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Writing every day won’t make you a better writer… but it will make you a prolific one.
For many of us, developing a strong writing habit is one of the toughest things to do. Things get in the way, life happens, and sometimes the words just won’t come.
Truth 1: I didn’t want to write today. I actually feel like complete crap and I would love to just sit on the couch and do nothing for the remainder of the day.
Truth 2: I’m still writing this piece because that’s the daily habit I’ve established for myself, no matter how much I really want to disconnect my keyboard and throw it across the room and never hear the clack of the keys again.
It’s not always the most life-changing experience when you sit down at the computer to type. Today, I’m writing to keep up my habit. Last Thursday, I’d tell you I wrote the most exhilarating chapter, finished a book, and was so in flow I started the second book of the series.
Writing every day isn’t the easiest thing in the world, but the more you establish the schedule, the more likely you’ll sit down to the keyboard, even when you don’t want to. Here’s how I built my daily writing habit.
Set a schedule
This is actually the first rule I broke today.
My writing demands for myself are that I’m writing by 9 AM every morning. That gives me time to keep a morning routine, walk the dog, and have breakfast and shower before I sit down to the computer. Once I’m sitting at my desk, I’m there for the long haul.
Even though I have that schedule for myself, there are times where I have to be forgiving to myself. Because I felt like crap today, I decided to go back to bed after my shower. Yes, it’s a luxury to afford that flexibility but it’s also critical to my health. I gave myself until after lunch to gear myself up and sit down at the keyboard.
My schedule changed for the first time in eight weeks but I still scheduled my writing time. I knew I’d be sitting at my desk by 1 PM so I made sure I was prepared.
There is no magic ‘best time’ to write. Everyone has different schedules and there’s no such thing as a perfect writing time. You have to make that writing time for yourself. For me, I love the mornings. For someone who has a job or kids or some other schedule interferences, maybe the best time to write is in the afternoon or after the kids have gone to bed or at midnight.
It doesn’t matter when you choose to write, just set it in your schedule and write.
Understand your purpose
Why do you write? Do you want fame and fortune? To share knowledge? To tell a story that only you can tell? For yourself?
It doesn’t matter what your why is as long as it’s compelling enough to you.If you understand your purpose as a writer, what gives you that burning desire to sit at the keyboard, you’re more likely to sit down and write.
My why is passion and love for telling stories and sharing advice. I’m not the first writer to do it and I won’t be the last. I love the act of writing and it’s even more exciting when I can connect with someone who needs to hear what I’ve written — be that my nonfiction or my fiction. I write in the hopes that someone who needs to read what I have to say will find my work at the right moment.
That’s reason enough for me to want to sit down at the computer, even on days like today. I have something to say and I think I can help others who are in similar situations.
Make it a goal
Currently we are nearing the end of Camp NaNoWriMo. It’s a wonderful month of writing and goal setting and goal crushing.
But you don’t need Camp or Novel Writing Month to make writing daily a goal. Set a tracker in your calendar. Create a spreadsheet of the words you write. Create a writing streak that helps you stay motivated.
The reason I stuck to meditation for as long as I did was because my little app would congratulate me for having streaks for how many days in a row I had meditated. I absolutely despised sitting still for ten minutes but that little counter at the end, the streak of 100 days of meditation in a row made me want to sit and get 101.
The same goes with writing. Set a goal for 30 days straight of writing daily. It can literally be one word if that’s what you have to do to keep the goal alive. Honestly, once you write one word, you’re going to want to write another.
Some great ways to keep track are on a calendar, on a notepad, or somewhere else that’s public and easy for you to see every day. Remind yourself to write.
You can also check out 750 words. It’s a website that tracks your goals and encourages you to keep up a writing streak of 750 words a day.
Write anywhere and anything
Writing is writing, no matter what you write or whether you publish it or whether you do it by hand or by computer or by phone.
Some people get caught up with a daily writing habit of doing the same project or writing a book or writing a full article. But the truth is you can write anywhere and anything and still call it a writing habit.
Some days I don’t write on the computer. On weekends, I save my writing until right before bed when I journal. On weekdays, I write at the computer in the morning. Sometimes by the afternoon I can’t stare at a screen so I switch to pen and paper. One NaNo, I wrote about 10K words on my phone while I was sitting on an exercise bike.
It doesn’t matter what you write or where you write, just write. And you don’t have to feel guilty that you didn’t make progress on a project or novel or even finish something. You wrote something which means you can either fix it later or leave it alone. That’s your power.
Have something to write
I completely understand the fear of a blank page. It feels as if you’re reaching into the white, empty space of your mind hoping that something will come to you and give you an idea that you can follow through to the end.
That’s why you should try to sit down knowing what you’re going to write. When you can sit down with a plan, you won’t sit and stare at the blank page trying to figure out what the first sentence should be. You know exactly what it is you need to accomplish and you can just sit down and start writing.
I personally like to have a couple projects to work on. I have two permanent projects, typically two novels or a novel and a short story, and then I have a flexible project like these articles. I also have a running list in my planner of topics to write about here. I can always look at that list if I don’t know what to write.
Have nothing to write
On the exact opposite end of the spectrum, sometimes you should have nothing to write. There’s something freeing about not being tied down to a project or not knowing where the magic of writing will take you next.
Often, I try to incorporate a freewriting session into the end of a day. My personal preference is that I save big ones for when I’m nearing the end of a long-term project (like my novels). I let myself sit and write my thoughts about a new idea. Sometimes I try to work out a plot and sometimes I just let my mind wander and my pen follow.
My journals at the end of the day are typically freewriting sessions. I don’t sit down with an idea and I let myself write until I fill the page(s). Sometimes I reach the end of the page and I need to be done. Other times I write a few pages. I start with something simple, such as a writing project or task I accomplished and how I felt about it, and then I transition into where the project needs to go or a new idea I thought about while I was working that day. That can trigger new ideas and a rambling of what might come out of it.
Take a break
While writing every day sets up a habit, one day off (or a couple days off) will not be the end of the world. There are no writing gods out there that will take away your writer status if you take a day off.
I easily could have said no to writing today. I thought about it. But I also knew that, personally, if I could write one paragraph, the momentum would carry me through to the end of an article. It’s something I know about myself.
You know you the best. There are times when the best thing for your writing and your habits is taking a day off. It rejuvenates the mind and sometimes spending time away from writing makes you love it that much more. It’s not discouraging.
While I’ll challenge you to try for that one word, that one sentence, or a single paragraph, you are the driver of the writing boat. A day off might help you knock out the next 100 days with a new attitude. You have to do what is best for you.