So you want to write, but you’re not sure how to start the habit. No matter what you, it seems you can never develop a writing practice that actually sticks.
Duty calls. Work exhausts you. Kids and meals and Netflix all make Sitting Down and Doing the Thing sound so hard.
I get it. I’ve been there. And before I actually decided to start a writing practice, I was always flailing, hoping to find time but never doing it … because I wasn’t making it.
Oh, and before you conclude it was easy for me because I write full-time, know that even after I accomplished that, it was extremely difficult for me to make time for aspirational writing. So again, I do know what you’re going through.
That said, here’s how I made time for my fiction and nonfiction books, and how I make sure to write something for myself every single day.
One of the biggest roadblocks to a writing practice is sheer overwhelm. Instead of promising yourself you’ll write NaNoWriMo amounts, picking something ridiculously easy. 1 minute. 100 words. If you can’t do that daily, you’ll never become a writer, so you have no excuse not to.
Then commit to it.
That means not skipping. When you skip, you work against yourself, teaching your brain that you’re not serious about this. That makes you feel crummy about yourself and hopeless about the thought of a writing practice altogether.
So don’t skip. If one day you’re able to write 2,000 words, cool! But that does not mean you’re “covered” for the next day. If you have to go back to 1 minute, fine. You’re not failing yourself as long as you’re doing it every day.
Over time, you’ll lose your fear and it will become easy – yes, easy! – to write for longer and longer periods.
Whatever helps you fuel your writing practice, keep that nearby. If it’s a notebook and pen, have that in your bag or car and on your desk. If it’s a computer, bring it with you to the coffee shop. If it’s a special kind of tea or a ridiculously expensive candle, cool. Do that.
One of the best tips for creating a real, live writing practice is to know who you are when you write. If you sit down and start struggling through the mud every time, you’ll quickly give. That’s not to say writing won’t often prove a struggle (o-HO, it will), but rather that once you find you in your writing practice, it will become easier.
This starts with voice. Whether you want to write for yourself, for clients, for magazines or for the publishing space, you need to hone a writing voice that works for you and makes you proud of what you produce.
Tell your peeps about your habit. Your boyfriend, your spouse, your kiddos, your parents. Whoever needs to know in order to give you that 1 minute or 100 words, tell them what you’re doing and why it’s important to you. If it feels embarrassing or exposing at first, too bad. Tell them anyway.
I have three places I go to write: My office, the desk in my bedroom and the kitchen counter (because it’s good for my back to stand). I also, occasionally, like coffee shops … though I do not like coffee shops’ tendencies to wreck my budget, so I try to avoid them.
Anyway, pick your places and stick to them. Resist the urge to jump around, because then you lose the benefits of having a “writing place,” which automatically cues your mind that it’s time to get to work. It’s okay if it’s multiple places, but do try to limit them to a few and you’ll reap the benefits of unconscious programming. Worth it.
Since I’m freelance, I get to decide how much work I do. Sometimes, that decision isn’t the best one. And when I have to argue “Should I work more?? Should I play more?? What’s wrong with me? WHO AM I???”
… it never goes well.
So I made a calendar. I picked a target amount of money. That’s my quota. Every day gets a red dot or a green dot, depending on whether I meet this quota. Super simple. I started this on January 1, and you know what? The ratio of green to red dots is insanely high. I make my quota at least 20 days of the month, almost always more. Even the red dot days are productive because my habit means I’m still working and making some money … even if I’m not hitting that magical number.
Of course, you don’t have to write professionally to use this system. If you’re a hobby writer, it works just as well. In fact, next year I’m thinking of putting up two calendars: One for work and one for my aspirational writing – self-publishing, novel-writing and so forth. All you have to do is pick your target (1 minute? 100 words?), print out a calendar and go from there.
If you’re ready to write with diligence, I’m ready to help. I suggest you start with the writing voice course because knowing how you love to write will make it a much more enjoyable process, and therefore make the rest of the steps much easier.
Have questions? Always feel free to get in touch!
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