How to develop a daily writing practice


If you write, you’re a writer.

Simple as.

If you’ve heard before that you should be writing daily, but still find it a struggle, I hear you. 

This isn’t one of those hero’s journey stories where I say I never used to be able to write daily and now I’ve been writing every day without fail for the past two years blah blah blah… because well, that just wouldn’t be true.

Yes, I used to binge write before a deadline.

Yes, I had the stress and anxiety to prove it.

Yes, I’ve found out that writing better is better for my stress levels, relationships and writing.

But the truth is, it can still be a struggle to show up to the page everyday.

I have times when I write daily and times when I don’t.

Times when I wake up raring to get my words down and times when I’d rather scroll on my phone, take a bubble bath or clean out the cupboard under the stairs.

I’m still working to find out what keeps me on a writing streak, but I know I’m a happier person when I’m there.

What helps me write daily:

Scheduling sessions

 I find Sunday evening is a good time to schedule my sessions for the week ahead. 

Here’s what mine looks like for this week (I didn’t have my diary to hand and didn’t want to go in the office so just scrawled it in a notebook–it doesn’t need to be complicated).

What you can do:

Take out your planner now and block out writing sessions for the next five days.

 500 words a day or 90 minutes is a good start. I like to schedule my writing to be the first thing I do (and luckily this fits into our current arrangement with my husband dropping off the kids at school and me picking them up). 

Work out what’s best for you — both in terms of your bodyclock and your other commitments.

Then stick to your sessions unless there’s a VERY good reason not to.

Obviously, life gets in the way sometimes but if you’ve scheduled five sessions for the week and only manage to make three because your meeting ran over on Tuesday and your daughter got sent home from nursery sick on Friday, that’s still three more sessions and a lot more words than you may have done otherwise. And in fact, if you have writing scheduled in your diary, there’s less chance that your meeting will run over, because, well you have another appointment to get to…

Being accountable

If you’ve been in one of my writing groups before, you’ll know that I need them as much as the participants.

If I’ve pledged to others that I’m going to turn up and write, then I’m much more likely to do it.

That’s not just the writing during the session, but the writing that comes in between it as well. 

When I signed up for my first marathon, I made sure that I signed up with a friend. I knew that even on the days we weren’t running together, Jody was training anyway and that would help me get my running shoes on and out the door on those snowy Viennese evenings.

Vienna in the snow

These days I’m looking for an accountability partner for the couch to 5k as I’m trying to do it on my own and it’s just not happening–but that’s another story.. .

Anyway, you get the point. Accountability is not just good for our goals, it’s also more fun. And the power of the writing group is not to be underestimated

What you can do:

Find yourself a writing accountability partner or a writing group (one that meets in real time, or a facebook group where you announce your goals in a post). Announce what your goals are and then stick to them. Report back!

Parking on a downhill

If I’m working on a longer piece of work that I won’t finish in one sitting, then I add to my ‘parking on a downhill’ Google doc.

This file tells me exactly where I finished the previous session, and what I’ll start writing the next day.

It saves me wasting hours reading through what I wrote the day before and tweaking words here and there.

It gives me that glorious feeling I have when I’ve put the coffee timer on the night before.

Don’t you love your yesterday self sometimes?

What you can do:

Start a ‘parking on a downhill’ doc. At the end of every session fill it out and use it at the start and end of every session to keep you on track and keep you writing rather than perfecting every sentence as you go along.

Kelly Notaras, in the The book you were born to write, recommends completing an entire first draft of a book before going back to edit. This is sage advice for all of us, no matter whether it’s a first draft of a book, a blog post, or a letter to our list.

Knowing it’s ok to not to be perfect

The best writers know that sh*tty first drafts are ok–thanks to Anne Lamott for reminding us!

If we can let go of thinking that everything we write has to be perfect, it becomes much easier to write in the first place. And the likelihood that we’ll produce something decent increase, well because we’re writing more.

What you can do:

Know that your writing doesn’t have to be perfect the first time. That you can go back and edit for content and style later. And realise that writing, editing and proofreading are three separate processes. 

Celebrating the small milestones

One of the reasons I love blogging is that it’s much easier to reach the small milestones. I can write and publish a blogpost in a morning and have a sense of accomplishment.

If I’m writing a much longer piece, then I still like to be able to celebrate the small milestones. So I’ll break down and make a google spreadsheet which tells me the word count for each chapter and each section neatly broken down. The spreadsheet kindly adds up the count for me as I write. How satisfying to be able to see that word count creep up day by day.

Celebrate the small wins. I change  the background colour for each section heading from red to orange and then to green when it’s ready to get out the door.

What you can do:

If you’re struggling to make progress on your book, because you’re looking at the big picture, are there smaller milestones you can celebrate? It may be that you try some shorter forms of writing (maybe an article or a blog post, to raise your author platform and get you into the writing habit). 

You might like to try using a spreadsheet to breakdown your outline into sections and word counts to make more achievable.

 Whatever you do, set yourself targets that are doable and start by taking the next small step to move you forwards on your writing journey.

If you write, you’re a writer.

Simple as.

Blog posts

Emails

Letters

Your book

In your journal..

Don’t worry about what you’re writing, but if you’d like to write a book or start a blog ‘one day’, it’s never too early to get into the habit of writing.

If you’re ready to take the challenge of writing daily for the next 5 days, comment below or drop me an email and let me know. I read every message and I will check up on you!

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