To me it seems that every writing advice out there homes in on the following mantra: write every day, no matter what. Stephen King writes in On Writing that he writes 2000 words a day. I do agree that a writer should write. I also think that if I were to write only 250 words a day, it will take me an awful lot of time to finish my novel. And what about all the other ideas in my head?
In my opinion, though, steady, sustainable writing is the crux here. What is the point of writing 2000 words today if this will drain all the creative reserves of tomorrow? Figuring out what is a comfortable daily or weekly writing goal—be it hours spent writing (that works best for me), pages edited, or a word count—is perhaps a better approach than aiming for a rigid word count in the thousands. I’ve experienced that overstepping my limit is counterproductive to good, steady writing. And even worse, it leads me to write less and less.
I usually work on a single long-term project at a time. On such projects, I write on average 1000 to 1300 words a day, 4-5 times a week. I work on other shorter projects when the longer ones are having a rest in the drawer. This is my comfortable limit and it has steadily been increasing. I started out with 500 words or less a day. What got it better, I believe, is that I have been harvesting my creative pool rather than draining it. I showed up (nearly) every day and did what I could afford.
This is why I just can’t thrive in the NaNoWriMo environment as much as I respect this event. The focus there is in words and pages and this completely blocks me. So, no matter what best writing practices recommend, in my opinion, the most important thing is to find a way to keep the writing going, page after page, day after day and not burn out.