Like anything in life (even bananas – apparently, eating 480 of them will kill you), writing has its limit. This limit varies from person to person, and from time to time. For example, on good days I can write around 10000 words. On bad days, I might struggle with 100 or none at all. On mediocre days, I might write a couple of thousand, but I might run out of inspiration or steam faster than I normally would.
Writing is like using a muscle. And it’s great when it’s working well. But if you strain it, it hurts for the next few days: if you sprain it, it can take weeks or even months (I should know, I have a permanent swelling on a 4x sprained ankle). So basically, uh, don’t sprain your writing muscle.
“BUT HOW DO I KNOW?” I hear you cry. “How do I save myself from this terrible pain of not being able to write?” As aforementioned, the limit of the writing muscle varies from person to person. So, for one person writing 1000 words in a day might cause them to burn out and not be able to write the next. For someone else, it might be 5k or even 25k. (Which is pretty good if you’re the latter, because I guess it means you’ll almost never burn out. Uh… touch wood.) So I guess you might want to try seeing just how far you can stretch your limit before it’s terrible the next day.
On the other hand, you can under stretch your writing muscle. Like, if you don’t walk around for one day, and then the next day your joints are stiff and it just takes longer to get moving. This also varies from person to person. Some people can take maybe a few days or a week or so before they have to write again, but for others they have to write every day or the next day it just takes twice as long to get going. Once again, try figuring out your limit.
So, if this whole article is me basically telling you to do something which probably seems useless right now, why am I doing it? Well, for a couple of reasons. Firstly, you never know when you’ll need it. For example, you could be on a great writing spree, but you’re nearing your word limit. What do you do? Stop writing, or carry on? If you carry on, then you’ll probably be burnt out the next day. If you stop, you might desperately want to go back, but that means that you’ll be fired up and raring to go the next time you sit down with your novel. Why do you care why I’m saying this? I’m not saying you have to stop, but I’m giving you an informed decision, so that your novel can continue. It’s horrible to be burnt out and hating what you’re writing when you force yourself to, so unless you have an urgent and unmovable deadline, I’d stop at my limit, personally.
Secondly, if you know what your under-limit is, it gives you a great excuse to get away from social occasions.
In conclusion, it’s not necessary to know your writing limit. You don’t have to know if you’re going to struggle to write the next day (there are ways around this, and I’ll probably discuss helping you get started in another post) but it sure helps. Likewise, if you know there’s a really important scene coming up next and you really, really want to write it, sometimes it’s best knowing that if you leave it, it’ll still be awesome the next day, instead of a forced load of drivel from the over-written mind.