3 Simple Steps for Making Writing a Habit

Seems the Mugsters have a running theme of talking about aspects of writing with which we struggle. I am writing about “the writer’s life,” because it is something I struggle with and it is a very real, often basic part of being a writer. How do we find—or create—the time to write? Where does the confidence to say “I’m a writer” come from? How do we respond to the idea that writing isn’t a real job, or at least it isn’t unless you’re the next J.K. Rowling or Steven King or E.L. James, whether the idea comes from outside or within?

I can’t answer all of these questions at once, of course, and any answers I have might be different from those of other writers. But here I will begin to share some of the things I’ve discovered.

Today I will discuss: How do we make writing a habit, something as daily and beautiful as a sunset?

The sky outside my house. Sometimes my writing habit is like the sunset. Sometimes I take a break from writing to watch the sunset. Truthfully, I just wanted to share this prettiness with you all.

The sky outside my house. Sometimes my writing habit is like the sunset. Sometimes I take a break from writing to watch the sunset. Sometimes I make loose connections in blog posts so I can post pretty pictures. 

I’ll be honest. What I suggest, I don’t always do. But making writing a priority is part of being a writer, and something I’m still working on. Everybody’s got different methods and different things that work for them. These are three basic things that work for me, and that I’ve heard other writers say work for them.

1. Write Every Day.

Seriously. Even if it’s just for 10 minutes. This is about creating the habit. I promise, your subconscious will work without you, and the blank page will become less scary. And less blank.

Caveat: You’ll notice that going back to writing after taking a break is harder. Solution: Don’t take breaks.

But, don’t beat yourself up if you miss a day, or if you can’t sit down and write for five hours a day with any consistency, or ever. Start somewhere, and work your way up. Challenge yourself to a time limit or a word count, and go. Daily.

2. Write at the same time, your best time.

Some people write best in the morning. Some people get up early to squeeze writing in before day jobs, or stay up late to write, or write while the baby’s sleeping, or on the toilet. Personally, I like to write first thing when I wake up, before the worries of the rest of my life have a chance to seep in. I also like to write in the wee hours of the morning, when very few other people are awake.

Write when you have the least distractions. Make it as easy for yourself as possible. Writing is hard enough without having to worry about the laundry or the phone call you have to make or the memo you have to send.

Writing at the same time every day encourages your brain to be more productive and creative at that time. The habit makes creativity happen faster and increasingly. If you’re writing all over the place, your brain goes, “What, now? You want to write now?” And you spent precious minutes getting yourself into writing mode. If you write every day, at the same time, your brain knows it’s that time again, so you’ll be ready to go.

3. Teach the people around you that writing is a job, and it’s yours.

Ever say you can’t make an event because you’ll be writing and someone says, “Well, can’t you write anytime?” Or are you the one who says, “I can write later,” when you have something else to do? Ever notice how as your calendar fills, writing time is somehow one of the first things to go?

Tell people you are writing from x time to y time, and make that date with your characters unbreakable. Turn off your phone. Really. Do it. Make necessary appointments some other time. Refer to your writing time as “working.” Be serious about your commitment, so when you say you can’t make the event, people’s response becomes, “Ah. You writing?”

Okay, confession. I called these steps simple. So, maybe they’re not so simple. Sometimes they will be and sometimes they won’t. What did you think you signed up for, anyway? But it gets easier, I promise.

Do you write every day? What’s your best time to write? What do you do to teach the people around you that you’re a writer? What other methods do you use to make writing your habit?

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3 Comments

Filed under The Writer's Life

3 responses to “3 Simple Steps for Making Writing a Habit

  1. Cyn Bermudez

    I love this post, Taylor. I’m one of those writing-any-place-I-can type of writers. Even in a car on a road trip I’m typing away on my iPhone. Lol. But I agree, finding one time and place is ideal. I haven’t yet, but I do find that I am most productive in the morning. Great advice. I continue to work on 2 and 3. 🙂 Also, I love the pretty pictures.

  2. Thanks! I think it’s a kind of talent, too, to be able to write anywhere, anytime. It must be a wonderful thing for your brain to be in writing mode constantly! Glad you appreciate my picture 😉

  3. Mike Oliphant

    All very good points and something crucial for those of us fresh out of school. I always try to keep at least a small notebook with me to jot even thoughts/lines/images/etc. down for later. Also, to say ‘Hey, I’m a writer, I even have a notebook to prove it.’
    And keeping my ‘work’ space separate from home helps a lot. I can’t focus for hours at a time if I’m in a place where I generally feel very comfortable/prone to distractions and vice versa.

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