How To Write 5K Words A Day
You probably have no idea who I am, but you’ve likely read my words. I write 5,000 words a day for a variety of publications that are primarily in the parenting, women’s lifestyle, health, and science spheres. When those areas intersect, I beam, and the work explodes out of me. My name is hidden behind the words “staff writer” or is erased altogether for some of my clients for whom I ghostwrite all their content, but trust me, you’ve probably read my words.
To get to a place in my career as a freelance writer where I can reliably churn out clean, high-quality copy under incredibly tight deadlines like news stories that must be turned over in under an hour. Or interviews that require delicate interpersonal skills. Or heavy research on complicated topics that I must simplify for a broad audience, I had to learn a few tough-love lessons about what writing is and isn’t, and it was forcing myself to write 5,000 words a day that helped me learn those lessons.
First of all, there is nothing romantic about planting my butt in a chair and focusing on the pile of assignments glaring at me. Sure, sometimes I like to imagine that I am famous or even raking in the dolla-dollas. But in reality, writing is my job, and it is brow-sweat hard work. It is the thing that I show up for every day, whether I feel like it or not. The repetition of deadlines is a huge reason why my daily word count is increasing.
To pump out the amount of copy I do in a day, I had to work my way up from the anxiety of a blank screen to the regular motions of clacking away at my keyboard no matter what else is going on in my life. Even if my kids are sick — or staying home because of a global pandemic — I still plant myself at my desk every single day. As I see it, writing is a practice that gets easier and harder as time goes by. So, when writers ask me how I do it, this is the advice I give them.
Start where you are.
If you have zero time to write, but you want to write, then start where you are. Write for ten minutes a day and set a minimum word count, even if it is as tiny as 100 words. Do that for a week and then add 50 words to your minimum. Work your way up to 500 words a day. Did you know that 500 words are an acceptable length for an article that you could sell?
Stop making excuses.
Building on your writing skills requires practice. So. Much. Practice. If you can’t schedule a regular time to write, then create a situation that makes it easy to write in between tasks. When I was in college, I worked at a pizza shop, and my boss would often say, “if you’ve got time to lean, you’ve got time to clean.” He was right. This same idea applies to writing; if you have time to scroll Instagram or rage read the news for 30 minutes in the bathroom in the morning, then you have time to write. Prioritize your desire to get words down.
The comments about your work don’t matter.
Unless words of critique come from your editor, pay the comments section no mind. Here’s the thing, if you’re starting out as a writer, it can be terrifying when someone cuts you down and calls your work awful. Equally, though, all those comments telling how awesome your words are aren’t helpful either. I love to be told that my work is excellent, that I am talented and intelligent, but unless I am getting constructive feedback from an editor who I trust and respect, there is little from which I can grow. Look for editors and other writers who will push you in healthy ways and keep you writing. When you ignore the noise and focus on the signal, you won’t feel the urge to quit writing every day.
Create goals that you can stick to no matter what.
Just like sit-ups, you can’t write 5,000 words a day without burning out unless you build your way up. To help you get to your word count every day, try diversifying what you write. Create a list of things you want to accomplish like a blog post, a newsletter, pitching stories to an editor, working on a book, or screenplay, or whatever the project is that you want to see unfold. Not having a plan about what you’ll write can make facing that empty screen feel scary.
Seriously, get a book and start reading. When you read a lot, you can write a lot. Why? When you can see how another writer structures their craft and how they plot out their narrative or news article or whatever it is you’re reading, it helps you better understand how to write your ideas. Mix up your reading list and try looking up long-form essays, humor essays, short stories, novel-length projects, screenplay writing, research studies, and more.
Get your ideas in front of other writers.
Not only will your work get better over time when you can find writers you trust who will be honest with you about your craft, but simply interacting with other writers will inspire you to sustain the energy needed to hit your new word count goals. If you have no reason to feel excited about slogging through the work of writing, then you won’t do it.
You will hit walls. You will want to quit. You will even get angry at the process; that’s all normal. But if you keep at your craft, if you SHOW UP for it every day, it will start to show up for you in return. Sign up for my weekly newsletter to read more of my writing advice.
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