How can you successfully establish a writing habit? You want to have one, but you don’t know where to start. If a journey of a thousand miles begins with a step, then every story told begins with a single word. We all have to start somewhere.
When I think about a writing habit, I think of Ernest Hemingway and his daily goal of 500 words per day. Okay, that’s not a bad word count, but then there’s Anne Rice coming in at 3000. Yikes! That’s a lot of words, but don’t let these numbers discourage you.
What I’m telling you is that you shouldn’t concern yourself with how many words famous people wrote per day. You are not them and they are not you. If your current habit is looking less than subpar, it’s okay. I’m here to help. If you allow these simple changes in your life, your writing habit could be as consistent as making that first cup of coffee in the morning.
Steps to Creating a Writing Habit
1. Set Your Intention
What is it that you want to achieve with a good writing habit? What is your primary objective? Do you have a specific project you’re working on? Is it an essay, short story, or novel?
Like any objective, specificity matters. I find it best to work on more than one project. If you get stuck in one, you can always work on a different one. Burn out on projects are real. I will not pretend otherwise.
If there’s no deadline, create one for yourself. If you have a short story or essay you’re working on, sign yourself up on Submittable and submit it to a literary journal. It’ll keep the fire under you.
2. Cut out Your Distractions
Understand your needs from your wants. Are you an avid checker of social platforms? Put the phone away or disable the apps. If you need to post a Happy Birthday to someone on their timeline, set a reminder on your phone to do it after you’re through with your writing session. Your socials can wait, but your writing can’t.
Scrivener is my writing platform and thankfully it can be used off-line. I disconnect from the internet and when temptation strikes, I make a note on the sidebar. Nine times out of ten, it wasn’t that important. I get antsy at the keyboard. Kind of like making an emotional purchase when you’re at the store. Give it some time and the feeling will pass. I didn’t need to check something out, I wanted to.
3. Writing Space
Where do you write? Put up some motivational quotes or scented candles to energize your space. If your current space is cluttered, sort through it. Having a mountain of paperwork in front of you will deprive you from your creative energies. Make your space a place where you are excited to spend your time.
I’ve tried various places in my house, but the best space for me is sitting at my desk. Anywhere else I go, I feel like I’ve been shot with a sleeping tranquilizer.
4. Schedule it
If writing is important to you, you will make time for it, right? Are you a morning bird or a night owl? We make time for what matters to us. If there is a time of day that works better for you make sure you create a schedule around it. A morning person wouldn’t schedule their prime writing time at 11pm. Whenever you feel the most productive, be sure to schedule accordingly.
Once you’ve scheduled it in, consistency will follow. Did you know It takes 30 days to form a habit? I learned about how to form good habits when I was a Mormon girl. Yes, being Mormon had its benefits. One of the many tasks to earn the Young Women’s included forming a good habit.
Writing in my journal for 30 days was one of them. I made it a point to write in my journal every night for 30 days, right before I went to bed. Long after the 30 days were over, it turned into one of my nightly routines.
6. Reward Yourself
When you are consistently working towards a habit that will satisfy your soul, you don’t want to dim the light on it. Celebrate it! We need to do these sorts of things to stay motivated. And if you’re wondering if you deserve it, of course you do!
You don’t have to go on an extravagant spa retreat, but it’s important to reward yourself. Give yourself a manicure or pedicure, visit the beach, visit with a friend or check out that new art gallery. The added bonus, you’ll probably bring home some good content for your writing.
My reward for writing consistently is as simple as completing a French lesson on Duolingo, reading a chapter of fiction, or browsing the latest issue of Poets & Writers. Maybe for you it’s watching an episode of Stranger Things. Whatever your cup of tea, give yourself permission to reward yourself.