A few weeks ago, I set myself a challenge, to write daily. And today, I want to cover in more depth the importance of developing a daily writing habit, even if it’s just a freewrite, or writing ‘practice’ pieces.
In order to win, one must train. No matter what it is. Athletes train, and train and train. Musicians practice and practice before they can play a piece by heart, and from the heart with eloquence. Every master – at anything, had to hone his craft, practising, hours upon hours upon hours. If you don’t practice, how can you expect to be great?
Just like the well quoted ‘Outliners” by Malcolm Gladwell – research shows you need to devote approximately 10,000 hours to something before you develop true expertise in that area.
With this in mind, it’s even more important to be writing daily and to set up a commitment to yourself. In order to write every day – you must write every day. That’s it. That’s all there is to it.
Today, I will cover:
- Getting to the page
- A simple technique to getting the words out
- 300 words a day technique
- Ways to find time in your day to write
Step 1 – Getting to the Page
The problem lies in getting you to your notebook, pen in hand, or keyboard, fingers ready. The problem is showing up. Therefore you need tricks to get you there, and to get you pouring out the words until you can sit down and start writing without any struggle.
It’s good to have a list of strategies on hand to help you reach your goal of writing each day. Here are some that I utilize on a daily basis:
- Make it your number 1 priority. Don’t do anything else until you do it. If you absolutely need your coffee, make that first and sit down with it.
- Reward yourself. Sit down with that special drink a milky coffee, a herbal tea, a chai, or a green juice or smoothie. Reward yourself for getting to the page and showing up.
- Set larger rewards for weekly, or monthly writing targets. Buy that beautiful dress you’ve been eyeing up, go to the movies, for a massage, go out for dinner, or buy that new mountain bike.
- Tell yourself: “no ‘TV’ time” until you’ve met your daily writing target. Replace ‘TV’ with whatever your favourite daily time-consuming vice is, such as playing the XBox, watching Netflix, or even watching the evening news.
Step 2 – Get the Words Out – Freewrite!
Most importantly, don’t make your writing a chore. It should be fun. That’s why I like starting with a bit of freewriting first. Here’s a little example of freewriting:
Usually, my own freewriting begins like this….
“I suck. I suck. I suck. I can’t write. Writer Writer. I’m not a writer. I’ll never write. Who am I really.”
Then it slowly turns into something like:
“That bird….I saw yesterday.
She was beautiful. Like a rare shell on the beach of love…..
Rubbishy dribble….but at least its better than rubbish rubbish rubbish….”
Then if I’m lucky, out of nowhere, a few lines like this might appear:
“The boy sat on the rock staring at the waves. They didn’t stop. kept coming, holding back for no one.
He wished he was like those waves. Strange, cold, unrelenting. But he was anything but.”
It’s still pretty crappy, but it’s getting better – you see my point?
My negative self-talk turned into cliched bad “poetry”, you might say, which turned into a possible scene idea or character idea. Maybe one day, I could create something from this scene snippet, or character idea. Or maybe not. But by just doing this, it has loosened up my mind, and now the daunting task of “writing my novel” isn’t as daunting.
- Next, I take my previously prepared scene list, pick one that jumps out at me, and dive in. If nothing comes after a few minutes, I will probably spend some time visualising my scene, then pick some keywords inspired by my scene visualization, from which I could write.
- Next, I set a time limit and then write my scene, with these keywords right there, at the top of my pages, keeping me focused.
- I write to my time limit, then make sure I’ve met my daily word target, and if I haven’t and time permitted, I start over, and either continue on with the scene or start a new one.
If time doesn’t permit, then I tackle the remainder words later that day. If your day is super stretched like mine, I’d probably try to get these words where I could, knowing my subconscious has been working on my story in my conscious minds absence. So I’d jot down a line or two, whenever I could.
Or, you could set another writing session, maybe at the end of the day after everyone has gone to bed. This may not work for you; it can’t for me, as I’m super exhausted and fall asleep about 8 pm, only one hour after daughter goes to sleep. Or try setting another time, earlier in the day.
Get the words out technique:
- Have approx. 20 minutes to write.
- Freewrite for 5 minutes to loosen up your mind.
- Choose a scene from your scene list and start writing.
- Visualize the scene for a few minutes, if your writing is halted, and create 3-4 keywords based on this visualization.
- Set your timer, and write or freewrite to your chosen keywords.
- Check you’ve met your daily word target. If not, repeat, or repeat later in the day.
- If you don’t have 20 minutes at once, break it up into 2 x 10 minute periods.
Step 3 – Write at least 300 words a day
Just recently, I found this wonderful blog post on writing and avoiding burn out. It’s geared toward writing content articles for websites, however, it’s just as applicable to writers of fiction. This is the link here (please note, that this is an affiliate link, which means if you end up purchasing a membership, I will receive a small commission).
I found this post as I am a member of Wealthy Affiliate, the site it’s hosted on, the platform I’m using to help me create this website and blog.
In short, the user talks about only writing 300 words a day to avoid burnout. This means, in a week you would have 2100 words, in a month, 8400 words, and in a year, that’s over 100k words! – The length of a novel.
I think everyone, as long as you had a plan or outline in place, could do this – but only if you knew what you were writing about before you started writing each day – otherwise, you might end up with a rambling mess, which might take months of rewriting and unravelling. In saying that – some writers do write like this – so if this is you – Great!
Write with a plan in place – or don’t – it’s up to you.
Even if you can only squeeze out a mere 300 words a day, every day without fail, then in one year, you” have a novel – or 100,000 words. And if you want to be more prolific, then up your word count – double it – 600 words a day is still doable, and I think for most of us, you could write 600 words in around 30 minutes.
How to find writing periods in your day:
Can you write on the spur of the moment, or do you need to set a time and place like me? As we get older and busier, sometimes writing on the fly might be our only option. Maybe give it a go this week:
- Each day, set a reminder on your phone, and when your reminder goes off, sit down and write a couple of sentences.
Times you might have available in your day:
- Before everyone wakes up
- After dropping the kids off at school – stay in the car and write before coming home, or coming inside.
- Write when toddlers/babies are napping – this is hard if they’re less than 1 year old and you’re exhausted.
When else could you write?
- Add it into your ‘shower time’ – write in your bedroom, just after or before your shower – good if your significant other always gets in the way and distracts you 🙂
- Write when the family are all asleep at night
- Try writing on the spur of the moment – even while distracted
- if you give this a go – (I will do it too for a week) – let me know in the comments
- Write on the toilet – more on this soon…
In my day, I really only have one time that I can write; during my daughter’s midday nap time. At night I am too exhausted as I said above, and in the morning she always wakes before me and her wake times constantly change, so unless I wanted to wake up at 4 am and be extra exhausted….. hmmmmm no.
During the day, she is here with me. Therefore, I could do the dishes, then write for 10 minutes, with her clinging to my leg. I’ll do it – if you do it…. 🙂
But maybe there are spare moments in your day. Look for these 10 minutes spots. A great recent book about 10-minute novel writing covers this in more detail. Check out my upcoming review of this book soon.
I must admit, I really do like the sneaky option. Although it’s really not fair, as your family isn’t “honouring” your writing commitment. But even if they do, sometimes we just have to work with what we’ve got. And if you have absolutely no time in the day – check out this post about reducing daily things to free up time.
But in the meantime, as a last resort:
- Write while you’re on the toilet. Not really food for your bowels, but hey, hopefully, it will be short term. And tackle just one problem at a time, I say. Take your phone in there with you, and instead of checking facebook or emails, or playing games:
- Write 2 sentences in your notepad app, or in your favourite writing app.
You CAN find time if you really want to write and are a writer.
You just have to do it. Do it today.
Make that commitment to yourself. Then honour yourself and stick to your plan.
Write every day with me, and we will all be “writers”.
Now this was really just me blabbering on today, but I do want to provide a bit more practical tangible information for you, so please check back later for a follow-up post on practical ways to create a daily writing habit. If you have any questions or thoughts on how to develop a writing habit or practice, please do not hesitate to leave me a comment below. I will reply as soon as I can!