Thoughts on My 825 Day Writing Streak, and Why I Voluntarily Ended It

I always knew that when I started my writing streak, it would have to come to an end. I voluntarily ended my 825-consecutive-day writing streak on Sunday, bringing to an end more than 2-1/3 years of writing every day.

I ended the streak because it felt like it was the right time to end it. But that seems like a fuzzy answer, so I tried to put together a chart that shows several factors that went into the decision.

825 Day Writing Streak

The x-axis is time, the y-axis represents different things, but the higher on the axis the more of something it represents. There are 4 colored lines:

  1. Difficulty in establishing and maintaining the habit of writing every day (red).
  2. A relative amount of time each day that I had available for writing (blue).
  3. A relative measure of my writing productivity (green)
  4. A measure of the overall mental strain of the streak (yellow)

For me, the mental strain of the streak was a linear function. It increased slightly each day, but I didn’t really notice it until it had really built up steam. It probably began to creep into my consciousness at around the 600-day mark. This presented itself in many ways, most commonly, “Uh, I’ve got to find time to get the writing in today.”

The difficulty of establishing the habit hit its peak in the first 100-200 days. After that, it was easy to do, even though I didn’t always feel like doing it. After 200 days, I’d encountered every type of obstacle and had come up with strategies for dealing with those obstacles.

The amount of time I had to write each day gradually increased from about 30 minutes to about 42 minutes, after which it began to decrease again, mostly as other activities crowded out my writing time: school activities with the kids, work projects, sports with the kids, and other things.

Finally my productivity was a steadily diminishing curve, not because I wasn’t writing every day, but because I got into a rut where I was forcing myself to try to get stories right, and doing far more re-writing than I might otherwise do.

Somewhere around the 650-700 day mark things converged. The mental strain of writing every day was compounded by less time to write, and less productivity. That the streak continued for another 150 days or so was out of sheer will-power. I thought I could brute-force my way through the tough part. This just added to the strain.

Knowing that the streak would end at some point, I decided to end it voluntarily, rather than find myself mentally exhausted one day, and feel disheartened simply because I couldn’t get in my writing.

The 825-day streak by the numbers

In the course of 825 days, I wrote 687,907 words. Of that, all but 25,000 words were fiction. That comes to an average of 833 words per day. In terms of time, I spent about 42 minutes per day writing over the course of the streak. That comes to 24 solid days of writing time over the course of 2-1/3 years. I published 14 pieces of fiction nonfiction during the streak.

Was it valuable?

Absolutely! I learned that I can write under just about any condition. During the 2 years I taught myself to be able to start writing without any warmup. I learned to be more efficient with my writing, and I honed my overall process for writing stories, working through drafts in a way that makes sense to me.

Of course, I will continue to write. But I no longer need to prove to myself that I can do it every day. I know I can, and now, when I write, I will be much less-focused on the numbers. The numbers have done their part.

A mental rest period

But first, I need some rest. I have not written since Saturday, and it feels pretty good not to have that streak hanging over my shoulders. What have I done? Well, I’ve played video games, something I rare did over the last 2-1/3 years. My days feel a little easier knowing that I don’t have to find time to write. When I feel rested, and idea strikes me, I’ll start writing again, but with a focus on finishing each story, rather than trying to break my record.

In case, it was absolutely worth doing for me, and if I had to do it all over, I don’t think I’d change anything. The experience was invaluable in many ways. Now, I’m just looking forward to enjoying some time without having to worry about getting any writing done.

5 thoughts on “Thoughts on My 825 Day Writing Streak, and Why I Voluntarily Ended It

  1. What a run! It’s been inspirational to see your progress over the last couple years, Jamie, and really encouraged me to write consistently. I recently had to cut back on my writing time as well this fall due to similar factors as yours. It’s been really restful to give myself moments of rest so that when I do write I have the capacity to focus and do it well. I hope you get to enjoy that rest as well!

  2. But I no longer need to prove to myself that I can do it every day. I know I can, and now, when I write, I will be much less-focused on the numbers. The numbers have done their part.

    Then it was a success for what it did 🙂

  3. Congratulations Jamie on voyaging through an inspirational journey and sharing it.

    I was always impressed with Sommerset Maughams response to when asked if ‘he only wrote when inspired.’

    ‘I only ever write when inspired. Fortunately that happens at 9am every morning.’

    In Ireland, where I come from, we call that Smácht. It’s the Irish word for ‘positive discipline.’

    You have demonstrated massive Smácht over the past 800 odd days. Enjoy your rest and return – refreshed, rejuvenated and ready to go somewhere again.

    Pádraic Ó Máille.

  4. Awesome streak and very inspirational, Jamie. Your program has really helped me with my writing, so many thanks to you for sharing both the code and the insights into your process.

    I recently had a similar experience of ending a streak (albeit much shorter than yours). I realized once it ended that after getting to 150+ days, missing a day didn’t mean as much – I had proven that I could do the writing day in and day out. Now my goal has shifted from writing everyday to finishing what I write.

    I started a new streak the following day and have been at it ever since, but I know if I miss a day or two, no big deal and I can always start it up again.

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