Start a writing habit
Why start a writing habit? What’s the advantage of writing regularly rather than just when you feel like it? There are several big reasons.
The following is an adapted excerpt from Building a Writing Life: start a writing habit, find time to write, discover your process and commit to your writing dreams available now in paperback and eBook.
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Build up your writing muscles
The runner jogs every day to prepare for the big marathon, and daily training and exercise does the same thing for the writer. As with any regular activity, it may be a struggle to keep up at first, but, in time, you’ll be stronger and able to do more than you thought possible.
Writing becomes second nature.
You don’t think about brushing your teeth every day; you do it automatically as a part of your routine. It feels weird when you forget to do it, and it’d have to be something drastic that would make you skip it.
When you write regularly, writing becomes like that. It becomes such a natural part of your life that going too long without it feels wrong. Like muscle memory, you keep getting the words down because it’s what you always do.
If you’re just starting out, you often need to work extra hard to motivate yourself to keep writing with any consistency but, once you establish your writing habit, it’s a lot easier to sit down to write each time because it becomes second nature. A writing habit is important because, with one, when the going gets tough, you’re more likely to keep going than quit because writing has become something comforting and familiar in your life. The habit itself becomes what sustains your writing and compels your forward progress.
Repetition breeds confidence.
Remember the first time you drove a car by yourself? It was exhilarating and somewhat terrifying that someone let you be in charge of such a massive machine. But now, you drive so often that you zone out half the time you’re behind the wheel. You barely think about it.
Right now, writing is still a new and somewhat scary thing because of the novelty of it. But it’s incredible the change that happens when you write regularly for a while. It makes writing go from feeling like this epic process to, ho-hum, that thing I do every day.
Not that writing gets boring (because it doesn’t, no matter how long you’ve been at it) but you become more confident in your abilities, your process, and your voice. It’s impossible not to improve at just about anything with consistent practice and writing is no exception. It also takes the pressure off when it no longer feels like a special, once in a while process.
All that writing adds up.
Turns out, if you keep writing consistently, it really adds up! The beauty of regular writing, even if it’s only a little each day, is that the finished pages collect quickly. It may seem like a somewhat obvious point that writing more often equals more writing overall and faster progress toward your writing goals, but it’s still a surprising and very satisfying thing to witness in practice.
Think about it. If you were writing at least 500 words every day, you could finish an entire 100,000-word novel in under 200 days. Remember the tortoise and the hare? Slow but steady wins the race.
Easier to pick up where you left off
Have you ever come back to something you were working on after a break and wasted half your writing time rereading everything that came before trying to remember where the heck you left off? One of the best things about regular writing is that it reduces the time spent getting caught up and increases the time spent writing. Because you’re checking in with your work in progress more often, it’s fresh in your head so you can just sit down and get right down to it from where stopped yesterday.
The consistency also makes it easier to write overall. Because you’re looking at your piece so frequently, you’re more likely to be thinking about it between work sessions. This helps you see connections between ideas, come up with that perfect phrasing or work through plot issues because you’re so closely living in the world of your story. It all makes for better first drafts and faster revision because you have the benefit of that continued closeness with your project.
Get used to writing when you’re not inspired.
As E. B. White once said, “A writer who waits for ideal conditions under which to work will die without putting a word on paper.“ When I was first toying with being a writer, I had this very romanticized notion of what I needed to write. I needed to have perfect silence, a big chunk of time when I was sure not to be interrupted, and plenty of inspiration. As you can imagine, such moments were rare indeed. I only ended up writing a few times a year.
Now I write in whatever circumstances present themselves. Dictating on my phone while making dinner. Typing on my tablet while the baby naps on my lap. Sitting on the couch with my laptop while my six-year-old sings Let It Go at the top of her lungs into a wireless karaoke microphone with the echo effect turned up WAY too high. Whatever works to get the words down. Writing while inspired, alone or with silence are all things I’d prefer… but I realized a long time again I don’t really need any of them to write and that freed up a lot of writing time I previously wouldn’t have considered. And nothing helps you to get over being precious about your writing process like making it a part of your routine alongside all the other chaos.
The fact is, if we all only wrote when inspired or had ideal circumstances, nothing would ever get written. It’s when you use your routine and get into the habit of writing when you don’t feel like it that you start to make real progress on your big projects. And the good news is that the writing you churn out under less than ideal conditions because of habit and the writing you lovingly craft while in a magic trance of inspiration come out the same quality when you look at them later.
If you’re just starting out and need a little push to start your writing habit, I highly recommend the writing game 4thewords.
4thewords in an online fantasy-style game where you battle monsters, collect and craft items and progress in quests all by writing! I’ve been using it daily since May of 2018 (I wrote a big review of it up here) and I highly recommend it! It’s the perfect thing to give you that extra push to keep building up your writing habit.
Want to give it a try? Sign up with my referral code (AOZSY71632) and you’ll get a free month to try it out and some extra crystals if you decide to keep using it after the trial! Both new and existing members can also input the following special 4thewords promo code exclusive to this blog post into your Account page for a special surprise as part of the October Scavenger Hunt!
~ NEARLYNANO ~