Building a Daily Writing Habit

A writing routine is a lot like diet and exercise. It’s much easier to stay in good shape than it is to get in good shape.

Now that I’m dusting off the proverbial cobwebs and starting to get writing (and moving) again, I’m confronted with the inescapable fact that I’m pretty out of writing shape (and physical shape too if I’m being really honest) and it’s going to take hard work to get me back to where I want to be.

That’s why I was pretty psyched when I came across the article 6 Simple Tips to Create Daily Writing Habits by  Pamela Hodges over at The Write Practice.

Before anyone points out how ineffective most shortcuts to writing (and fitness) rarely are, let me counter with the fact that simple does not equate to easy. Pamela breaks it down to the bare bones when she writes:

Writers write. If you want to write a book or a story, but you only write once a week, or on every second Sunday when the temperature is between 72 and 82 degrees, you will never finish your book or your story.

The goal is to have daily writing habits so you can finish your book, or the story you keep thinking and talking about. And when that book is finished, you can write another one and one after that.

So I’m all in when it comes to any practice or tip that’s going to help me make writing a daily habit and I think her six tips are a great place to start. Here they are:

  • Set a small daily goal

Why does it help to set a small goal? Pamela explains the all too familiar predicament that comes with having outsized ambition:

I was going to write three pages a day from Monday to Friday for six months. I wrote three pages on Monday and Tuesday. On Wednesday I didn’t write because I forgot to sit down. On Thursday I didn’t write because I felt so bad about not writing on Wednesday. And on Friday I didn’t write because I felt so bad about not writing on Wednesday and Thursday.

I’ve been there and done that. It’s much better to have a daily goal that’s much smaller and therefore much easier to achieve. What’s that goal going to be? A page, a paragraph, 100 words? Only you can decide, but don’t set yourself up for failure before you begin.

  • Lower the barrier to start

It’s much easier to start something if the starting itself doesn’t require much effort. Pamela accurately points out:

We only have to sit down and write. We don’t have to write perfectly. We don’t have to write a novel in one sitting. And if the pencil and paper are already on our desk when we wake up in the morning, it will be easy to sit down and write a few imperfect sentences.

If we make the goal too big, or if we hide our pencils in the bottom of our closets, we may never start.

  • Don’t break the chain

Keep the streak going! Pamela recommends a visual reminder:

On your calendar write an X for every day you write. Keep your calendar where you can see it to remind yourself to not break the chain of X’s.

Once you get going it’s very motivating to just keep going. Don’t break the chain.

  • Write whenever you can

If you tell yourself that you must write first thing in the morning or that you write best at your desk you’re going to limit how much time you can actually spend writing. There are plenty of quiet moments throughout the day that we can take advantage of to write. Besides, you only need to get that one paragraph done today, right?

  • Get off social media

Speaking of those quiet moments throughout the day, Pamela lays it out:

Do you know how many times you check your email or scroll through Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram? How many episodes of a television show did you watch this week?

Find time in your day to write by looking at where you spend your time.

Enough said.

  • Just dig

Pamela shares a great quote from Cheryl Strayed that really brings her list home:

Some days I would rather talk about writing or buy another book about writing, but then I read this quote by Cheryl Strayed about coal miners.

“Writing is hard. . . . Coal mining is harder. Do you think miners stand around all day talking about how hard it is to mine for coal? They do not. They simply dig.”

―Cheryl Strayed

It’s time to start digging. Happy writing!

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