4 Ways To Develop Strong Writing Habits
Get ready for the New Year by practicing these writing disciplines now
If you’ve set any sort of writing goal for yourself, odds are it has been sitting on the back burner for a while as you’ve been trying to find the time, energy, or commitment to get it done…or even just started.
Today I want to offer some quick tips that will help you find all three of these key factors, and give you the motivation to start out strong in 2017!
1. Set Aside Time
This one sounds simple, right? After all, the first step in any habit is to make it regular, put it on the calendar, and keep that appointment just like you would a date or any other special event.
To develop a daily writing habit, however, the key is to start small and gradually build that time up into a block that is sustainable and meaningful.
For a beginning writer, setting aside one whole hour every day to write might sound crazy. For someone who makes her living as a writer, it probably sounds minuscule! For you, the appropriate daily time might be much higher or lower depending on your needs.
I would suggest starting really small so your daily goal doesn’t feel quite as intimidating. When you start to find the value in that time, it will be easier to expand it naturally without feeling like such a chore.
Almost anyone can find 10 minutes a day to start jotting down ideas. After a while, you’ll probably begin craving more time to really flesh out your pieces; that’s when you know it’s time to move the needle upward!
Once your time is blocked off and you’re used to keeping that appointment with your words, you then need to begin recognizing and removing any potential distractions that are keeping you from being as productive as possible.
Do you keep reaching for your phone during your allotted writing time? Put it in a drawer or across the room.
Constantly checking Facebook? Use a productivity app like StayFocusd to block yourself from the site. Personally, I distract myself by playing with my hair (sad but true), so up into a bun it goes until I’m done.
2. Create A Space
After you’ve created space in your day for a writing habit, you’ll want to be intentional about creating space in both your physical environment and your mental state (not as kumbaya as it sounds, I promise!).
If you’ve been writing during your allotted time for a few weeks, you should begin to notice patterns in your productivity that align with your environment. Think back to the days when you felt especially creative: what did that ideal writing space look like, sound like, smell like, or even taste like?
To get a better handle on this full picture, you can also experiment with specific situations to find out what works best, asking yourself some key questions along the way. I’ve answered each question myself below so you can get an example of how this can look.
When and where do I get my most interesting ideas? (In the shower or on a run. Bonus if one follows the other!)
Where do you feel most inspired to write your ideas down, or get creative to expand upon them? (In a coffee shop or at my kitchen counter.)
What accouterments can help you get into a productive writing mood/mental state? (Hot tea and some piano-driven rock music. When I’m flowing, it can literally feel like the ideas are spilling out at the same beat as what I’m listening to.)
You may not think any of these details are important enough to tend to at the beginning, but when you start becoming deliberate about manipulating these variables you’ll be amazed at the effects!
Also notice that each of my answers includes a couple options. I didn’t do this on purpose, but it’s illustrative of the flexibility you need to give yourself in order to facilitate your best work. While rigid structure may be ideal for some—or for all of us up to a point—don’t be afraid to give yourself choices depending on daily preferences.
3. DON’T Stop to Edit
This one can be really difficult to get used to, especially for someone like me who has perfectionist tendencies. The important thing to remember is that your brain isn’t built to do both writing and editing at once, especially if you’re just starting out.
If you try to do this, you’ll end up short changing both tasks, since one is highly creative and the other is highly technical (if you’re doing it right!).
A better method is to wait until you’re finished getting most of the words out (in some form), then take a break and return a few hours or even an entire day later. At this point, you’ll have a clearer picture of what you want your whole message to represent, and be able to polish it up accordingly
You may even feel differently about your words when you have fresh eyes and a fresh mind, which is totally normal. Let the piece develop, and save your old draft in case you want to use it as a starting point later.
Some people find the editing process more taxing than writing itself. If this is you, don’t let that turn you off from writing!
If you love to write but find editing a drag, that’s why people like me exist! We love the part that you hate, and we’re happy to make sure your words say exactly what you intended.
4. Write Through the Hard Stuff
This one’s tough, and big enough to deserve its own post at some point. You’ll notice I didn’t title this piece “4 EASY Ways To Develop Strong Writing Habits.” If you’ve made it this far, you probably know that nothing about becoming a writer is easy.
Even once you have a dedicated time and space to write, and you’ve created a consistent workflow that’s productive for you, you’ll start to notice that some days can feel much harder than others.
This is because writing can be highly emotional, and the process pulls from the deepest parts of who you are, even if you’re not writing a personal story.
If you’re doing this writing thing correctly, your words should feel affected by your experiences as a human—that’s where their power comes from. Don’t be afraid of expressing it.
The good news is that if you develop some of these habits before the going gets tough, you may even be able to use challenging experiences as extra-powerful sources of inspiration.
In the end, I hope you’ll find the writing journey just as important as the finished destination.
What good writing habits have you formed, and how did you develop them? Are there any bad habits I can help you break? Let me know in the comments!