You know you should write more.
You want to, in fact.
And you’re beginning to feel guilty about the time you waste—time you could’ve spent writing. You’re starting to notice a pattern to your procrastination:
- Surfing the web
- Group texting
- Facebook and Twitter time
- Streaming Netflix, Amazon Prime, or Hulu…
Soon, you’ll be looking for dishes to wash by hand, for shelves to organize in the garage. You’ll compromise the quality of your dogs walks and morning runs with long, tedious conversations with neighbors. You may begin striking up conversations with strangers.
Meanwhile, your book project gets pushed to the background. You’ll rationalize, too, telling yourself you’re waiting for inspiration, waiting for that perfect plot twist to coalesce.
You’ll tell yourself the timing isn’t right.
You’ll promise yourself one more long weekend to unwind.
Ready for some cold, hard facts?
Your stars will never align.
Weekends will come and go without further progress.
And someday, you’re going to return to that book, realizing you’ve forgotten the whole point of it, why you committed in the first place.
You’re going to fail this way, and it’s going to hurt.
So, it’s time to take action, time to interrupt these destructive patterns. It’s time to figure out how to get back on schedule, back on course with your writing goals.
You’re gonna’ need a plan—a solid plan.
Ready to dive in?
Read on to discover how to write every day—guaranteed.
Figure Out Why You Want to Write
Your “why” is important.
Before writing or committing to a writing practice, figure out your motivation. Will you write for pleasure or to improve your craft? Do you have a more formal purpose, such as a book, blog, or screenplay to draft? Perhaps, you simply want to freelance to supplement your income.
In all cases, your “why” will provide fuel for the journey. Having a clear purpose or intent will provide the much-needed motivation to continue your daily practice. When you’re feeling distracted, bored, or burdened by your writing, you’ll have a compelling reason to push forward.
When the initial excitement wears off—and it certainly will– refer back to your why, your list of goals and motivations, to get back on course.
A compelling why will override any temporary discomfort. You won’t always feel like writing, but if your motivation for writing is strong, you won’t succumb to the latest distraction.
Spend some time, at least 30 minutes, figuring out the reasons for this writing time.
In addition to the obvious benefits of writing—satisfaction, progress, potential monetary rewards, pay particular attention to the consequences of not writing:
- staying stuck at your current level,
- feeling unfulfilled,
- never reaching your potential.
Remember, the negatives can be far more useful. Imagine your life ten or twenty years from now, after wasting this opportunity. What, exactly, would that outcome look like?
Don’t be afraid to dial up the drama. Record your thoughts.
Make Your Writing Goals Achievable
I’ve discussed SMART goals several times on this blog. They’re important and useful. The most important element, however, is letter A: achievable.
Too many writers fail because they set impossible goals. As beginners, they think they’ll knock out a novel in a few weekends. Some think they can do it in a few months. In most cases, these numbers are unrealistic.Too many writers fail because they set impossible goals. As beginners, they think they’ll knock out a novel in a few weekends. Some think they can do it in a few months. In most cases, these numbers are unrealistic. Click To Tweet
As a beginning writer, especially one who hasn’t established a daily practice, you don’t know what you don’t know.
Achievable doesn’t mean a colossal challenge or what you can achieve on your best day. Figure out what you can achieve on your worst day. This should be your starting point.
I walk every day—35 minutes at a moderate pace. It’s easy for me, and I start and finish without much thought. I set this number because it’s close to the minimum weekly requirement to maintain health. After a few years of this practice, I’ve noticed some patterns.
Every few weeks, I see an overweight person sprinting, looking at their Fitbit, and collapsing on a bench. After resting for a few minutes, they take another shot around the track. They last about a week at this pace. Afterward, I never see them again.
At the same time, I recognize a dozen singles and couples who walk daily. Like me, they’ve been at it for years. They’re not shooting for instant gratification or instant fitness. They’ve set realistic goals, and they keep them.
This could be you and your writing practice. 300 words a day for 365 days = 109, 500 words. You’ve just completed a novel.
If you hit your 300-word mark daily, you’ll find it easy to inch it up to 500 words. You could draft your novel in 6 months. That’s pretty awesome for a beginner.
On the other hand, you could burn out in a week at 1000 words per day.
Schedule Your Writing Time
Once you’ve worked out your motivation and your daily goals, it’s time to schedule your writing time.
This doesn’t mean morning, afternoon, or evening. It doesn’t mean between shifts or before bed, either. Set a time, and stick to it.
You may want to consider getting up an hour earlier or deleting an unproductive activity to create time. Make sure it’s a time when you won’t be disturbed, a time you can count on every day.
Good intentions won’t cut it here. Neither will being vague or optimistic. Choose a time when you’ll be the only one awake or somewhere your family and friends can’t bother you.
Remember, you’re going to have challenging days—days when you just don’t feel like writing. You’ll need to establish a clear-cut time in a distraction-free zone.
Dress Up Your Writing Time
Choose or create a comfortable, inviting space to write.
I’ve heard of writers converting closet space into an office. Choose a space with a door, and make it pleasant and inspirational. Surround yourself with sights and smells that you’ll love.
Brew your favorite tea. Treat yourself to your favorite French roast.
Over time, these sights and smells will reinforce your productivity. Each time you smell that vanilla candle and take a sip of your favorite Chai tea, you’ll associate those sensory details with writing.
Buy a tear-off pad of inspirational quotes from your favorite authors.
Position it next to your laptop. Add or subtract music. Test different combinations to find the best environment for your writing practice.
Treat this as a sacred space; your nervous system will do the rest.
Treat Your Writing Practice Like a Job
I must admit I’ve struggled with this axiom.
Most writers don’t want to think about writing in this way. Doing something you love—your art, your calling, seems diminished when you equate it with the idea of employment.
If you think about it, though, you tend to show up for work. Right?
There’s just too much fallout associated with missing a day or two. It’s more of a hassle than showing up when you don’t feel like it.
This disconnection from your first love, your art, your vocation can be liberating. I promise.
You can have all the bonuses and by-products of writing—especially if you treat it like a job. The work gets done, and you reap the rewards. It’s just like getting paid, automatically.
If, however, you don’t treat it like a job, your output suffers. You stop reaping the benefits of daily progress. Eventually, if you skip enough days, the loss in momentum and rewards breaks down your habit. It becomes easy to quit.
So, protect your job. You’re the only one who can!
Take Regular Breaks During Writing
To continue with the job analogy, consider all the perks in a standard workday.
You may take periodic breaks for coffee, for snacks. You might relish your morning trip to the copy room, stretching your legs and sipping a bottled water while the copier collates the pages of your presentation.
Schedule predictable, timed breaks. Keep a book handy or your favorite news site on the internet.
They key here is to treat your break time like you would at the office. Allow five, ten, or fifteen minutes off to rest and recharge.
Come back to the page refreshed, ready for more productivity.
Breaking your writing time into manageable chunks pays dividends.
According to a New York Times article, “Standing up and walking around for five minutes every hour during the workday could lift your mood, combat lethargy without reducing focus and attention, and even dull hunger pangs, according to an instructive new study.”
The best part of establishing a predictable time out is the psychological benefit. You know when your next break is coming, so you can relax and work at a comfortable, productive pace. Burnout and fatigue become less likely.
Reward Yourself for Meeting Your Writing Goals
Writing can be lonely and unpredictable.
You can go weeks and months without tangible benefits. Sure, you can meet your daily word count, but you have no guarantees of material success or acknowledgment.
At times, it can feel like a high-stakes venture. You commit years of your life to a process—years you can’t get back.
So, come up with some meaningful rewards for your efforts. Establish daily rewards for your progress: an hour curled up with your favorite author or a trip to the café to people watch and flip through magazines.
Choose inexpensive, gratifying rewards. This positive reinforcement goes a long way.
Although we have internal reward systems that keep us motivated, they aren’t always enough. Feeling good about crushing your daily word count is awesome, but it’s no match for a Frozen Caramel Machiato or a new book from the public library.
Be kind to yourself. Reward yourself for staying the course. Make a big deal out of finishing each chapter. Treat yourself to a fine dinner or weekend getaway after completing your first draft.Be kind to yourself. Reward yourself for staying the course. Make a big deal out of finishing each chapter. Click To Tweet
Track Your Writing Progress
Seeing is believing.
I remember transferring files from one laptop to another. While fuming over the broken hinge on my otherwise serviceable laptop, I was astonished to discover the volume of writing I’d completed in its three-year lifespan.
Put up a calendar. Cross out every day you meet your word count. Create a checklist for chapters. Spend the last five minutes of each writing session marking your progress.
Tracking your outcomes makes progress real; it does wonders for your self-esteem.
Instead of worrying about the long-term commitment of your work in progress, you can monitor each daily win in real time.
These little actions nudge you toward success. You can’t argue with what you can verify on paper.
Defend Your Writing Time
Joyce Carol Oates says, “The great enemy of writing is interruption.”
Face it. Your friends and family may never understand or appreciate your writing time. Instead, they’ll find ways to distract you from your daily practice.
Only another writer would understand the value of this sacred time. Non-writers often think you have tons of carefree hours to ponder your navel.
Schedule it, and do what you must to honor it. I’ve gotten up at 3 AM to return to a project I’d been pulled away from by phone calls and interruptions during daylight hours.
This is time you’ll never get back. Losing writing time means stealing it from somewhere else.
Sometimes, you have to be harsh. Don’t take calls or answer texts during this time. Get comfortable saying “no.”
There’s nothing sweeter than publishing.
At the same time, there’s nothing worse than having all these creative ideas sitting around unfinished. Imagine leaving this earth with a drawer (or attic) full of unpublished works.
Put your work into form, and publish it. It’ hard to move forward without completing and releasing it.
It’s terrifying sometimes, but it’s better than keeping your ideas under wraps.
Publish, and begin your next project.
Thanks for reading. Take a moment to share thoughts on your personal writing routine.
What keeps you returning to the page? Leave a comment below.
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