Want to write anyway, no matter what? I’m not saying it’s easy to build a writing habit.
It isn’t. For the first ten to 15 years of my writing life, I was the queen of procrastination. Not that I ever missed a deadline, for magazines anyway. Books are another story…
It wasn’t a big thing. It was a combination of deciding to write every day, and getting up early to write.
Whatever else was happening, I decided to write anyway.
Write anyway: don’t break the chain
Jerry Seinfeld’s “don’t break the chain” strategy works:
One of the most famous productivity hacks attributed to Seinfeld is the “Don’t break the chain” technique. As an up-and-coming comedian, Seinfeld only had one goal: to write one joke a day. Nothing more, nothing less.
My goal was to write 500 words every day: my DDT (Do, Don’t Think) acronym helped. I pasted it on sticky notes: on my computer monitor, car dashboard, fridge.
The biggest benefit? I discovered that writing every day made me feel a lot better than procrastinating.
These tips helped too.
1. Get over yourself: you can always improve on what you wrote LATER
Are you a perfectionist? Judging your writing kills it.
So does overthinking.
Write. Edit later.
Or don’t. You can always start a new project, and you should, if you’ve lost your inspiration for a project.
2. Start lots of projects: stop putting lipstick on a pig
Obsessed with an idea? Perhaps you’ve started the same novel ten times. Or you’re stuck on a project and struggling. Drop it, whenever you feel you’re in a pig/ lipstick situation.
Start something new.
One proviso: if someone is paying you to write something, write it. No excuses. If your client hates it, give him his deposit back.
… many freelance writers are unreliable. They accept a gig, then ghost their client. As a result, clients are nervous when they hire a freelancer.
If no one’s paying you to write something, give yourself a break. Yes, you may “lose” the 5,000 words you wrote for the project, but so what? You may complete the project one day. Don’t feel guilty. Trust that every word you wrote teaches you something, because it does.
3. Write when you wake up: it makes all the difference
Set your alarm to wake up an hour before everyone else in the house. Make coffee, then write. Feel tired? That’s OK. Just write.
Try setting a timer. The Pomodoro technique works, but you can set a timer for ten minutes, 40 minutes, or an hour. Commit to writing without pausing for thought. If you write: I’m so tired, I can’t think, what will I write, this coffee tastes terrible, I need a new coffee maker… That’s fine. Before you know it, junk words lead to real words. Prime the pump.
You’ll discover that that when you write first each day, you’ll write more throughout the day too: your internal meter is set to “write”.
4. Write anyway, even if you’re tired, angry, or miserable
Moods come and go.
Writing changes your mood. You can be totally miserable, but write anyway. Before too many minutes pass, you’ll be engrossed with your project. By the time you finish your writing session, your mood will have changed.
Try it, and see. Write down how you feel at the start of your project; then at the end.
5. When you can’t write, change something
- Location: write standing at the kitchen counter, or go out to a coffee shop;
- Tools: grab a notepad and pen, or write on your phone, or dictate your words;
- Music: some writers need music. Ask your writer friends for their favorite music when you’re bored with your own.
Try the above tips. Develop your own strategies. Before you know it, you’ll have your own writing habit.
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Copywriter and marketing pro Angela Booth maintains a busy copywriting and ghostwriting practice. Fascinated by online marketing, she wrote one of the first business books for internet marketing, published by Allen & Unwin. She’s been an enthusiastic blogger since the late 1990s.