My journey to writing (really writing) every day started at the beginning of the pandemic. I worked through various efforts and strategies to find a habit that worked best for me. Some things worked for better me than others.
In the end, it took me about two months to figure out what felt right and landed me at my desk, ready and driven to write. Since I found my grove, I’ve been writing for at least an hour nearly ever day for the last eight months!
(my) benefits of writing every day
Since I started writing everyday, my writing has gotten stronger. The speed in which words and storylines surface for me has increased, and the writing itself has improved. I’ve completed an 80k-word project and have started a second project.
In all this time spent with my writing, I have learned to embrace the imperfection in my story-telling and to embrace my “writer’s rambling.” By leaning into my rambling, I’ve uncovered themes, thoughts and feelings I never verbalized before.
The writing process has become fun and less of a chore into which I have to bully myself.
Here are some strategies you can try if you want to start a writing routine (or any routine, really) of your own:
1. focus on your reason for writing
Whether it’s a bigger writing project or something as simple as wanting to keep a daily journal, keep your intentions front of mind. This will help you show up to your desk day after day.
Around the same time I started my morning writing routine, I also started a morning yoga and meditation routine. By connecting this mindfulness practice to my writing, I feel less self-judgment and pressure when I sit down to write. In this way, the first two hours of my day are spoken for, and I habitually move from coffee pot to yoga mat to desk each and every morning.
2. set an easily achievable goal and track your progress
A lot of resources online will encourage you to set a word-count goal. This is why National Novel Writing Month is so popular; it holds participants to a word-count goal over the 30-day period. By setting a goal, you are also creating something you can track.
If goal setting sounds like it might work for you, I encourage you to also attach a reward. Even something as simple as, “If I write for ten days in a row, I have to go out for ice-cream on the tenth day.” This is a way to keep your efforts focused on fun and a way to show some self-love.
For writing, I set a time-frame, trying to write for an hour starting whenever I open my document.
3. expand what you allow during your writing time
I don’t write-write every day. I’m working on collections of travel essays, so some mornings I just dive into old social media posts or photos about my subject matter. Some mornings, I’m transcribing old journals and not writing anything original. With your intention in mind (suggestion number one in the list), consider expanding what you will allow during your daily writing time.
Jasmine Guillory wrote in her The Cut article, I Can’t Be a Writer If I Don’t Write Every Day, “writing is a practice, just like so many other things in life.”
Guillory’s words resonated with me and something I’ve heard several yoga instructors say: They call it yoga practice, emphasis on practice. I’ve even had some yoga instructors refer to the practice as “play time,” and I like connecting that to writing even better: I’m not sitting down to write the next great American novel; I’m not even sitting down to write better than I wrote yesterday. I’m sitting down to play with words and stories.
4. write at the same time every day
Figuring out when in the day to write was the most difficult thing for me to figure out. While I have always liked being up in the mornings, I loath waking up early. Dragging myself out of bed feels physically painful sometimes.
When I started my writing routine, I was writing between 4 and 6pm, after work and before dinner. I found that after a day of working on my computer, I just wasn’t creatively inspired, so I had to figure out when I felt energize and create and then make time to write.
It was hard to find the right time of day, even harder to get myself out of bed every morning, but the effort was worth it in the end.
What I found is that having a certain time of day, that I honor every day, made that time sacred and reserved for writing; I show up each morning dedicated to write and even a little excited.
5. create a writing space
Other resources spend a lot of time talking about your desk or your room. If that seem important for you, you do you, gurl! Set up a space that makes you feel safe and supported.
Space is not as important to me. I can sleep anywhere, and I can write anywhere. What is important to me are arbitrary things–I need a glass of water, a mug of coffee and near silence. These things define my space.
Decide what’s important for your space and then defend your space.
6. set yourself up for the next day
Setting yourself up for the next day is a strategy borrowed from corporate productivity training. Every day before I stop working, I write out my to do list for the next day. This helps me hit the ground running the next day and helps sooth any anxiety about work that I might carry into my evening.
I do the same for my writing (Hemingway did, too!). Whether it’s starting the next paragraph, creating a rough outline or selecting a writing prompt, I give myself somewhere to begin the next day. Somedays I go off on a new tangent, but more often than not, I’m picking up the thread that I left loose the day before.
If you like the ideas of selecting writing prompts, there are a lot of Instagram profiles that post a new writing prompt every day. The Write Practice is one such account.
7. create some accountability
Finding fellow writers has made a world of difference. They give me accountability as well refill my jolly-jar when I might feel discourage or a bit lost in what I’m working on.
You can find people amongst your friends, in a Facebook group or a local writing group. Anyone who cares about your goals and your writing will do!
I have two standing writing meetings a month. They keep me vulnerable and excited about what I’m writing. I’ll write more about what makes a writing group precious in a later post.