How to build a regular writing practice - 11 simple tips

Writing every day is HARD. It's one of the main things I help clients to do, but just because I help other people to do it doesn't mean I do it consistently every day myself.

⁣⁣Here are some things that help though:

⁣1. Break it down into tiny steps. Don't aim to write for hours every day; aim to write for anywhere between 10 and 30 minutes (any shorter, it'll be hard to get into the flow in time; any longer will be hard to commit to every day).⁣ Set a timer and promise yourself that all you have to do is just write until the buzzer goes - it doesn't have to be any good, you just have to put words on the page.

2. Use habit chains - add it on to something you already do every day.⁣ It could be brushing your teeth, getting home from the school run, having your first cup of coffee of the day - pick what works with the rest of your schedule.

3. Bear in mind that doing something every day (or every work day for instance) can be easier than saying you'll do something three times a week - otherwise you can keep moving the goalposts about which days will be 'the three'. It's all part of making things as simple as possible, so your brain has less to resist and protest against.

4. Work out when you're most creative and productive and make sure that time goes to your writing, not to inbox processing or other admin tasks. First thing in the working day, with a giant mug of rooibos tea and a warm-up of writing my morning pages is what works for me, but for you it might be mid-afternoon, or late at night once everyone else is in bed. All other things being equal though, earlier in the day is better, in that it's less likely to get squeezed out that way.

5. Where you write is important too. I need peace and quiet, so my home office is my top choice. Others work best with the buzz of coffee shop chatter. If you really want to make the most of the effect of place, having one spot that you always use for writing, and don't use for anything else is a great way of giving your brain the cue that it's writing time now.

6. Separate out writing and editing - they use completely different bits of your brain, and editing as you write will freeze your brain. Embrace the shitty first draft and know that you can't edit what you haven't written yet, so just write. Further on in the process, if you’re going to write a book (or even a long complex article) you will be outlining first before writing and then finally going on to edit - but for now, we’re just focusing on the writing. Just write. Don’t edit at the same time, and bear in mind that there’s no need at this stage even to read what you write. Just write.

7. Connect with your why - why do you want to write in the first place. Really - why? What do you want to achieve? Keep asking why again until you uncover your deepest reason. Keep that reason front and centre (literally, put it on a post it note and stick it on your laptop).⁣⁣

8. Focus on the process, not the outcome. It doesn't matter how many words you wrote, or how good they are - you showed up to the page and that's what counts. Try to see it as a meditative practice, where what's important is to be present, and to write (or type) words onto the page or screen. If you can learn to take real pleasure in the knowledge that you showed up for yourself and your writing every day, you'll start wanting to create that feeling of fulfillment by writing again.⁣ Consciously focus on rewarding yourself for showing up, just by basking in that glow of satisfaction.
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9. Do what you can to make the process pleasurable. Would gorgeous stationery help? Does your favourite coffee or music put you in the mood to write? How can you make the place you usually write in feel more inviting? The more we can train our brains to associate writing with pleasure rather than resistance/pain, the more willingly we'll sit down to write each day.⁣ It's also worth just changing things up to make the process fun again - if you're feeling stuck, try writing at a different time of day or in a different location. Or if you always type, write longhand...⁣⠀
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10. Always carry a notebook with you (or use the notes feature on your phone, or an app like Trello or Evernote) - capture every little idea you have, even the little glimmers that are mini ideas-in-waiting. This way you won't have to sit there looking at a blank page or blinking cursor, you'll always have something to write about.⁣⠀
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11. Do what you can to get some accountability, whether it's as simple as marking off each day you write on a calendar placed somewhere visible; using a habit tracker app on your phone; having an accountability buddy you check in with each day after writing; working with a writing mentor; taking a course or joining a writing community. There's a TON of research out there that supports the idea that tracking your progress is motivating and getting peer support can be the difference between succeeding and failing. 

If you write every day, what works for you?

And if you want support with your writing, whether it's building a daily practice, outlining your book proposal or getting unstuck with your manuscript, I offer both 1:1 support or group support within the Creatively Connected community.