How to Start Writing By Creating the Daily Writing Habit
Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration. The rest of us get up and go to work.
– Stephen King
“Do I really have to write every single day?” you may be thinking. “But what if…?”
So many things can get in the way — some we can avoid, others not so easily. And we’re great at imagining dire and unavoidable obstacles. We’re writers, after all.
And yes, if you miss a day or two here and there, you’re still a writer.
There’s no judging here. We know how challenging it can be (some days more than others) to write every single day. But that’s the goal – and it’s one professional writers not only strive to meet but also plan for. Anything you commit to doing every day is something you take seriously.
Anyone who’s had a daily writing habit long enough knows there will be days when it is harder to keep that commitment to your writing. Because it’s work. And that’s how you need to see it, if you’re going to get anywhere as a writer.
Writers show up and write. Those who want to earn a regular income with their writing make a habit of writing daily. It’s as simple as it is true, but that doesn’t make it easy. Because there will be days when it isn’t.
Good habits make it easier, though. The habit of writing every day makes you a better writer. It makes you exponentially more likely to finish writing a book — let alone multiple books — and to actually make a living with your writing.
A daily writing habit can even make you a better person, as well as a more creative and productive one.
It doesn’t have to be a large time commitment, either. Like muscles, your writing skills will atrophy if you don’t exercise them. But just a few minutes of exercising that writing muscle every day can accelerate your growth as a writer.
You make time for the things that matter to you. So, if improving as a writer and earning a substantial income with it matters to you, make time for daily writing.
If you’re wondering, now, just how to start writing every day, so you can reap the benefits, read on.
How to Start Writing: Basics of Forming a Habit of Daily Writing
Repetition is key.
We make a habit of something by doing it repeatedly. If you repeatedly reach for a glass of water after turning off your alarm clock, you’ve made drinking that glass of water a habit and part of your morning routine. It doesn’t have to be a large glass, either.
When it comes to creating a daily writing routine, consistency matters more than the size of your daily commitment. If you don’t consistently sit down to write at the time you’ve chosen for writing, you won’t form the habit of writing every day.
Set a small first writing goal.
Don’t lock yourself into thinking that if you’re not spending 30 minutes a day or more writing, it’s not even worth it. Even 5 to 10 minutes of writing a day — if you do it consistently — is enough to form a daily writing habit you can then build on.
So, if you’ve heard other writers talk about the one-hour minimum they spend writing, and you’re thinking, “No way can I commit to that right now,” don’t. Choose a chunk of time (or a measurable chunk of writing) small enough to easily stick to.
The following ideas might help you get started.
- Write for five/ten minutes
- Write five/ten sentences (use bullet points, if it helps, or a numbered list).
- Write three things you’re grateful for
- Write three things you want to accomplish that day — and why.
- Write for five minutes on one thing (or more) that’s on your mind.
Use habit triggers to cement action.
It’s easiest to create a new habit when you build on the ones you already have.
For example, when you go into the kitchen for your first cup of coffee (or tea), pour yourself a glass of water first to rehydrate yourself.
You’ll have to consciously choose to do this until it becomes a habit linked to your coffee/tea habit, but after roughly 21 straight days of doing this, you’ll be pouring yourself a glass of water without having to think about it.
You won’t need willpower or motivation. You’ll just do it.
And don’t underestimate the power of an “If, then” statement. If you have the habit of sitting at your desk in the morning to turn on your computer, tell yourself, “If I turn on the computer, then I will open Google Docs (or Word, etc.) and write my daily morning page.”
Related: Ways To Improve Your Writing Skills
Just like with the glass of water, you’ll have to do so consciously for the first 21 days or so, but once it becomes a habit, writing that morning page will become second nature.
Outline and write down everything.
Take everything in your head about a particular topic and just write everything down. You can use index cards (like Steve Scott), mind maps, or bulleted lists (with Google Docs, Word, etc.).
It doesn’t have to look like the outlines you created in school; just get the words down. Find the method that works for you, and stick with it.
Maybe you found the Roman numeral system frustrating as a student, but you find a simple hierarchy of bulleted lists freeing without feeling chaotic.
Reward yourself when you achieve a goal.
Give yourself something to look forward to after you’ve achieved a goal with your writing. It can be as simple and as small as seeing an unbroken chain of writing days on your calendar (Thank you, Jerry Seinfeld).
It can also be an opportunity to do your writing for the day in the coffee shop (or restaurant, bookstore, or park) of your choice — with a celebratory writing beverage and a stimulating view.
Whatever it is, your ability to stick to your goals and honor your commitments is worth celebrating. And some days, a little extra incentive can help you keep the chain going.
Don’t compare your daily writing to others.
Do some authors write 5,000 words a day and earn a minimum $1,000 a month in book royalties? Good for them. But don’t start thinking your own accomplishments don’t matter because they don’t sound as impressive.
Those other writers didn’t start where they are now, and neither did you. And Amazon is a fickle universe, where popular authors can fade into obscurity from one month to the next — and vice-versa.
So, let other authors worry about their metrics, and you focus on your own. You’ll be happier for it (not to mention more productive).
Track your writing habit.
Take the time to track the details for your writing sessions– especially if you don’t always write at the same time and in the same place. For every writing day, keep a record of the date and the location for each block of writing time — as well as your total word count. If you can track word count for each writing block, too, so much the better.
If you vary your location and writing times, tracking these details will make it easier to gauge how well you write in different environments — as well as when and where you work best.
Develop conditions for writing flow.
The water doesn’t flow until you turn on the faucet. You’ve probably heard this analogy before. It’s mainly about sitting down with your writing instrument and just letting the words flow from your brain to the page. It’s also about giving yourself permission to write anything — even to write badly.
But since this is going to be an everyday thing for you, it can also help to set the scene for a productive writing session:
- Prepare your writing space (declutter, turn on your computer, etc.).
- Get the writing music ready (if music helps you get into the zone).
- Silence your phone and minimize other distractions.
It also helps to schedule a specific writing time and to show up for it every day. Take it as seriously as a job, because that’s what it is.
It’s work, and you don’t have the luxury of waiting for inspiration; neither should you expect to always feel motivated. Some days will feel like a slog; other days, the timer will sound, and you’ll wonder how your writing session passed so quickly.
Find an accountability partner.
Though writing itself is a solitary exercise, thriving as a writer is not. And if you have writing goals to meet, you’ll get to them more quickly (and enjoy the process more) if you have an accountability partner. This could be a fellow writer whom you contact at least weekly to update each other on your progress, or it could be someone you live with who challenges and encourages you, helping you stay on track.
You might find this accountability partner while connecting with other members of a writing mastermind group on Facebook. Or you might regularly bounce your ideas off your spouse or partner (or another close friend or family member) and ask them for constructive feedback on what you’ve written.
It’s not always easy to find an accountability partner who will be a good fit for you (and vice-versa). Until you find one, it can’t hurt to ask questions of fellow writers in Facebook groups. Wait and see who gives the most helpful answers. And get to know what you expect of an accountability partner before you go looking for one.
Writing Idea Incubator
In order to have a reservoir of good writing ideas, you need to develop the habit of writing down every idea that comes to you. Sometimes, those ideas will seem to come out of nowhere; sometimes they’ll come as you’re challenging yourself to make a list of ten ideas for something.
However, they come, keep a notebook or some index cards handy for writing them down. You can also type them into a digital document using an app like Evernote. Don’t forget to add tags to each note to help you find them:
- Nonfiction book ideas
- Novel ideas
- Short story ideas
- Blog post ideas
- Poetry ideas
You get the idea. Later on, when you want to review ideas you’ve saved for your next nonfiction book, you’ll search your notes using that tag, and thank yourself for having seized those scraps of time here and there to take down those ideas for when you’d need them.
Anyone of those ideas could then become a folder full of ideas for a specific writing project. You’ll add to it when the ideas come or when you’ve sat down purposefully to explore an idea and flesh it out.
Just writing down an idea (or typing it out) tells your brain to pay attention. Once those words are etched in your memory this way, they begin to take on a life of their own. They reach out to other ideas and draw in disparate scraps of information and imagery. They do this every time you renew your attention to them and spend time teasing them out.
It’s not hard to become a walking nursery of ideas. Whether you prefer using a pen and paper or using a phone app or a laptop, it takes a few seconds to write down an idea. Do it every day, and see how many ideas you manage to collect over one short month.
Ready to Get Started?
Now that you’ve gotten to this point, remember that when it comes to creating a new habit, it pays to keep it simple. Make it as easy as possible to create a new daily writing habit by starting small and linking it to a habit you already have.
Remember that day-to-day consistency is more important than the amount of writing you do or the amount of time you spend writing each day. And don’t forget to create a visible reminder of your commitment and of your progress in building a daily writing habit.
If you break the chain, don’t waste time beating yourself up over it. Just start fresh and carry on. Do this as many times as it takes until you’ve formed the writing habit.
If you’re still wondering where to start writing, ask yourself where you’re most comfortable. Where do you feel least self-conscious or least susceptible to distractions? Or where do you find it easier to let the words flow out of you with trying to edit them at the same time?
And if you’re asking how to begin writing every day when you struggle to write a few times a week, tell yourself, “I’m going to write something — even if it’s just a few sentences and even if those sentences are terrible — every day. And then I’ll mark a big red X on the calendar for each day I succeed in doing this. I can write at least a few sentences every day. And sometimes, I’ll write more than that. But I’ll do at least that much.”
Do what you can with what you have at your own pace. If you can write for a minute or longer now, get started on your daily writing commitment. Get the words out. Write anything.
You could even start by writing what you think of this article and what you’re going to do about it.
Spread the writing love.
If you found value in this article, please pass it on to help other writers improve their craft and earn an income with their words. Help them get more of those words onto the page, so they can improve them and start earning more.
The small act of sharing an article that has helped you become a better writer may lead to the publication of a book that becomes a treasured favorite. Who knows what you’ll start.
May your creativity and thoughtfulness influence everything else you do today.