His fingers drip with ink; his face - with sweat. The candlelight flickers, casting shadows across the spidery, illegible scratch and ink stains.
Inching closer to the page, the Writer inches reads from his own words - "...to become a real writer, to climb the ranks into Authorship, one must write everyday."
But, like all of life's solutions, there is a problem. As he chews on his quill, a new question rolls around his mind...
How DO you Write Everyday?
These 9 strategies will help you build a daily writing habit so powerful, your own friends and family will think something is wrong with you:
Have you ever heard of Sleep Hygiene? It's the idea that, to help yourself get to sleep as quickly as possible, you have to create a pre-sleep routine and stick to it. Brush your teeth, read a few pages, turn off the lights, and try to fall asleep.
You do this enough nights in a row, and eventually your body learns that "Brushing your teeth = start shutting down."
This principle also applies to writing.
Everyday, before I start writing, I get myself a glass of water. I find something easy to listen to (instrumental, and hopefully something that matches the tone of what I'm writing). Next, I'll open my document, set my timer, and all of a sudden I'm writing.
This should be the first step of your pre-writing routine:
Close your non-essential internet tabs. No more twitter, no more Facebook, no more random blog posts, nothing.
Even if you use the internet to write (Google Docs, WordPress, etc.) you don't want to risk your writing productivity by these attention traps open.
For the other distractions:
Even the smallest distraction will derail your flow, and writing is already hard enough.
This week, I want you to promise yourself one thing, every day - "I'm going to write BEFORE I go play games/hang out with friends/watch the latest Game of Thrones episode, even though it's sooo addicting and I need to know if ____ kills _____!"
Put your writing first, and you'll be on the exact same level as all the Greats.
I learned this one from Mr. Johnny Depp. He and I are great friends, you know.
Get a 365 day calendar, slap it on your wall, and start marking off the days you've met your writing goal. Here's mine:
You can not write 8,000 words in a day if you are just starting off. Writing 8,000 words everyday? Forget it. Even 1,000 words is far too high for most beginner writers.
When I first started keeping a goal, my only requirement was this: write one sentence, every day. Easy.
After I hit that for a week, I graduated: write one sentence that furthers the plot in my latest story. Now, I'm up to several hours a day, and the 'plus' comes very easily.
The hardest part of writing is putting that first sentence on the page. In the beginning, your main goal should be to get over that first hump, and get over it EVERYDAY.
Writing well is about getting into the flow. In order to stay in this flow, you need to free yourself from distractions (see #2). That includes YOUR OWN MIND, and all it's woes and stresses and weird ego problems.
Don't look at the clock, just write. Don't check your word count, just write. Don't try to figure out how many pages you've got, just write.
Ah, good, you've stuck with me so far. Or, at least you scrolled down and this caught your eye. That's fine, it's the internet, I get it.
But now, you are in the realm of truly practical advice. This is one of my secret weapons: Tomato Timers. There are dozens of apps, websites, etc. that will work for this, but the idea is simple:
If you need to, you can keep extending your breaks by 5 minutes every time, or stick with the 5 minute/10 minute switch off. Tomato timers are the ultimate in productivity management, especially for us easily-distracted Writers.
Competition! Friends! Strangers! Sprints!
Writing Sprints are like running sprints, only much harder, and much more fun. Storyaday hosts some, but I tend to find mine either in real life (writing friends) or through various Writing IRC channels.
(Note: PLEASE tell me if you find any Writing Sprint communities in the comments below. I'd love to do more sprints.)
The goal is to race others and see how much you can get written in a set amount of time. Somehow, the idea of writing against other people fuels that creative urge.
When I sprint, I try to keep an emphasis on the enjoyment aspect, and I never expect any of this writing to be perfect. Sprints, for me, are about as getting as far as I can.
Unless you're writing flash fiction, chances are you're going to have to stop writing in the middle of a story. Come back a day later and "What was I writing again?"
Just like Game of Thrones puts those "Remember this scene? And this scene?" intros at the beginning of their seasons, you need to build a reminder system for yourself.
For me, I try to write out character arcs (what was I trying to get this character to do?) and important, upcoming details/scenes I don't want to forget.
I'm still working on my own system, so if you have any ideas, or you have your own system - please, I beg you, leave a comment below.
Writing is work. It can be fun, but it is always work. Hopefully these 9 tips will help you build a daily writing habit that is stronger than ... who's a really strong Game of Thrones character? The Mountain? Brienne of Tarth?
Thanks for reading, and don't forget to share, subscribe, and comment!