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:
9 Methods to Help You Write Everyday
1. Build a Pre-writing Routine
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.
2. Eliminate as many distractions as possible
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:
- Music helps block out annoying sounds.
- A glass of water ensures you won’t have to go to the kitchen, so you won’t notice those dishes piling in the sink, and think “Will I really miss out on much writing in the 2 minutes it takes to clean this?” YES. YOU WILL.
- Head to a library, coffee shop, or other relatively-quiet place to get away from roommates, spouses, or your own
pesky ankle-bitersangelic children.
Even the smallest distraction will derail your flow, and writing is already hard enough.
3. Write First. Play later.
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.
4. Get a Calendar, and Destroy It
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:
5. Set a Reasonable Time or Word Count Goal
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.
6. Keep Count, But Don’t Keep Counting
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.
7. Write with Tomato Timers
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:
- Work for 25 minutes
- Break for 5 minutes. You can do anything, except for watch 5 minutes of Game of Thrones, because 5 always turns into 10, into 20, into when is the next season coming out?
- Work for 25 more minutes
- Break for 10 minutes.
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.
8. Run a Writing/Word Sprint
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.
9. Build a Clear ‘Reminder’ System for Your Stories
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!
Related: How Many Characters Should Your Story Have?
13 thoughts on “9 Ways to Write Everyday”
These are canny and practical suggestions. Thank you! I needed that.
Glad to help, Mike. For me, one of the biggest movers was the Calendar. My goal is “Don’t Break the Chain” and that seems to help me get motivated enough to write.
Funny, I’ve been writing for years but have never subscribed to the idea that I MUST write DAILY. I’ve got other projects (that pay me) on my plate (have to, since I’m not yet a famous John Grisham kind of writer). I can go weeks without a word written and BAM! I sit down and out pours a chapter or two. I guess we have to find what works for each of us.
Great suggestions! I especially like the calendar. BTW, when I clicked on “read more,” in my email or the title of your post – I got “Page Not Found.” I finally got to your page when I hit “Like.” As always enjoyed your post.
@sheilamgood at Cow Pasture Chronicles
Weird… it might have something to do with me changing the title slug. I’ll try to figure it out. Thank you for the letting me know, and of course I’m glad you liked these hints/methods/strategies/tips/I still don’t know what to call them.
I love the calendar idea! I want to try that! =] I also find the “pre-writing routine” intriguing – I’ve been doing a pre-bed routine for years now, but have never tried to make one for writing. I’ll have to try that one too. Thanks for posting!
I’ll make sure to tell my good friend Mr. Johnny Depp that you liked his idea.
Oh, I’m sure he’ll be honored. =]
Did I mention he’s my good friend and I’m definitely not making our friendship up?
That made me laugh; “writing habit so powerful, your own friends and family will think something is wrong with you”. I think I’m there. I spent thirty minutes yesterday writing about a collection of Civil War letters I read a year ago. I’m still so distraught by this man’s inability to “miss” his wife or relay any form of affection what-so-ever that a year later my perplexity was still festering, so I wrote. Writing about silly things like that amuse me but if anyone read my notebook there would definitely be more than one raised eyebrow.
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Hooked up with 100 words a day on line and got me going…to at least that, and now more…
What I’ve found is the first few days it’s a chore, but there’s this invisible barrier where suddenly writing every day is actually really, really pleasurable.
THAT’S when you know you’ve built the habit. And you might as well call yourself an Author at that point =)