The Secrets to Fantastic Writing Habits

The Secrets to Fantastic Writing Habits

Do you wish you had more time to write?

That’s a question I get asked by writers most often – from beginners to old-hands. How do you find enough hours in a day?

The key is building strong writing habits.

Everyone can build these habits. Even if “write first book” has been on your New Years’ resolution list for the last ten years or you  haven’t blogged in six months, you can become a much more productive writer starting now.

And that doesn’t mean forcing yourself to sit down and grind out word after joyless word.

Here’s how to build your perfect routine:

Understand How You Get Inspired

Let’s be clear about this: writing is a special kind of work.

Sure, you might be able to force out a page or two when you’re exhausted, hungover, miserable, or just plain uninspired – but no matter how self-disciplined you are, you’re not going to write a great book / post / article / sales page that way.

Writing happens so much more easily when you’re feeling inspired.

And inspiration, contrary to what some artistic types might have you think, can work hand-in-hand with habit. As you think about your perfect writing routine, consider:

  • Where do you feel most inspired? Perhaps you can set aside a special place at home for writing (it doesn’t need to be a whole room), or you might have a favorite local coffee shop.
  • When do you feel most inspired? For me, it’s generally mornings. For you, it might be midnight. Find your inspiration peaks and harness them for writing time.
  • What helps to inspire you? Reading great writing? Meditating? Listening to music? Having a big mug of tea in hand? Putting on your lucky writing t-shirt?

Inspiration doesn’t just come and go at random. There’s plenty you can do to get into a writing mood. This doesn’t have to involve a complex ritual of lighting candles and burning incense, either – it can be as simple as having a set daily routine that gets you ready to write:

Every day, I follow the same, fixed routine. I wake up. I grab a cup of coffee. I sit at the kitchen island and read my email. I wake up my daughter and get her ready for school – iCarly, cereal, clothes, prepare her lunch, brush her hair, walk her to the bus stop.  I walk back, breathing deep, feeling grateful and thinking only about the writing task I’ve chosen to work on when I arrive home.

(James Chartrand, How to Write Massive Quantities on Demand)

Quick tip: Allow for a bit of slack in your schedule. If inspiration hits in the middle of the day, you’ll want to take advantage of it– even if that means putting off answering emails for an hour or two.

Set a Word Target, or a Time Target

Some writers like to work fast. They challenge themselves to hit a target – perhaps 500 words – and race to the finish line.

Other writers prefer to take their time. They don’t like to feel pressured – and they’re happy with two great sentences in an hour.

Targets help you stay focused and on task. They also let you know when you’re done, which is great for motivation, and they’re helpful on days when writing isn’t going quite as well as you’d hoped.

When you’re working towards a target, it should be the only thing you’re doing. No checking emails. No making phone calls. And definitely no Tweeting…

Don’t Write Every Day

Or do. It’s your choice – and what matters here is what works for you.

Some experts insist that you absolutely must write every single day and that even 15 minutes is worthwhile. For some writers, that’s great advice.

For others, it doesn’t work. They find that 15 minutes is only long enough to warm up … and they can’t make serious progress in teeny-tiny chunks.

If you’re one of the latter sort of writers, then two hour-long sessions each week might prove far more productive, even if you don’t write a single word the other five days.

Don’t be afraid to experiment. If one particular habit isn’t working after you’ve tried it for at least a week or two, then try something new.

Once Your Writing Habit is Established…

A writing habit is addictive. It might take a little while to build, but once you’re hooked, it’s easy to keep going.

If you skip a writing session or two, you’ll start to feel antsy. Your week won’t seem complete. Your thoughts might be a little fuzzy because you’ve not had the chance to get them onto the page.

Instead of finding excuses not to write, you’ll find excuses to sneak back to your computer to get a few more words down. Instead of struggling to come up with ideas, you’ll have more than enough.

Instead of writing being a simple task, it’ll become part of who you are.

Are you struggling to establish a good writing habit?  Or do you have some great tips to share with us?  Let us know in the comments!

Post by Ali Luke

Ali Luke blogs about writing, blogging and self-publishing at Aliventures.com. If you’re eager to write but don’t know where to begin, check out her post 12 Sure-Fire Ways to Find Great Ideas for Your Writing.

Join the Discussion. Click Here to Leave a Comment.

  1. Your suggestions are to make me thinking when I have many excuses, bad habits or procrastination.

  2. Been struggling with productivity lately. Thanks for the great tips and encouragement.

  3. Reading this helped me realize my problem: distinguishing between a writing schedule and a writing routine/ritual.

    My schedule changes every couple of weeks, so regular schedules in general don’t work. But with a writing ritual, it’s less about when I write and more about how I write. Epiphany. I definitely get out to one of two coffee shops in town, and I definitely need at least a couple of hours. I can’t deal with fifteen minute sprints. My goals for shorter pieces are usually to complete something, like an outline, rough draft, or final edits.

    This makes me feel better. Thanks for the post.

    • Thanks, Sarah, glad this helped! I think getting to grips with the “how” is so important … we’re all different as writer, and we all have differently structured lives. Glad you’re figuring out your “how” and hope the writing goes well!

  4. I know what you mean about antsy and when I want to write but can’t decide on the details, I just write anything and after a few minutes it seems to flow much easier.

  5. I must admit I do not have a “writing habit.” I only write when I have something to say, or my characters wants to speak. I don’t like to force my writing because if I do I will hate it. I like to have fun with it. I also noticed that I write more, and feel comfortable, when I am using my favorite operating system (Ubuntu) – maybe that is the only routine I have. Thanks for providing some suggestions that I want to try.

  6. This was a much needed article for me today. I’ve been getting really frustrated lately. It’s not a matter of having more time, it’s a matter of having fewer bad habits. Thanks!

  7. My words are flowing these days like water and I am the one you wrote about above who has to fit 15 minutes in here or there. I love this statement since it discribes me to a tee these days: ‘If you skip a writing session or two, you’ll start to feel antsy. Your week won’t seem complete. Your thoughts might be a little fuzzy because you’ve not had the chance to get them onto the page.’ My hubby doesn’t get why I seem unfocused and jittery when I can’t get to my book. Even as I write this, my mind is on my book. So, I better get back to it. Thanks for the awesome post!

  8. Couldn’t agree more. It’s all about the routine and ritual – creating the habit. And it’s so true that once these are established the excuses flip from putting off writing to putting off anything else (in order to keep writing).

Trackbacks

  1. [...] The Secrets to Fantastic Writing Habits by Ali Luke at Men with Pens [...]

Leave a Comment

*