The 3 rules of consistent writing


Good morning Reader,

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  • 👋 I'm Zulie.
  • I'm a writer on Medium, my favorite blogging platform, and on my website, ZulieWrites.com
  • I make content (videos, articles, and newsletters) about how to grow your blogging empire and make a living writing about what you love

Today's newsletter is, somewhat ironically, about consistent writing.

Here's a fun stat for you: in 2021, I wrote 121 articles on Medium.

In 2022, I wrote just 72.

In 2023, I was down to a trim 50.

And in 2024, so far, I've written three. Just three!

I have had a few periods in my life where I just could not find or make the time to write. And by the end of 2023, I was deep in one of those time periods. I was hard-core burned out of single-person creatorhood. I'd had a few personal life changes. And I started a new job as a content creator for a small startup.

In short, I was tired and I didn't have a lot of juice to give to blogging, my newsletter, or my YouTube channel.

I run into a lot of early-stage writers who worry that if they can't maintain a pace of publishing one blog post per day, they can't blog, or will never be successful writers. Don't get me wrong, consistency is important. But protecting your energy and your mental health is important too.

Do you need to post every day? Every week? Every month, at least, surely, to maintain your audience, continue growing your following, and (ideally) earn money or build your brand?

The reality I've found is that, no matter what your publishing cadence is, writing is always there for you. I'm coming back to writing this newsletter after leaving it for two months, and it's still here. I'm still here. You're still here, reading this and hopefully finding it interesting and valuable.

Your brand, your skills, and your audience will all benefit from more frequent writing, yes. (For example, if you are here reading this, you would probably have a better idea of who I am and what I do if I'd been more consistent with my newslettering.)

But are you a failure if you can't hit publish every week? No.

Let's break down the important facets of consistent writing.

Reps help build muscle memory.

I want to start with the first and most basic truth about consistent writing: The more you write (with intention and purpose), the better you will be at writing.

This is why so many published authors swear by some kind of consistent writing rule. Some aim for 500 words per day. Others set aside two hours every morning. They build a writing habit and they keep at it.

Purposeful writing is different from mindless writing. Intentional writing includes, just to offer three examples:

  • Daily newsletters. Each newsletter is carefully written to serve a purpose to readers.
  • Maintaining a regular writing/journaling practice. The writing serves a purpose to help the author clear their head.
  • Working on the same draft every day to improve and develop the ideas there.

This kind of regular writing is so beneficial.

  • It's great internally at helping you get into the writing habit and getting better at distilling nebulous ideas into concrete written words.
  • Externally, it helps you build your audience and develop your brand. People know what to expect from you when they read your writing regularly.

By contrast, mindless, purposeless writing mostly includes:

  • Publishing content online that doesn't add to the conversation.
  • Writing done to tick a box, not to help you hone your craft.
  • Specifically writing with an aim to publish, with no other intent or purpose.

It's exhausting and draining.

Takeaway: When you are trying to build a writing habit, ask yourself: for what purpose? If it's just to feed the content grind, then your time is probably better served elsewhere.

Quantity, by definition, means you won't get a lot of quality.

The flipside to the point I made above is that if you're publishing at a frenetic pace you can't keep up with for no purpose other than "I need to publish today and tomorrow and the next day," two things will happen:

  1. In the short term, your writing will get worse. Writing for the sake of publishing will ensure that you don't care about the writing, the topic, the craft, or the audience -- you're just trying to shunt out content.
  2. In the long term, you will burn out. Caught in the trap of the more you write, the worse you do, you will begin to feel that it's all pointless. You will no longer be able to muster the energy to publish once a week, let alone once per day.

By contrast, the writer who spends a week on a piece -- writing every day, thinking about her words, researching additional angles, asking for and incorporating feedback -- will create a much better article. Her writing skill will improve more, and her audience will enjoy her article more.

There's a tipping point here. You need to write regularly, otherwise you get out of practice. Re-opening the writing well is harder when it's been shut for months. I'm speaking from experience as I struggle to write this newsletter in a way that makes sense and adds value because it's been two months since I wrote one.

But write too often and you will quickly drain yourself of energy and motivation.

Takeaway: If you're debating between quantity and quality, I recommend starting on the low end, and incorporating more as you go.

Start by trying to publish twice per month, and add more in if you're able. This is much more burnout-proof than trying to go for every day, finding out it's impossible, and quitting altogether.

Writing will always be there for you.

The most important factor in the consistency debate, I've found, is that writing will always be there for you, even if you're not always there for writing.

Take me as an example. I have a lot of reasons (good and bad) why I took a long writing break in 2024. It harmed my skill, my audience, my brand. And yet, despite this worst-case scenario, here I am, writing my newsletter.

Did my long hiatus have consequences? Yes, this is the hardest newsletter I've written in months, just because I'm rusty. If you recently signed up for my newsletter, you might have no idea who I am and want to unsubscribe. But, importantly, I'm still here, writing.

I started writing when I was eight. I wrote a short story about a group of zookeepers who went on an adventure to repopulate their failed zoo with a bunch of rare, made-up animals. My five-year-old sister helped illustrate it.

Now, over twenty years later, I've taken breaks, pauses, and hiatuses from writing more times than I can count. And yet I'm still here today, writing.

Takeaway: This is what I find most comforting about writing. Platforms come and go. Other writers come and go. But the act and skill of writing, whether through a journal, a blog, or a scrap of paper in a notebook, is always there.


Let's revisit my introduction. I've been writing less and less each year. Does this indicate I'm failing, or that I need to be more consistent in my writing? In my opinion, no. Here's how I see that my experience illustrates the three rules:

  1. Reps build muscle memory. I did SO many reps early on, which really helped establish my writing habit and teach me writing skills. And now with fewer reps, writing is harder.
  2. Quantity, by definition, means you won't get a lot of quality. In general, the more I write, the worse my writing is. When I was adhering to a mindless daily publish schedule, my writing was much worse than it is now that I'm more intentional. This has to balance with Rule 1 -- writing once per month is generally better than once per year -- but overall, slower, more intentional writing is better.
  3. Writing is always there for you. Despite my long break, I can always come back to writing, as I have done so many times in the past. The same is true for you, no matter where you are in your writing journey today.

I hope this helps you feel less pressure if you've been feeling burned out trying to keep up, and I hope it helps you feel encouraged if it's been a while since you wrote anything and you're not sure how to start back up.

Happy writing,

Zulie

I help beginners write online.

Want to share your story online but not sure how to start? I'm here to help. I cover the best writing platforms, how to grow your online audience, monetization options, and reviews of popular writing tools.

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