5 Simple Steps to Write Every Day

Readers of my blog will know I struggle with self-discipline as a writer. A lot. And, while I understood the benefits of writing every day and do think it’s a good idea, I just couldn’t work out how people put it into practice. Just get your bum in the chair and do it, right? Yeah, ’cause it’s that easy.

Well, things have changed.

For just over a month, now, I have written every single day.

For me this is a huge achievement. I don’t think I’ve ever written every single day for this long before.

And I have James Clear to thank for it.

I ‘trialled’ the method he explains in: Transform Your Habits and it actually works. For realsies.

So in case you don’t want to read the whole thing, here’s how it works in 5 steps:

Step 1: List stuff you do every single day without fail (e.g. wake up, brush teeth, wee) and stuff that happens to you every single day without fail (e.g. sun rises, sun sets, kettle takes FOREVER to boil).

Step 2: Pick one to latch your new habit onto (i.e. when you do this/when this happens to you, you will write.) Mine is dinner. After dinner, I make a cup of tea (it’s a sort of ritual, I guess) and then I write.

Step 3: Start small – it has to take less than two minutes. You don’t want it to require any willpower whatsoever. For example, on my first day, all I had to do was open the document I’m working on and read some of it. I couldn’t argue with that.

Step 4: When you’ve written (or read) for two minutes, congratulate yourself. Sure, you may have only written two words but it’s two words you probably would not have written, otherwise. Go you! (This is positive affirmation and will help in building the habit. Think of it as your reward. Sometimes I give myself a physical reward, too, such as chocolate. And there’s always tea on hand, so that helps.)

Step 5: Keep at it. If you come across a day when you don’t want to write, go back to that first day mentality – all you have to do is whatever it is that takes two minutes (for me, open and read).

Some days you’ll naturally want to keep going for longer (occasionally I can manage 45 mins – an hour). Others you won’t (sometimes 5 mins is my limit). Don’t force yourself. As long as you do it every day you’re building up the habit and that’s the most important thing. You never want to get to that point when you can talk yourself out of it (e.g. ‘You have to write for 30 mins.’ + ‘But I don’t wanna.’ = Not writing AT ALL.)

There are a couple of problems I’ve come across with this method.

  1. Eating out
  2. Limiting myself to only writing after dinner, which sometimes is quite late so may stop me writing for as long.

The first one I’ve overcome by writing as soon as I get home. Besides, I don’t eat out that often so it should be fine.

The second one worries me a little. I can easily say to myself, ‘don’t write now because then you might not want to write after dinner and you HAVE to write after dinner.’ Maybe this means I’m not writing as much as I could. As long as I am writing every day, though, does that matter? Also, in a way it’s encouraging that my mind is telling me to write after dinner and accepts that as non-negotiable. In fact, there have been a couple of days when I have felt an urge to write on finishing dinner. It’s pretty weird because I know I’ve done that to myself but that’s what I’m aiming for so…good.

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The Magic Solution to Staying Motivated and Achieving Your Writing Goals

GET ON WITH IT!

Normally I don’t shout (use capslock) but this is a shouting situation. Because that really is the answer and if you want something more magical and simple and foolproof than that – you’re out of luck. Sorry.

And I know. I’ve been there. In fact, I’m there now. I’m writing a blog post about getting on with your writing to avoid getting on with mine. So I’m with you. It’s hard. And I too want a magical solution. The golden key to success. But you know what? It doesn’t exist. This is the closest there is – the cold, hard, ugly truth. And I know it doesn’t exist because I’ve looked. Every time I don’t feel like writing I think, ‘hey, you know what would be a great idea, finding out how to motivate myself by googling it’ and every time I look I find the same old bullshit.

For example:

1) Set goals. I know how to set goals. I’m awesome at setting goals. What I need help with is actually working towards the goals. You know – doing something.

2) Hold yourself accountable. Great. How? If I don’t have the self-discipline to not skip a day, do you really think I do have the self-discipline to punish myself in some way? I don’t even know how I could do that – not give myself the reward I already gave myself because I’ll probably do the thing I’m meant to do and I deserve it anyway? Which leads me to…

3) Reward yourself. This is great until you get your reward and it’s sitting there looking at you and you think ‘ah, I’ve started, I deserve one’ and before you know it you’ve eaten the whole box and written one word. If that. (Yes my reward invariably involves food. Usually brownie bites.)

The truth is if you lack self-discipline, none of these things will help you because none of them can actually force you to stop procrastinating and start writing. The only thing, in my experience, that has ever worked is a deadline. And when I say a deadline, I don’t mean a deadline that you made up and it doesn’t really matter if you keep it or not I mean a real deadline such as a coursework deadline that makes the difference between passing and failing a degree. That will motivate you. But at the end of the day, you’ll still procrastinate if you’re that way inclined, until the last possible moment, which varies – for me it’s about a week before, for others it’s more like 5 hours before. But you’ll get it done because you have to. If you don’t have to and you lack self-discipline you won’t. Unless you just bloody well get on with it.

So stop looking up tips and advice on motivation and finishing your novel. None of these will help you and you’re not helping yourself – you’re fooling yourself because, NEWSFLASH, you’re procrastinating and there’s only one surefire way to stop doing that and start writing and that’s to stop procrastinating and start writing. A.k.a.

GET ON WITH IT.