Welcome Back! This post continues my tips for creating a regular writing habit– such as writing every day. For part one, click here. Part two begins now!
Tip #4- Eliminate Time Wasters– One of the biggest challenges when it comes to writing every day is simply finding the time. And it’s not that surprising. Between the regular responsibilities of juggling family, friends, a career, and something resembling a full nights sleep, the idea of carving out time for daily writing may seem impossible. Fortunately it isn’t. You just need to be honest to yourself about what’s really a worthwhile use of your attention, and what’s just wasting that precious time.
To me, time wasters include spending a lot of time on social media, mindless shopping (online and in real life), or marathoning TV shows or movies. While participating in these activities may be beneficial to a certain extent (social media allows us to connect with friends, shopping allows us to take care of necessary purchases, and I’m the last person to look down on someone for having a favorite TV show!), people have a habit of taking things too far, which ends up eating into precious writing time. For me, my biggest time waster is youtube. I’ll start off with one news show, and before I know it I’ve fallen into a black hole of movie trailer reactions, and haul videos. And while watching a video or two can be a nice way to unwind, I know that I push things too far, eating into time that could be better spent elsewhere.
Recognizing what these time wasters are requires us to pay serious attention to how we spend our time. Be honest with yourself. Do you spend more than an hour a day on social media. How many weekends have been lost to maratoning the latest Netflix series? If you’re really going to make writing a priority, that means taking these time wasters, and minimizing them.
Tip #5- Create A Visual Representation of Progress (or your lack thereof)– This one is super simple. I have a calendar, and each day I write down how much I’ve written (either in time, or how many words). This visual representation allows for an extra layer of accountability. If I miss a day, I put in a big X instead, and seeing too many X’s when I’m not dealing with a planned break (more on that later) really shows me where I’ve fallen short. On the other hand, seeing several days all lined up in a row where I managed to get in an hour or more of writing is a real motivator. My old fashioned method may not work for you, so there’s always the spreadsheet option. And there are great aps like “Don’t Break the Chain.” The actual method is up to you. It just really helps to have something to keep track of your progress.
Tip #6- Be Aware of Your Own Strengths and Weaknesses- This one is going to be the most personalized one of all of my tips, because when it comes down to it, we all have our own unique strengths and weaknesses when it comes to writing. For example, I am an extreme creature of habit, in love with my precious, precious routine. An example of this is when I was in grad school, I spent most of my waking hours in the library. There were several glassed in doors at the front of the building, and I would always enter using the same one. After a while, one door stopped functioning property. They locked it, and posted a sign asking people to use another one. The first day I came across this, I, being a creature of habit, ignored the sign, went right to the locked door, and walked right into it. And then I did that the next day. And the next. And the next.
Fortunately, what makes me a horrible person at opening doors, makes me a great person for creating a writing habit. I just need to to write at the same time every day long enough, and eventually the habit will stick. Of course, it something occurs to break my beloved routine (say, ahem string of snow days mid-February), I often find its not so easy keep up my habits, and need to take serious effort to refocus.
Another thing I struggle is with is finishing. Once I come to the end of something, I have a habit of mentally checking out before I’ve actually reached the finish line. As a result, when I get to the end of something, I need to really push myself to get through those last few pages. To get it done, and get it done well.
Finding your own strengths and weaknesses is something that will happen over time as you spend more time writing. For example, you might discover that you struggle to get over the hurdle of that first blank page, but once you get going, everything falls into place. You might discover that you do really well at write-ins, and that writing with other people is a great way to keep you motivated. Or you might discover that you’re like me and need to do all of your writing solitary, in silence, oftentimes with the lights off like a creepy vampire hermit. Picking up on these quirks is something that will take time, but try to be aware of them so you can know when your writing will be the smoothest, and when you will need to push through a rough patch..
Tip #7- Work Towards Planned Breaks to Keep You Refreshed, and Focused- Writing every day has so many benefits. It makes makes my writing flow much better, and helps me when it comes to keeping all of my plot lines and character arcs straight. And it makes it a hell of a lot easier to finish things! But the idea of doing something every day for the rest of my life can be daunting. And like everyone else, I feel the urge to skip a day every now and then. Only, once I’ve skipped one day and the habit is broken, it becomes very easy to skip two days. Or three. And then, before I know it, the habit is broken and I’m back at square one again.
That’s why I’ve really come around to the idea of taking a planned break. Here’s how it works for me. I separate my writing into chunks- with an ideal chunking lasting about a month. Then I take a week off to do something fun, and come back at the end, refreshed and refocused.
Those were my tips on how to create a writing habit. I hope that they’re helpful to someone! Writing on a regular basis has helped me so much, not just as a writer, but just in general. I find I’m overall a happier person when I’m writing on a regular basis, which I’m sure makes life a of easier for my loved ones as well.
I would love to hear if anyone has any other tips for writing every day/creating a regular writing habit. As mentioned previously, these may be what works for me, but everyone is unique. Finding what works for you can be a hell of a challenge, but there’s no denying that rewarding feeling that comes with finishing something good. Creating a regular writing habit is completely worth your effort!