Recently I taught a workshop to a group of writers. Some of the participants were just starting to write, while others have been writing for a long time. The question came up (it does in every class and workshop I teach), “How do you create and keep a writing habit?” Of course the answer is different for each person, but there are some general tips that I shared with them and want to share with you as well.
I love the quote by Aristotle: “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”
Like meditation, running or playing the piano, writing takes practice; it is like a muscle that you need to exercise. Building a writing habit helps you gain confidence in your writing.
Create a Sticky Habit
Many books tell you to commit to write each day – and at the same time each day if you can manage that. But many of my writer friends set longer blocks of writing time several days a week, not every day. I like writing in long blocks of time several times a week. For me, starting is the hard part, but once I get warmed up I can keep going. So starting 3 days a week and writing longer is better for me. Experiment, you can figure out what works through trial and error.
The important thing is to have a plan, schedule it into your calendar and stick with it. You will find what works best for you.
I find, in creating new habits, if I set the bar low in the beginning I make it easy for myself to succeed. That success feels good and boosts my efforts. Success brings more success.
One idea is to start by setting a timer for 20–25 minutes. Writing in short “sprints” is a very effective tool, and it also is an achievable goal.
Another way to help stick with a habit is to ask yourself what you will gain by developing that habit. “What will I gain by writing regularly?” If you answer that question you will likely find motivation in the answer. Answers will vary, such as, I will gain more confidence in my writing, or I will be more comfortable sharing my writing, or I will learn about myself through my writing.
Make a Ritual
Make a ritual that tells your brain and body it is time to write. Examples include five minutes of guided meditation or a specific playlist that you listen to before or while you write. Getting out in nature before you write can be very helpful. There is scientific evidence that getting outdoors, even for short periods of time, can boost your mood and also increase your focus and attention. Plus, getting even a small dose of nature can lead to the feeling of awe, always a good thing before being creative.
Find Writing Prompts
If you are struggling to figure out what to write about, you can search online for prompts or try one of these prompts:
- One thing I always remember about my (pick a family member) is…
- An event in my life I consider significant or pivotal is…
- Find a sensory feeling from childhood (the small of your grandma’s perfume, seeing the wonder of the stars at night with a parent or childhood friend, the feeling of the soft ribbon on your blanket). Write about it.
P.S. I also offer signature workshops online and in-person throughout the year, which can help you keep up with your writing habit.