As an author, it can be difficult to find the time and motivation to write, or at least to write as often as we should.
Sometimes our writing could be on point, and we get a ton done in a single day, only for that mountain of work to stagnate as we spend many more days writing nothing.
This is where developing a writing habit comes in handy!
By following the tips I'll introduce in this article, you'll be able to keep your word count steady, which means you'll avoid those burnout-inducing marathons, and get more written overall.
- What a writing habit is
- Why writing habits are important
- How to develop your own writing habit
Table of contents
- What is a Writing Habit?
- Why is a Writing Habit Important?
- How to Develop a Writing Habit
- Tip #1: Define What Success Looks Like to You
- Tip #2: Have a “Trigger”
- Tip #3: Give Yourself a Reward
- Tip #4: Have a Dedicated Space
- Tip #5: Start by Journaling
- Tip #6: Set Realistic Word Count Goals
- Tip #7: Schedule Your Time
- Tip #8: Prepare Ahead of Time
- Tip #9: Use Gamification
- Tip #10: Set a Timer
- Tip #11: Find an Accountability Partner
- Tip #12: Ignore Editing (for now)
- Tip #13: Start Small
- Final Thoughts
What is a Writing Habit?
A writing habit is the act of writing regularly to help you produce content on a consistent basis.
It's not the same as “writing every day”, which some authors (including myself) suggest can burn out an author. A daily writing habit can be good, but needs to be done correctly.
Writing daily will likely lead to more writing overall, but it doesn't necessarily equate to quality work or less stress for the writer- especially if the author is forced to write on days they otherwise would not have.
If you're an extremely busy person, writing daily or for a long time might simply not be possible for you – and that's okay! The important thing with a creative writing routine or habit is consistency.
And if that means you're only riding on weekdays, weekends, or only 1-2 days a week, that's okay as long as you maintain consistency.
Why is a Writing Habit Important?
A writing habit is important because it leads to writing more words overall.
It's a “Tortoise and the Hare” type of situation.
I've had days when I've written a ton of material, and reached goals of over 10,000 words in a single day.
But usually what happens when I do this is burnout. The next day I don't feel like writing hardly anything. And that may continue for a couple of days.
So which is better? Writing 10,000 words in one day, then skipping five days, or writing 2000 words a day?
Personally, I'd say the latter is better.
Writing habits not only help you write more overall, they also help you avoid burnout, and make the writing process easier once you form the habit.
How to Develop a Writing Habit
Now that we've established that writing habits are important, what can we do to start a good habit and stay consistent with it?
The next 12 tips are all particularly important if you want to do this, and if you want to know my favorites, I would take a look at the first three.
Tip #1: Define What Success Looks Like to You
Before you even get started with your habit, I recommend looking very closely at your definition of success.
Is your goal to make a lot of money? Fulfill a lifelong dream? Or simply tell a story to the world?
This will help determine what kind of writing habit you want to form. If you're looking to make money, you may want to set a more aggressive word count goal, but if you're only writing as an emotional release, a smaller goal would be sufficient.
Tip #2: Have a “Trigger”
Good habits are formed by three components. The first is to have a trigger, the second the actual task, and the third is a reward.
First, let's talk about the trigger. This is an action or event of some kind that you associate with your habit. Think of the bell used by Pavlov to trigger his dog to salivate.
You've got to create your own kind of bell, a ritual that you do before you write, to help get you into the right mindset.
Personally, I like to attach my writing to the end of my morning routine, so your trigger could be something like brushing your teeth or taking a long walk. Once you finish with those things, immediately start writing, and keep it up for as long as you can. Eventually you will come to associate your writing with that trigger.
Tip #3: Give Yourself a Reward
After you finish writing, a reward is the other important part of forming a habit. Now I'm not talking about any big reward, like taking a vacation, eating ice cream, or spending a lot of money on some new toy. If your reward looks like this all the time, you will quickly run out of resources.
Instead, focus on a quick and easy reward, like a brief stroll outside, a quick kiss from a loved one, or just a chance to stretch and take a few deep breaths.
Whatever you do, make sure it's the same every time, so you begin to associate that reward with your writing habit. Pretty soon you will be eager to write just to get that reward.
Tip #4: Have a Dedicated Space
I recommend having a dedicated space where you do your writing. If you can, have a separate room for it. But if that's not possible, a dedicated desk will do.
What this does is condition your mind to associate writing with that specific spot in your house.
Additionally, you should avoid playing video games on your computer or using it for other entertainment purposes.
Tip #5: Start by Journaling
Sometimes it's hard to get the words to flow. One way to get around this is to journal before you start actually writing.
What this does is get your mind into a mindset of writing, and helps to get you into that state of flow, where the words and thoughts are just coming freely.
A little freewriting will do the same thing. Just sit down and start writing whatever comes to mind, and you'll be surprised at how soon you're ready to start writing your book.
Tip #6: Set Realistic Word Count Goals
I, along with a lot of other authors, have fallen into the trap of setting highly ambitious goals to start.
It's fun to set challenging goals, especially when you think of how much writing you can get done, but you must be realistic.
Setting too high of a word count goal will make daily writing habit the challenge as you struggle to find time.
Tip #7: Schedule Your Time
One of the most important steps to forming new habits is to schedule the time you will spend on it.
You are not likely to remain consistent, if you have not made time in your schedule for a distraction free time to write.
Once you have scheduled your time into your everyday life, whether that's in the morning, afternoon, or evening, make sure to stick to it. Don't let anything interfere with that writing time, especially when you are starting out.
Tip #8: Prepare Ahead of Time
If I don't know what I'm going to write ahead of time, I have a hard time getting into it. That's why I recommend having your outline, your notes, and a general idea of what you're going to do prepared ahead of time.
Personally, I like to run through what I'm going to do and write the next day as I'm brushing my teeth and winding down in the evening.
Tip #9: Use Gamification
I love to gamify my writing, especially when I'm starting a new writing habit.
Not only does gamification help to keep me on track, it also helps to develop my skills as an author and writer through practice and experience points.
You can use any kind of gamification you like, whether that's rewarding yourself after every 50 pages or so, or simply breaking it all down into manageable chunks that I can check off as I go.
You'd be surprised at the power of simply checking things off.
Tip #10: Set a Timer
Few things get me to start writing better than a timer.
It helps me to know that I have a limited amount of time to write, and the ticking clock always gets my adrenaline going as I race against it.
I've found five minutes is usually enough for a sprint, and I like to use the Pomodoro technique for longer writing sessions. You can set your own limit if you prefer more or less time.
Tip #11: Find an Accountability Partner
One tactic that can make a huge difference is finding an accountability partner. This is someone with whom you share your writing goals and check in with them regularly so they can help you stay on track.
Even better if your partner is also working towards their own goals as well! But even just having someone there for support will help tremendously when you want to give up or procrastinate.
An accountability partner can be a family member, a close friend, or a fellow author who was also working toward similar goals. Masterminds are another great way to do this.
Tip #12: Ignore Editing (for now)
Well know the editing is a huge part of the writing process, but when it comes to writing it will slow you down. Spending too much time thinking and worrying over the editing will get in the way of your writing habit.
Practice writing and not stopping to edit anything. Don't even stop to fix that type will or extra comma. Doing this will train your mind to write when it's time to write, and edit when it's time to edit.
Tip #13: Start Small
Lastly, is my final tip, and one of the most important. Start small.
In the landmark book, Atomic Habits, James Clear talks about how starting with small habits and slowly growing them is the best way to form new habits.
So I definitely do not recommend you try to start a writing habit by writing for four hours a day, or even one hour a day. Doing so will only put unneeded barriers in front of you.
I would start simply with 15 minutes. This may not seem like much, but for some people the hurdle is just sitting down to write. 15 minutes of writing lowers this barrier considerably, making it easier for you to just get started.
Over time, that 15 minutes will become easy, and you can increase it to 30 minutes, 60 minutes, two hours, and so forth. This habit could also be word-count-based, such as a goal of 500 words.
For example, Stephen King has a writing habit of 2000 words every single day, and he almost never misses it.
The point is to remove as many barriers as possible when you're just starting out, and then once the habit is formed, then you can increase how much work you do.
I hope these tips help you to develop a writing habit that's sustainable for your goals. If so, consider sharing this article with your friends.
Remember, there are many ways to form new habits, so don't be afraid to experiment with different tactics and techniques until you find what works best for you!
You certainly don't have to try all of these tactics at once. In fact, I would recommend picking only two or three, and really running with them to get the best results. I recommend starting with tips 2, 3, and 13 for best results.