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How to Write Every Day – 11 Tips

February 12th, 2013 Matt Leave a comment Go to comments
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So you want to write every day? Good! That shows dedication, soldier! But now you’ve made that decision, how will you go about it? Behold: 11 tips to set you on your way!

Last week, I asked, “waaagh, waaagh! Do I have to write every day?” and then answered myself by basically saying, “no, but I think you should, mister.”

But that’s easier said than done. If we could all form desirable habits easily, I would be an awesome guitar player who washed every day. Instead I can’t play an instrument and I struggle to write.

And I smell.

But I have absorbed something from the advice of other writers, and so I have compiled a list of helpful tips to finally nail that writing habit. I have even divided them into handy sub-categories, because I’m feeling super-tidy today.

Maybe by paying attention to these myself I can finally get Sunday sorted!


Every. Day. Image courtesy of globochem3x1minus1 on Flickr.

Tip Time!

Bring on the list!

Form a Habit!

  • Write anything! If it’s just the habit you want, then it might not matter what you write. So write anything! This is especially true if you’re starting out – allow yourself to write whatever gives you the least resistance, so you can quickly get into the practice of writing every day.

    Here are some ideas:

    • Freewrite
    • Write a blog
    • Write a diary

    But use this technique with caution. These may be completely different types of writing to what you actually want to put out there, and require different skills. Don’t let these distract you – you should always be contributing to the thing you actually aim to write. Use this just to get started.

  • Write in the same place. Have a writing place you use regularly to help condition your writing mindset
  • Block out a regular time. Again, this helps to condition you, but don’t underestimate the simple step of getting a calendar and marking out blocks of time reserved for writing. This works far better than simply noting in your head when you will do it.

Reduce Resistance!

Sometimes getting started is the hardest thing. Make it not the hardest thing!

  • Don’t pack up your writing tools. Consider leaving all your writing stuff out and open and turned on. All you have to do then is sit and begin! This hint is derived from a post Ian Broome made the other day about his mother-in-law. This is a somewhat “extreme” example in which the laptop was kept open in the general living space so she could return to it often, if only to write a sentence.
  • Finish in the middle. The middle of a paragraph, or even a sentence. This makes it easier to carry on where you left off – you know what comes next and don’t even have to think about it. No awkward pause at the start of your writing session!
  • Tell yourself you only have to do it for fifteen minutes. A tip I heard on Mur Lafferty’s blog I frequently come back to. Because it works. It gets me started, because if I’m really not feeling it, I have already given myself permission to stop. Of course, I always end up working for longer, because starting is always harder than continuing, and things are never as bad as you expect them to be.
  • Plan. If you already know what you need to write, it becomes a lot easier. So plan your scenes.
  • Try the Pomodoro technique. Thanks to Roberto Lebron for reminding me of this in the comments! Resistance doesn’t just stop us from starting, it can build up and stop us in our tracks. This technique ensures regular breaks, so that we can return to work with renewed concentration and focus. That’s the start, but over time it allows you to track the work you do and create your own targets for improvement (meaning I could have put this in the motivation section below, too!)

Increase Motivation!

Sometimes getting started is the hardest thing. Make it the most desired thing!

  • Use a spreadsheet to track your writing. Mur Lafferty recently revealed a spreadsheet by Tony Pisculli that gamifies (not a word?) regular writing, giving you ever-increasing points for each consecutive day of work. Word of caution: the spreadsheet linked to above is shared. Be careful not to overwite other people’s all-important numbers!

    I’ve used a spreadsheet to track my word count for years and it’s a great motivator when I’m drafting – beat that high score!

  • Set a word count goal. Once you’ve lowered resistance enough to get started, a word count goal might be the motivation you need to keep going. Some applications, like Scrivener, show you how close you are, or give a pop-up when you’re close or have reached your goal.
  • Write, or DIE. This is a neat little app. Keep writing, or the app will begin to delete your text! How’s that for motivation to increase your word count?
    Write or Die iPad

    Write or Die also has an iPad app, because everything does these days.

  • Work out how much you could get done. Okay, so you’ve got a word count goal per session. Now work out how much you could get done if you hit that every day. You’re impressed with your potential-future-self aren’t you? Make that a reality!

Over to you:
So that’s eleven tips. But we can do better, can’t we? I’m sure there are more tips out there you fine folk use. Let me know, and I’ll add them to the list – let’s see how high we can get!

  • http://creativeblob.com Rob James

    In the vein of “Getting Started”: you should just write anything; a shopping list, a list of dog names, random words will even do – just getting something down on paper will be enough to get going.

    • http://getmewriting.com Matt Roberts

      True! Although if I wrote a shopping list every day, I might have to go and spend some money! :-s

  • http://getmewriting.com Matt Roberts

    As luck would have it, the fabulous Joanna Penn has been blogging on the same subject. I recommend checking it out (and subscribing to her blog and podcast!)

  • http://www.facebook.com/robertolebroncreative Roberto Lebron

    You may also want to take a look at the Pomodoro Technique, using a simple kitchen timer, or — wouldn’t you know it — there’s an app for that. http://www.pomodorotechnique.com.

    • http://getmewriting.com Matt Roberts

      Ah yes! I have mentioned this before, but for some reason it completely slipped my mind. Thanks for the nudge! I have added it to the list and downloaded the PDF for a refresher