Do you want to achieve writing habit mastery? I know that I do…and I have a hunch that you do too. If you’re willing to put in the time, you can overcome the struggle that many writers have with how to make writing a habit.
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Writing can be a lot of fun. Putting your words out there for everyone to read is an exhilarating experience. Whether you are an author or a blogger, writing can be a life-changing experience for you and your readers. Not to mention, it can be highly rewarding financially. But developing a lifelong writing habit can also be one of the hardest things to accomplish.
While you may enjoy writing and feel accomplished after shaping your thoughts through words, it is not easy to produce great pieces of writing every day. From a busy schedule to small distractions, anything can get in your way and hamper your progress. The good news is that there are ways to develop the habit of writing every day.
The key steps for establishing a writing habit are:
- Set Goals
- Follow a Routine
- Make a Dedicated Writing Space
- Try Different Writing Methods
Writing Habits of Great Writers
Let’s take a look at some best writing practices and writing habits of great writers to see how to make writing a habit of your own. Maybe you’ve heard of Ernest Hemingway writing habits or Stephen King’s routine (keep reading for details on his habit). Well, here are the steps to help you create your unique writing habit.
1. Set Goals
This one’s a no brainer. Setting goals is absolutely necessary if you want to produce good quality content on a daily basis. Plus, it is an easy way to keep track of your progress. There are two main types of goals that you must set for yourself if you aspire to be a blogger or author.
Long Term Goals
Your long-term goals should revolve around your dreams and inspirations. Ask yourself questions like where do you want to see yourself in the next two years? Who do you want to become? What do you want to achieve in life? What are your priorities?
This will give you a good idea of the part that writing plays in your life. Based on this knowledge, you can now set your long-term goals regarding writing. For instance, your long-term goals may include:
- Completing and publishing a book by the end of the year.
- Having a book reading session in Paris.
- Selling over a million copies, etc.
Setting long-term goals is important. They will keep you motivated and inspired to write daily. With your eyes on the big prize, writing every day won’t feel like a chore.
Short Term Goals
Short-term goals are more about the daily grind. They help you keep a check on your daily, weekly or monthly progress. They give you the daily feeling of accomplishment, which helps you keep going in the long run. You will set your short-term goals based on your long-term goals. These goals may include:
- Finishing 10 pages/ 3000 words every day.
- Editing your copy over the weekend.
- Producing 10,000 words every week, etc.
Plan your short-term goals smartly. The trick is to make sure you don’t get the time to laze around. For instance, if you can easily complete 10,000 words in a week, aim for 15,000. This will keep you working towards achieving your goals. Set strict deadlines but make sure they are not impossible to achieve.
2. Follow a Routine
If you want to be a full-time author or blogger, you may have to tweak your routine to make time for writing every day. Keep in mind that you have to make the time, not find the time to write. Let’s take a look at the writing habits of great writers for inspiration.
In his writing career, Kurt Vonnegut published fourteen novels, five plays, five works of non-fiction, and three short stories. In 1965, he wrote a letter to his wife, telling her about his daily writing habits. The letter was later published in the book, Kurt Vonnegut: Letters.
“I awake at 5:30, work until 8:00, eat breakfast at home, work until 10:00, walk a few blocks into town, do errands, go to the nearby municipal swimming pool, which I have all to myself, and swim for half an hour, return home at 11:45, read the mail, eat lunch at noon. In the afternoon, I do schoolwork, either teach or prepare.
When I get home from school at about 5:30, I numb my twanging intellect with several belts of Scotch and water ($5.00/fifth at the State Liquor store, the only liquor store in town. There are loads of bars, though.), cook supper, read, and listen to jazz (lots of good music on the radio here), slip off to sleep at ten. I do pushups and sit-ups all the time and feel as though I am getting lean and sinewy, but maybe not.”
Kurt’s routine shows that he spent only a few hours writing every day. However, with consistency and dedication, he managed to become one of the most acclaimed writers in the world.
Stephen King doesn’t need an introduction. His books have sold over 350 million copies. Some of his work has also been adapted into feature films, television series, and even comic books. Stephen talked about his writing routine in a biography by Lisa Rogak, Haunted Heart: The Life and Times of Stephen King. You can also learn a lot about King’s approach to writing in his book, On Writing.
“There are certain things I do if I sit down to write…I have a glass of water or a cup of tea. There’s a certain time I sit down, from 8:00 to 8:30, somewhere within that half-hour every morning. I have my vitamin pill and my music, sit in the same seat, and the papers are all arranged in the same places. The cumulative purpose of doing these things the same way every day seems to be a way of saying to the mind, you’re going to be dreaming soon. It’s not any different than a bedtime routine.”
The king of horror writing compares his writing routine to a bedtime routine. This goes to say that your writing routine is all about developing a habit of writing. Whether you are working on a book or a blog post, making and following a routine will ensure that you always have/make time to work on your writing project.
Quick Tip: When you are developing or tweaking your writing routine, take the time to determine when you feel most productive. For instance, some people enjoy writing early in the morning while night owls are likely to produce better copy at night. There is not one fixed routine for writing, so make sure you follow one that works best for you .
3. Make a Dedicated Writing Space
This is a small but crucial step that can help you make sure you achieve your daily writing goals. Creating a dedicated space for writing eliminates most of the distractions that may hamper your progress. It will also help you establish your writing routine.
A writing space can be anything from a home office to a desk in the corner of your room. Some people also like to work in the library or a coffee shop. Regardless of the place you choose, it is important to make sure that it is comfortable and free from distractions. You don’t want to be disturbed every few minutes while writing. Distractions break your rhythm and can make it difficult to come up with the right words.
Now, when you are in your dedicated writing space and are ready to work, staying focused is of utmost importance. So, remove all distractions, starting by switching off your mobile phone or turning down the volume. If you like working with music in the background, put in your headphones to drown the noise. You can also disconnect the internet if notifications and emails keep coming in and taking your mind off the task at hand. I also suggest that you limit the number of browser tabs that you have open if you write in an online editor like Google Docs.
Take a look at Maya Angelou’s writing routine to understand the importance of creating a dedicated writing space when working on a project.
“I keep a hotel room in my hometown and pay for it by the month. I go around 6:30 in the morning. I have a bedroom with a bed, a table, and a bath. I have Roget’s Thesaurus, a dictionary, and the Bible. Usually, a deck of cards and some crossword puzzles. Something to occupy my little mind…I have all the paintings and any decoration taken out of the room.
I ask the management and housekeeping not to enter the room, just in case I’ve thrown a piece of paper on the floor, I don’t want it discarded. About every two months I get a note slipped under the door: “Dear Ms. Angelou, please let us change the linen. We think it may be moldy!”
But I’ve never slept there. I’m usually out of there by 2. And then I go home, and I read what I’ve written that morning, and I try to edit then. Clean it up.”
4. Try Different Writing Methods
Writing is an art form like other creative forms of expression, there are no hard and fast rules of writing. So, before you settle for a writing technique, take the time to try different writing methods and see which one helps you produce the best work. Let’s take a few different writing methods that you can try.
Write in Chunks
For some people, writing in chunks works best. If you have created an outline for your book or blog, you may keep going back-and-forth to cover all topics. For instance, some bloggers prefer writing the introduction of the blog at the end. This helps them make sure that it gives a good idea of what the blog entails before writing an intro. Try this method if you think that writing in chunks can help you avoid a writer’s block.
Ray Bradbury, the author of Fahrenheit 451, follows a similar approach. He talks about the importance of letting your writing guide you instead of the other way round.
“My passions drive me to the typewriter every day of my life, and they have driven me there since I was twelve. So I never have to worry about schedules. Some new thing is always exploding in me, and it schedules me, I don’t schedule it. It says: Get to the typewriter right now and finish this.”
Word sprints is another popular method when it comes to writing. It involves setting a timer, for let’s say, thirty minutes, and writing continuously for the period without paying a lot of attention to the quality of the writing. You will come back to that once your thirty minutes are over. The aim of going on a word sprint is to get your ideas on paper. You can always take the time to polish it later.
Jodi Picoult, the author of multiple New York Times bestsellers, takes a similar approach. In an interview with Noah Charney, she talked about her writing method,
“I don’t believe in writer’s block. Think about it — when you were blocked in college and had to write a paper, didn’t it always manage to fix itself the night before the paper was due? Writer’s block is having too much time on your hands. If you have a limited amount of time to write, you just sit down and do it. You might not write well every day, but you can always edit a bad page. You can’t edit a blank page.”
A writing prompt is simply a topic on which you base your piece. A prompt can be anything from a single word or phrase to a paragraph or even an image. If you have difficulty diving into writing every day, try starting with writing a prompt. Take a few minutes to reflect on what you want to say and how you want to say it. You can even create a mind map to help you get started. Keep in mind that while most writers use this technique to write essays, it can also work for books and blogs.
These are just three writing methods that you can try. Your goal is to find the method that works best for you. This will require you to measure your own performance. You may want to keep a writing logbook to track your performance and see which methods help you unlock your full potential.
Now you know how to make writing a habit! Keep in mind that there are no hard and fast rules. Every writer has a different writing style and method. However, you can always follow the tips mentioned above and take inspiration from the writing habits of great writers to find your calling and reach your writing goals with a bonafide writing process.