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What Is the Importance of a Daily Writing Habit?
Writing anything—be it a poem, an article, a short story, or a novel—is a huge undertaking, and self-doubt is a natural part of that process. Perhaps in the early stages you feel daunted by the task, or mid-way through, you begin to lose your way. Even a big success can cause you to stumble. No matter what phase of writing you’re in, or what writing project you’re working on, your process will help keep you grounded and give you a sense of accomplishment with the things you can control.
A daily writing habit teaches you that writer’s block, that relentless, maddening pursuer of writers, is a figment of your own imagination. If you’re writing, you’re not blocked.
Whenever you begin to doubt yourself, go back to the rituals you’ve created around your writing and find ways to support and respect your work. Do whatever it takes to convince yourself that you can finish. Know that the story already exists inside you, and that you have the skills to get that story onto the page.
How to Develop a Daily Writing Habit in 10 Steps
Writing is about inspiration and craft, but those skills won’t go far without a devoted practice.
Your writing motivation will never be constant—so your routine must be. Here’s a few ideas not only on how to make time to hit your writing goals, but how to build habits that will make you a better writer.
- First, set up a writing space. It’s easier to stick to your daily writing habit when you want to spend time in the place where you write. You don’t have to have a beautiful view and an expensive desk. Privacy and intention are more important than the quality of your surroundings. Maybe it’s a desk, a table, or a comfortable chair at home, or the library. Some writers prefer to stand while they work. Do whatever you prefer and refine it as you go along. Keep your inspiration, books, and research materials close at hand. Tape favorite quotes to your computer or a nearby wall. Keeping your space clean can have a powerful effect on your determination. Work at this space at the same time every day for seven days in a row and pay attention to any changes you experience as you progress. You may find that habituating yourself with a ritual time and place makes it easier to get into the zone when you start writing each day, and, while you’re there, will make it easier to stay inspired and fresh.
- Start each day by journaling. Many writers have turned to the routines to build self-confidence and harness creative potential. The Morning Pages exercise—in which you write three pages every morning, by hand—is particularly useful for developing a solid writing habit. No one has to read it, and it doesn’t have to be beautiful. By giving yourself something to write every day, you warm up those creative muscles and clear space for all the good stuff.
- Set a word count goal. Maybe you decide to write 500 words a day. Or 50. 1000. When you’re actively working on something like a novel, don’t worry if your word count isn’t what it needs to be. You can be gentle with yourself about the amount you produce, but continue to be tough with yourself about the consistency of your practice. Just try to get the words on the page. Think of it like carving a sculpture from a block of marble—for a long time it just looks like a shapeless blob. Try carving the whole form first, and then go back to the finer details once you’ve got the overall shape.
- Set aside writing time every single day, without exception. Holidays, weekends, vacations—they’re all fair game. Find time. Does it need to be a full eight hours every time? Definitely not. But if you can, stick to a consistent time of day and duration of time. If you need to, create a dedicated space without distractions like email, internet, or your phone. While you’re writing, don’t stop—not even to do quick research. Make notes in the text at the places where you need to go online to do research, and follow up on it later. Be firm with yourself (and others) about your routine: the world will try its hardest to tempt you away.
- Don’t start with a blank page if you can help it. At the end of your work period, prepare for your work on the following day—consider it “setting the table for breakfast”—by writing a paragraph or a note to yourself about what to keep working on the next day. It’s a good way to remind yourself of where you left off and what ideas you may have for continuing a scene. You can include some writing prompts to jumpstart the next day’s writing.
- Include brainstorming sessions in your writing process. Allow yourself to come up with bad ideas. Every once in a while, you may stumble on a good one.
- Don’t discount thinking and planning. Writing is not just sitting at your desk. It can be talking into a recorder, creating lists of bullet points, even writing snippets of scenes on scraps of paper. It’s also helpful to stay physically active. Move around frequently, and set a timer to remind yourself to get up from your desk. Movement can stimulate fresh ideas. Sometimes engaging in a mundane activity can do the same. Record audio notes and jot down quick thoughts in one place.
- Gamify your creative writing ritual. Track unbroken streaks. Give yourself gold stars for every day you meet your goal, or download an app that holds you accountable.
- Time your writing sessions. Decide on what you would like to write. This can be a scene, a chapter of your novel, or simply a page of freewriting that will help stimulate an idea. Set a timer for 25 minutes and write until the timer rings. Take a five-minute break and repeat these three steps, sticking carefully to the clock.
- Group goals and deadlines. Projects like NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), in which you complete a 50,000-word first draft of a novel in the month of November, are a great motivator. Plenty of successful writers have gotten their start this way, and gone on to publish their NaNoWriMo projects as bestsellers. No matter how lousy the daily sessions feel, your fellow writers will push you to keep writing until the last minute on the very last day.
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