6 Tips to Help you Develop a Writing Habit
Inspiration is something of an elusive concept. As writers, we spend so much time chasing it, trying to trap it and pin it down and extract its essence for our stories. After all, inspiration is the key to everything, isn’t it? How can we possibly write that bestseller we’re dreaming of without that all-important spark to ignite our dormant ideas?
Well, the answer is a rather boring and unmotivating one. Picasso famously stated that inspiration exists, but that it has to find you working, and that’s really the long and short of it. The lazy artist who doesn’t want to get a “real job” is a common stereotype propagated by people who tend to think creative work is all about sitting around and waiting for some higher power to tell them what to paint, write, or play. This view seems to have seeped into our collective consciousness to such an extent that even some creators seem to think that waiting for inspiration is the way to go about their work.
If you’re finding yourself in a position like this, it’s important to break out of that rut. Inspiration is not some mysterious sentient entity that chooses whether or not to bless you with its presence. It’s a form of mental energy that you can create, a resource that you can cultivate. In order to do that effectively, however, you’re going to need to create situations that are well-suited to producing inspiration. This is where a solid writing habit comes in handy; the increased productivity makes it easier to get inspired, whilst increasing the likelihood of you being in the middle of writing once the inspiration hits.
With that said, let’s move on to the tips!
1. Write Every Day (Yes, Every Day)
So this first one is pretty obvious, but it is often what people struggle most with. In order to get your productivity to snowball, you have to force yourself to dedicate at least 15 minutes of every day to writing – no excuses! This can be really hard when starting off, but if you keep at it, it will become as integral to your daily routine as brushing your teeth. This isn’t going to be Nobel-worthy writing, mind you, and it’s not meant to be. It’s all about making writing a natural behaviour for you, shaking the old brain box a bit, and seeing what falls out after a long day.
Worried about writer’s block? Don’t be. Write whatever you feel like, whatever comes to mind, even if it’s gibberish (or check our article on dealing with writer’s block). The increased productivity and reflection will soften your brain up for that eureka moment.
2. Find Your Ideal Time and Place to Write
For most people, the moshpit at a heavy metal concert is not a great place to write a romantic period drama. For others, it might be the only place that works. Exaggeration aside, dedicate some time and energy to finding out where you write best. It might a standard, nondescript location – like your kitchen table or desk – or as cliché as your local coffee shop. You might write better at night, or right after lunch. You might write different things better in different places. It doesn’t matter; find your place and time and make it work for you.
You’ve probably heard that we humans are hardwired to see patterns and make associations, and this is no different. If a certain place tends to make you write better, then make a ritual of writing there. Chances are, you’ll start associating the practice with the place and create a virtuous circle for yourself. You can even add more steps into the mix to further customize your ideal writing ritual; make a cup of coffee, feed your chickens – whatever works!
3. Always Carry A Notebook With You!
The universe doesn’t care about your writing ritual, and inspiration isn’t an exact science. In other words, you never know what kind of external stimuli might set your brain off outside of your designated writing time. That’s why it’s always good to have a notebook (or any other note-taking device, though writing by hand works better in our experience) at hand, in case inspiration strikes.
4. Separate the Writing Process into Phases
Dividing a job into several smaller tasks is a tried and tested efficiency enhancer, and you can apply it to your writing as well! While everyone has their own process and can probably divide the workload differently, we tend to think of it as three distinct phases. The first is listing your ideas (maybe you already have some in your trusty notebook from tip 3?). The second is taking one or more of those ideas and running with it; expand upon the idea and turn it into prose (or poetry, if that’s what you’re writing. The last step involves proofreading and editing; iron out all those wrinkles that crept in while you were focused on filling up the page.
The editing stage is the only time when you should worry about the technical details of your writing. Remember that you can always come back and edit later, whereas inspiration to write is fleeting. Prioritize accordingly.
5. Actively Hunt Down Inspiration
At the end of the day, writers are observers, examining the fabric of our society and weaving those observations into a narrative for the rest of us. As such, the more you observe, the more raw material you’ll have to construct your narrative. Now, to broaden the scope of your observations, you have to be open to experiences.
Don’t take this to mean that we think you should run off and join the navy or anything like that. The kind of experiences we’re talking about are wide-ranging and nuanced. While that could mean joining the navy if you’re so inclined, it could also be as simple as experiencing a new point of view, taking a different route home from work, or trying hot yoga. When collecting observations, keep an open mind and give your imagination free reign. Then take these observations back and use them to fuel those daily writing sessions we discussed in tip 1.
6. Learn to Love the Process
The writing process can be grueling and demotivating at times, but ultimately, the people who make it as writers are the ones who enjoy the act of writing, not just the final product. This is not to say that if you don’t love the writing process you’re not meant to be a writer, but more that you should come to terms with the fact that you’re going to be spending a lot of time pounding out words on your keyboard. As such, it’s crucial that you learn to find enjoyment in the process itself (if you haven’t already) if you want to keep it up in the long run.
It’s not going to work all the time. There are going to be setbacks, dead ends, and plain old bad days, but if you don’t enjoy the act of writing despite all its ups and downs, what’s the point of it all?
To Wrap Up
We hope this little article has helped you reflect and maybe provided you with some ideas on how to develop a writing habit if you haven’t already. If you’d like to explore the ins and outs of the writing process further, you might want to check out our article on how to overcome writer’s block or how to write a manuscript in Microsoft Word. If you’re planning on self-publishing, printing, or selling your work in the near or distant future, feel free to head over to the Mybestseller homepage and create and free account on our online publishing service which lets you do all that and more!