Well, with some exceptions, I try to write every day, and it’s easier that way . . . And I try to stop—to end the day, knowing where I am going to pick up. So when I come back to sit down at my desk again, I don’t think, “Oh, now, what the devil do I do next?”
Goodreads Interview, May 2015
I think of this quote often when writing a book.
David McCullough is the author of so many great biographies and history books including John Adams, 1776, The Wright Brothers, Truman, and The Great Bridge. He is prolific and he is “old school,” still writing his books on the same old typewriter he has used for decades.
There are two incredible pieces of advice in this brief quote:
1. Write Every Day
McCullough points out what every author who is working on a book knows by experience. Taking a day off makes writing more difficult.
Stephen King supposedly writes every day even on Christmas. He doesn’t stop until he hits his 2,000 word quota.
The momentum of working on the same project day after day makes creative ideas and writing flow much better.
2. Plan Ahead for Tomorrow
McCullough gives us another technique in this interview. He finishes each day knowing where he will pick up tomorrow. That way when he sits down the next day he can immediately get to work.
I’ve heard of other authors who stop mid-sentence in order to make the next writing session easier. Others will stop just before getting to a scene or topic they are really excited about writing so that the next day is even easier.
I’m not perfect about this, but I try to outline the next section of a book I’m working at the end of a writing session. That way, when I sit down the following day I can immediately start writing to the outline and editing and improving the ideas from there.
(Bonus: I try to read McCullough’s interview in The Parish Review once a year or so. There is so much wisdom in his simple practice that I constantly find new inspiration as a writer.)