Everything has been a bit bananas over here (Why must kids get sick so often? Why???) and I’m a bit behind on the blog. While I try to get my feet back under me, I’m turning the blog over to Reedsy’s Thao Nguyen today for a great guest post on starting a writing habit (an essential part of Building a Writing Life).-Hillary
Every January, you tell yourself: “This is it! This will be my year.” You’re going to write that book and get it published. You plan, set deadlines, and the first couple of weeks probably go wonderfully. By February, however, your deadlines aren’t being met… and it’s beginning to look like 2021 will be your year, not 2020.
Sounds familiar? Writers, especially self-published ones, can attest that we’ve all been there. The independence and freedom of this occupation can also be its greatest drawback. As a result, turning writing into a habit rather than a responsibility is imperative! Of course, that’s much easier said than done — one day of not writing turns into two, two to three, and a week later, you find that you’ve lost your flow completely.
It’s hard work, no doubt, but don’t give up hope. Here are five tips that can help you create a writing routine and realize your publishing goals this year!
Write every day
At the risk of sounding like a broken record of similar articles (and books), my first piece of advice to you is to write every day. It’s so often given to writers not just because it’s in their job description, but also because it genuinely works. Repetition reinforces habits and greatly improves your articulation and fluency, so it’s important to at least try to write each day.
Do feel free to write at your own pace — you don’t have to be writing 5,000 words per day — and know that some days will be better than others. That said, it’s good to set a daily goal. Start small, like writing at least 200 words a day (even about how your day’s been, if you’re really stuck on your project), and build it up as you go. At some point, writing several pages in one sitting will become second nature to you.
Build your writing space
In tandem with daily writing is setting out a specific time and space in which to do so. Perhaps you prefer the mornings, when you can sit down and write while enjoying a cup of tea. Or you may favor a certain coffee shop, if you’re the type of writer who does well with ambient background noise.
By “space,” I don’t just mean the physical location — I mean the overall atmosphere. To achieve this, you might disconnect your WiFi and silence your phone, or play your work playlist, or even light a candle when you sit down to write. Build a space that sets the right mood for you! Fortunately, there are plenty of apps you can use to create the perfect writing environment.
In a way, you are emulating the office job experience by doing this. Create a scenario that reminds you of working, and whenever you find yourself there, writing becomes a conditional reaction.
Always be ready to jot down notes
Despite having a designated space to write, you should also be ready to write wherever, whenever. You never know when inspiration could strike! The readiness to take down some notes (of ideas, dialogues, or things that you’ve seen and want to include in your work) feeds into the mindset of always thinking about your project. And the more these ideas and phrases are in your mind, the more you’ll want to actually write!
So whether you prefer hand-written or typed up notes, or even a voice memo, be sure that you always have something on hand — a pen and notebook, your phone, etc. — to keep these thoughts collected in one place.
Set long-term targets
This part is crucial, and where a lot of us tend to fail. Forming any habit takes time — on average, it takes anywhere from two to 18 months of constant repetitions, so understand that you’re in it for the long haul. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and your writing habit won’t be either.
A good way to keep yourself going is to set long-term goals. If you’re writing a novel, aim to finish a draft in six months, for instance. Or set a certain date for a review and thorough edit of what you have so far in a month’s time. Seeing your work progress helps you embrace your identity as a writer, gives meaning to your writing, and better motivates you to write everyday!
Keep track of your progress
My final tip is another one to boost your morale. There’s something like a learning curve to writing habitually, and it’s really encouraging to visually see how far you’ve come! It helps keep you going if you happen to miss one or two of your deadlines along the way, because you’ll still see the steady overall progress you’ve made.
Try ticking off the days that you’ve accomplished your daily goals on your calendar. If you’d prefer not to do this alone, let your trusted friends in on the plan, and ask them to check in once or twice a week. This is a great way to hold yourself accountable, and also to rejoice together once your hard work pays off and you can send your brainchild to literary agents and publishers, or maybe even publish it yourself.
There are plenty of other ways to build a writing routine that you are free to explore, but with these five tips, and a healthy dose of determination, you can make 2020 your year. Good luck!
Thao Nguyen is a writer at Reedsy, a platform that connects authors and publishers with the world’s best editors, designers, and marketers. She enjoys writing non-fiction, especially the historical kind, and is delighted by the prospects that indie publishing provides for aspiring authors nowadays.