How to Make a Habit of Writing
So many people dream of writing a novel, or a short story, or a personal memoir. But they don't. Why? All you have to do is start writing.
If you've never been in the habit of writing regularly it's difficult to start. However, like any habit, it gets easier the longer you do it. So now's the best time to get started.
Write Every Day
It's at the top of every list of advice for writers. "Write Every Day. No Matter What." It's true. How are you supposed to improve without practicing every day? This is your opportunity to practice.
You're going to write stuff that is bad, terrible, awful. Stuff you can't even bear to read. But that's okay. Because the more you write and the more you learn the better you get overall.
The author Julia Cameron writes about Morning Pages in her book "The Artist's Way." You can use these morning pages to get you through creative blocks. All you do is write three pages by hand every morning in a notebook and then you put them away and don't read them.
It seems like a lot but that's important. It helps you get to the core of what you're really thinking and feeling.
During college I discovered the website 750words.com. The creators were inspired by Morning Pages to create a digital version. They decided three pages equals about 750 words. So every day you are given a blank screen. You can get little accolades and they have a point system so you can see how many "points" you earn each month for your writing.
Start Right Now
Science says it takes 20-40 days to make a habit (depending on which study you ready). Do not wait for the first day of the month to start. Start right now. Before you even finish this page. The fact that you are reading this means you are ready to get started you just need someone to tell you to do it.
Grab a notebook, open an empty document just start writing whatever comes into your head. What are you worried about? Write your plans for how you're going to write every day. What are you excited about?
Okay. You've completed today. Good job. Get out your calendar and draw a big X across it. Or a heart or a smiley face. It doesn't matter. Make it big so you can see it. So everyone can see it. I repeat. Do not wait for Monday, the beginning of the month, or January 1st to get started.
Keep that calendar where you can see it when you're writing. If you have to draw up a new one to tape to the wall then do that. Hold yourself accountable.
Make a Plan
Now you have to make a plan to help yourself maintain this habit. Pick a time to write every day. I strongly recommend writing as soon as you get up. It's hard. It's really hard. I am not a morning person. I used to write in the evenings but it was too easy for things to come up that seemed more important than writing. I would go out for drinks with friends, or go to the movies. And by the time I got home I was too tired to write, or it was after midnight and I missed my day.
Morning Pages are called that for a reason. If you start writing before you're fully awake you can get stuff down before your inner critic wakes up and tells you everything is awful. Have your coffee or tea or drink a glass of water and get writing.
Do not even think about turning on the tv until your writing is completed. I wasn't exactly a watch tv in the morning person but having the tv on went hand in hand with having my laptop on. I started getting up an hour earlier so I could be up before my roommate and husband. They are some of my biggest distractions. This gives me some quiet time in the living room to get my writing done.
I tried to avoid checking facebook before writing but that was harder to give up than I thought. So I try to limit my social media time before writing. I can facebook obsess as much as I want after my writing is done.
How are you going to reward yourself once you reach your goal? I usually just brag to my roommates. I also write because it reduces my anxiety so I know that I'm going to feel happier every day that I do my writing and that's a pretty big incentive. Keeping my streak alive is a big incentive to me. I would be really sad if I missed a day at this point.
Why Are You Doing This?
Understand your motivations. Are you doing it for the challenge? To improve your writing skills? To decrease anxiety and improve your mood? Find a motivational quote and tape it next to your calendar near your writing space. Remind yourself why you're doing this anytime you think about skipping a day.
Writing Prompts and Pushing Past the Block
Try to break out of your comfort zone. Figure out where your comfortable stopping point is and push yourself past it. Make yourself work for your goals. That's why the writing goals are set so high. They're supposed to challenge you.
I find I can comfortably write about 400 words. That's the recap of my day, my plans for the current day, or whatever. Then I have to force myself the rest of the way. I usually evaluate my feelings about whatever I'm stressed or excited about. I talk myself through whatever I've got going on.
You're allowed to write whatever you want. Literally, anything you want. You can use it to write an ongoing story from day to day. You can use it purely as a journal to recap your days. Whatever you want.
If you're stuck on what to write about go find some writing prompts. I like to look for them on Pinterest. You can choose ones that let you talk about yourself and your experiences or you can look for story starters.