Written by A Guest Author April 6th, 2023

Lessons from a 3-Year-5-Month Writing Streak

By Ratika Deshpande

I started writing every day when I was 16. Because I was young, I’d developed certain ideas about how writing works by learning about other writers’ processes.

I took these notions with me to my writing desk every day for over three years. And I watched as each was built upon or torn down as I continued writing. At the end of my streak, when I took some time to reflect, I realized that the process is both subjective and objective. Some things happen with everyone—no one writes a publication-ready first draft, for example—and some things vary from writer to writer.

More specifically, I noticed that there are certain notions around the process that can be quite limiting, ideas that might prevent you from putting words on paper. Many such ideas, as I learned by writing every day, are simply not true.

Writing is fun. Writing is difficult

It’s a common notion that writing is hard, that it’s supposed to be hard. You’re supposed to cry, bleed, spill your guts out (not literally, unless it actually happened to you and now you’re writing your medical miracle memoir about it). The pain almost seems romanticized.

However, that’s not always true. Sure, writing is difficult, but it doesn’t have to be painful. That’s not to invalidate people’s writing about their pain. Be it memoir or fiction, writing is how many people cope with their pain, give it meaning, find solace. I’ve done it too and found it helpful.

But I love putting words on paper. It doesn’t mean I’m less of a writer (or a person). Ray Bradbury refused to let his work be work—he jumped out of his bed every morning excitedly to get writing. I started my streak at a young age and fortunately didn’t have any dark or painful experiences to write about, and so my mind couldn’t wrestle with the idea of writing being painful. Was I a writer if I hadn’t suffered?

Turns out, I was. You do not have to suffer for your art.

Motivation is fleeting (if you don’t work at it).

Once the initial excitement faded away, motivation wasn’t enough to keep me going. I needed to have something at stake. The streak itself fulfilled this purpose. Having read about how authors struggled with keeping up a writing habit, I was quite proud that I’d managed to write every day during that first month. The streak’s value only increased with each day that I sat down to write.

I started writing because I was motivated. Then I wrote to motivate myself. Repeat. It’s a formula that has been my savior many times—on the bad days, on the days when I didn’t have the energy or the ideas or the time. I wrote to sustain all that the streak kept giving me—most importantly, the confidence that I could do it.

I learned not to depend on motivation but instead have something that would force me to keep coming back.

Embrace influence.

In the beginning, I could see the influence of my favorite authors on my writing. But the more I wrote, the more my writing broke free of their influence and developed its own voice.

It’s worth noting that the influence didn’t always show in my voice. Sometimes it showed up in the kind of stories I was writing, the characters I was developing, the settings I was building. And that’s okay. Whenever anything doesn’t feel true to me, in fiction or nonfiction, I delete it.

Noticing the influence helped me identify what wasn’t a product of my imagination and let me explore new and different paths. Common tropes exist, but what can I do differently? That’s something I learned only by writing regularly, training my mind to understand how stories work.

It is impossible to avoid writing crap.

Every writer has a lot of good and bad words in them. We just have to let them all out so that we can keep the stuff that works and throw away the rest.

You’ll be surprised.

Sometimes my writing took me to unexpected places. And I couldn’t always tell if it was a good trip or a bad one.

Several times while rereading my own writing, I’ve surprised myself. I found stories I didn’t remember writing; stories that were so good I was surprised and glad and proud that I’d written them. This sort of judgment, however, comes only after some time has passed. The distance and perspective and practice allowed me to find the diamonds in the rough. Writing is full of surprises—isn’t that great?

It pays to experiment.

I’m not a poet. I suck at writing poetry. But there have been days when I’ve written poetry to keep my streak burning, and enjoyed it. I gave 100-word stories a go and fell in love with the limitation it provided. It’s a good exercise in brevity (and there are magazines that specifically publish 100-word stories, so you might score an acceptance or two if you practice enough and send them out!). I also tried my hand at science fiction and enjoyed myself immensely.

There were times when I thought I couldn’t do certain things or that I wouldn’t enjoy doing them. But it was fun to step out of my comfort zone once in a while and discover what I could or couldn’t do. I couldn’t have known without trying.

Remember to have fun.

I had bad writing days, but it didn’t happen every day. There were days when I had loads of fun telling a story or writing a blog post. I made a point to note these down because I wanted to remember these times. I’d committed to writing and getting published. What would be the point if I didn’t have fun?

Bio: Ratika Deshpande is a freelance psychology and culture writer from New Delhi, India. She has previously written for Tor.com and Submittable’s blog, Discover. Find her on her website.


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