Even if you aren’t in school anymore and don’t have kids, September is the time when we all think about getting back into our normal routines. Summer is mostly over, and it’s time for us to get back to work. Time to get back into (or start) our writing routines.
But getting into a routine can be hard. Especially when I’ve just come off the lazy months of summer, I find I waste any writing time I have, procrastinating like the Queen I wish I was. So here are ten things I’ve found that can help us ease into a writing habit.
1. Make a Plan: What and When? It’s always easier to sit down to write if you know what you want to write. Is it that new novel? Blog posts? Or perhaps a magazine article? Plan out writing sessions and they’ll go much smoother. Once you’ve decided what to write, then you need to figure out when are the best times for you to write. Early morning? Before dinner? Late at night? Sunday afternoons? What works for you? Not all of us can write everyday, but find the times and days that work best for you.
2. Commit to Your Plan: This means you must make it a priority. Once you decide you’ll be writing in the early mornings, or lunch hours, or Sunday afternoons, then carve out that time on your schedule. Make it an appointment on your calendar for your family to see. Tell your friends that it’s your writing time. If they know, they will have a better chance of respecting it. (Sometimes when we’re just beginning it’s hard to let people know that ‘No, you can’t have coffee [do anything] with them because it’s your writing time.’ It’s a struggle, but you must protect it your time. Even from yourself.)
3. Dream Big: According to the post ‘5 Scientific Ways to Build Habits That Stick‘ by Gregory Ciotti over on 99U it helps to dream about what you one day want to accomplish. Whether that’s just seeing your draft finished or seeing your book stocked in the bookstore. But it’s also necessary to visualize the daily effort of achieving your goals. (For example, picturing yourself writing everyday) Apparently, dreaming big is a great motivator, thankfully, it’s something we writers do well.
4. Session Goals: Each writing session should have a goal. This is something that’s preached a lot among writers. Having a daily word count does work. But even if you don’t write every day, you should have a goal, whether it’s a paragraph, a page, or 1000 words. A finite and achievable goal each session puts us on the path to achieving our dreams. Baby steps, people.
5. Find a Trigger: According to the post by Scott H Young, ‘18 Tricks to Make New Habits Stick‘ over on LifeHack, a trigger is the ritual you use right before you execute your habit. So to form a writing habit, we need a writing ritual. This is different for everyone. For me, it’s the fresh cup of tea I make and carry down to my basement office. (This means I drink a lot of tea, since I can’t seem to come downstairs without one!) It can be something simple like listening to your mood music, reading a few pages of a great book, lining up all your pens, or making a cup of coffee. A ritual/trigger will turn your brain on to the writing routine and you won’t have to make a decision on whether or not to write. You just will.
6. Start Slow: Don’t automatically assume that you’ll sit down at your first writing session after a long break and write three chapters of a new novel. Have a small goal, say 200 words or fifteen minutes. Make it a goal you can achieve and when you do you’ll feel happy and fulfilled, and most importantly… you’ll come back to do it again. Once you’re used to your goal, you can up it if you desire. Slow and steady is the key to finishing the novel.
7. Cut Down on Temptations: This is the tricky one for me. The fall is when all the new TV shows come out. How am I supposed to get any writing done when I’ve got new episodes of Arrow, Vampire Diaries and Castle to watch?! (Unfortunately, these are not all the shows I like.) I have a TV addiction. How do I cut it out? I don’t record the shows. I cut out all the shows except for my absolute favourites. Figure out what tempts you away from your writing and cut it from your life. (No, this does not include your family.
8. Reward Yourself: In direct opposition to the above. If you have the discipline to write then you should reward yourself for getting those words on the page. Whether it’s a daily reward of cookies or a tv show (I love me some Arrow), or it’s like Marianne’s giant reward of Fry Boots at the end of a first draft, rewards help us move forward in our routines. Life is short, make sure you enjoy it.
9. Find a Network: It’s always easier to start something new with a friend. (Misery loves company!) Find online or real friends who want to write as well. Encourage each other and hold each other accountable. It really does work to have someone text you during the day… ‘So are you writing today?’
10. No Judgements: Do not be harsh with yourself. Don’t judge your writing or your writing routine. Don’t compare yourself to others and wonder why you can’t be better, or do more. This is the time to encourage yourself. If you miss a writing session, then don’t berate yourself, just focus on the next one and vow not to miss it. Writing is hard because it’s solitary and we never know how we’re doing, or if what we’re doing will ever be seen by anyone but ourselves. Because writing is so hard, we must not make it any more difficult. We must encourage ourselves and encourage each other.
I hope these tips help you all get focused and back into a writing routine. I’d love to hear your opinions on this. Is there anything I forgot? What tips or tricks do you use?