchen.
David Baldacci wrote late at night after his family went to sleep. Most nights, he’d write until about 2am and then wake up a few hours later to practice law.
Franz Kafka worked in insurance and couldn’t start working until 11pm.
But no matter what, they showed up.
Some days will be better than others, and it’s not about perfection — it’s about the routine.
Which brings me to the next point…
Be Okay Writing Garbage
Years ago, I would write and erase and write and erase whatever I wrote that wasn’t absolutely brilliant. I was obsessed with getting it “right” that I had a hard time finishing most of my work.
It would take me so long to be inspired or motivated to write that then, the next pain point was making the words hit the page.
But when I started writing sketch comedy in Los Angeles, we had an agreement in my group — there would be a lot of crap that would come out of our pitches and meetings, and that was all right.
There was no pressure to get it right the first time. The only responsibility we had was to come with a lot of material, and eventually, something good would come from it.
And as Anne Lamott boldly states, there is no joy in trying to make a masterpiece from the beginning.
“Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life, and it is the main obstacle between you and a shitty first draft.”
Don’t judge your writing before it’s had air and energy around it. You may think something isn’t very good, but it could spark something else. When people want to know how to write a lot, they assume that everything should gold, that because they appear at the right time every day, the inspiration will come.
Sometimes, it does, and sometimes, it doesn’t. You may write three pages one day that you hate the very next.
But don’t be afraid of bombing — of writing some really awful stuff — because it could always be better and it could always be worse.
Set Goals for Yourself
Do you have a novel that you want to finish? Or are you trying to build up your blog content and just keep putting off?
Knowing how to write a lot also means knowing how to meet a deadline. And if the work seems so overwhelming that you don’t know a true deadline would be possible, work backwards.
If you want to finish a book:
Start with an ideal date you’d like to finish your first draft by
Decide a word count that you want to hit (Typically, a 400 page book is 100,000 words)
Track how many words a day you’re writing
Look back at your deadline — is it realistic or do you need to adjust it?
Now, finalize the deadline for your first draft in your calendar and share with 3 people AKA accountability!
I use the example of completing a book because almost everyone feels like they have at least one book inside of them. When I wrote my book, I set an ambitious goal for myself — to write, edit and publish it within 3 months — and I did it.
Every morning, I would show up and pound away at the keyboard, print pages and pages and edit by hand, sent the draft to a trusted friend, and then shipped it.
And now that I have one down, I see how I was making much ado about nothing.
Use Your Library Card
Whenever I hit a block, I find a book. I lean into a different world to spark inspiration. And over the years, my creativity is ignited by work that is the opposite of what’s on my docket at the time. So when I’m writing fiction, give me some nitty-gritty non-fiction please!
Don’t believe me?
Steven King says,
“If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.”
Reading is one of the only ways to study the craft of writing outside of a classroom.
Find writers you’ve never heard of — international ones if you can!
Ask the librarian for suggestions or find your local independent bookstore and attend an author’s reading.
Expose yourself to more stories, styles and voices, and you won’t have to wonder about how to write a lot — you’ll just be doing it.
Love the Process...Even When You Hate It
After the goals and times are set and your nightstand is full of books, don’t forget that this is a process and nothing happens overnight. Well, almost nothing good anyway.
You didn’t just set out on a small journey of how to write — you wanted to know how to write a lot — and now you do.
So, when doubt creeps in because you feel far away from the writers you admire, remember that you have to start somewhere, and in a year, you’ll be so glad that you didn’t give up.