11 Ways To Develop A Daily Writing Habit – Even If You Failed Before
Writing every day is hard. There isn’t one simple strategy that everyone can use to help them develop this habit. Give me 100 writers, and I can probably show you 100 different ways that they are able to write every day. What works for your favorite author may not work for you. So here’s a list of 11 ways to develop a daily writing habit. Find one that really resonates with you. The next step is to actually try it. I don’t mean to try it for a few days. I mean to really commit to it for at least a month. Just come back and leave a thank you in the comment section after that month is over!
1. Write to a predetermined word count every day.
That doesn’t have to be 3000 words a day. Make it something simple and within reach. There’s a cool website called 750 words that you have to check out if you’re up for the challenge. They state that over 279,130 writers have joined the site. It comes with awesome looking feedback built in, totally private, and you can learn about how often you get distracted and how fast you write.
2. Write for a predetermined period of time.
Authors such as Bill O’Hanlon recommends writing every day based on time. You can start off with an easy 15 minutes at first. Yes, I know we all want to start off with a 10 hour marathon of writing! However, starting off this way will get you into the habit over time. Take the 30 day challenge and get started.
3. Use the Jerry Seinfeld method of productivity.
I LOVE this one because its so simple. Jerry Seinfeld committed to writing a joke a day. He put an ‘X’ on each day of the calendar. The goal was to never let that link break. An ‘X’ every day. Grab a calendar, place it where you’ll always see it and put that black marker to good use!
4. Block off a set period of time every day
We’re all creatures of habit. When I’m starting on a new habit, I always find it a struggle if I put it on a ‘general’ to do list. The day goes by and I can never seem to find ‘time’ to actually do it. Then I start complaining that there really isn’t enough time in the day to finish things. So instead of finding one day to finish everything, I decided to set aside 30 minutes a day at 7 am. During the first week, it was more like 45 to 60 minutes. A funny thing happened over the next few weeks. After a month, I was doing the task in 15 minutes a day. It was easy. I didn’t have to think about it. When you set up these small tasks every day, they will become automatic. Most of all, stress dramatically decreases.
Do you have difficulty trying to figure out what to write, or have a habit of editing the previous day’s work when you start? Writer’s Life outlined a great strategy for this:
One strategy is to stop writing mid-sentence at the end of every day. This way, the next day you won’t spend hours trying to figure out where to start; you simply finish that sentence and keep going.
Take it a step further by copying that last sentence into a separate document at the end of each day. Spend some time writing out a few possible directions or a brief outline for tomorrow’s writing.
5. Stop Editing
I found this from a post by Mattan Griffel. This is for the person that starts off their writing every day by spending 99% of the time editing yesterday’s work. Pretty soon, you’ll find that you’re editing last month’s work because you haven’t written anything new in over a month! This is a really difficult habit to kick for the perfectionist in you. I get that. I was like that too. If this describes you, try adding the last paragraph or two of your work in a new document. Next day, ONLY open that document and begin writing again. That way you’ll never be able to get your hands on the stuff you want to edit.
6. Get Distraction Free Software
If you’re the type that checks your email and watches cat videos until noon, you might have an internet problem, not a writing problem. There’s a lot of different software you can use to block your access to such things as email or Facebook. For a short list of six, click here. However, you can Google this and find a lot more. Nowadays, I don’t have the problem of checking emails or surfing the web. My problem is opening other folders on the computer. My weapon of choice for this is Focus Writer. It’s a beautiful thing. Takes all other distractions off your screen. Just don’t sit there and admire the beauty though! Clutter it up with beautiful words.
7. Accept the fact that forming a habit does NOT take a simple 21 days
Yes, we all heard about the 21 days to forming a habit thingy. I found that this was false on my own. That usually happened in January when I saw all the New Year’s Resolution people sign up at the gym. They were usually there for about a month. Never saw them again. So how long does it really take to develop a habit? Well, its not 21 days. James Clear wrote a great article on this. If you want an exact number, its’ 66 days. If you want the truth, it’s anywhere from 18 to 254 days. That means some of you will be able to form a great writing habit in a few week, while others will take several months, cursing their friends that took only a few weeks. Don’t look at the time. Look at the process.
8. Don’t focus on more than one habit at a time
So you’re now excited to form the habit of writing every day. Don’t get too excited and begin to add more habits. I know people that start this, and then tell me that they’re also changing their diet, exercising more, reading more, etc etc. They start to list about 4 or 5 different habits that they want to accomplish. Guess what? They’re never going to succeed. If your goal is to write every day, just work on that for now. Once you find the right strategy for you, and your writing is on ‘auto pilot’, go start another habit. Lit Reactor wrote that you’ll develop habits 33% faster and with twice the chance of success if you stick to one habit at a time. Good piece of advice.
9. Focus on the process, not the results
This is a hard one for someone to swallow. So you want to write a novel? It’s 70,000 words. How are you EVER going to write that? Your heart begins palpitating at the mere thought of such a monumental task. Forget the 70,000 words. Get it out of your head. Just focus on writing for 20 minutes a day, or focus on writing 200 words a day. Whatever it is, enjoy the process. I had a large project last year that I spent 20 minutes a day on. After 2 months, I finished it. A friend of mine took 9 months. That’s because he was overwhelmed and never started. I decided to enjoy the process. Finishing it was just the reward.
10. Write out your barriers and strategies
Some of you might want to write out exactly what is causing your issues. The worst thing that can happen is hide the real truth from knowing why you’re not writing every day. We all do that. I do that a LOT. It’s my way of rationalizing that what I’m doing is right. So I’ll just forget the real reasons why i don’t get stuff done! Lit Reactor came up with some great advice on this:
Write out your barriers:
Where are you going to mess up? Come on, you’ve been living with yourself for the last few decades. You’ve got a pretty good sense of what’s likely to keep you from succeeding. Rather than pretending you can just “do better this time” or “will through it,” acknowledge and accept these barriers. Are you likely to sleep in? Feel burnt out and unable to write? Will your kids distract you? Write out the most honest possible descriptions of your likely obstacles.
Write out strategies for overcoming those barriers:
Studies on successful habit formation have often been done in the field of recreational therapy or geriatrics, where enabling healthy routines can mean the difference between a high quality of life and a disaster. In those studies, the most successful intervention for habit formation is a simple write-up of, first, the barriers likely to be faced and, second, specific planned responses for those barriers.
Oddly, it didn’t seem to matter much what those planned responses were. Even if it was simply “I’ll remind myself this is important and get to work,” the intervention seemed to effectively short-circuit inaction. By planning the response in advance, habit-seekers no longer had to expend extra willpower or mental energy when the anticipated obstacles arose.
11. Go public with your goal
I’m sure everyone has heard that in order to accomplish a goal, tell your friends about it and have some accountability. However, this may not be the case for some of you. Did you know that sometimes it’s best to NOT share your goals with other people? Derek Sivers actually did a great TED Talk on this. You can find the video below. He found that announcing your goals may actually make you less motivated. I have a mastermind goal setting group I go to. Ever since I started talking about my goals, I got less done. Now I just go to enjoy the conversation and keep my goals to myself. My productivity has skyrocketed.
These are just some of the ways you can start developing a daily habit of writing. They aren’t all inclusive. There is a lot of information here that will sabotage you. There are other techniques that will be life altering. We’re all different. Take everything you read with a grain of salt. But the real secret is to actually find ONE THING that resonates with you and TAKE ACTION. Remember, jot down on your calendar to come back and thank me when you’re writing every day!