Creating a regular writing habit can be a challenge. Personally, I write everyday and have been doing so since 1 January 2019, and I don’t plan on quitting any time soon, however, this kind of commitment is not everyone’s cup of tea!
Staying motivated in your writing takes discipline. You don’t need to write every day, but having some kind of routine will help you stay focussed to achieve your goals. Here are some tips that can I offer.
Decide on a routine
How often do you want to write? How often can you realistically commit to? Writing daily is a big ask, but if you want to try, it is achievable by carving out small pockets of time. Ultimately, you’re doing this for you, so don’t feel bad if you can’t achieve what others can. Don’t compare! Everyone’s situation is different, so do what’s best for you and you alone.
Whatever frequency you choose to go with, decide on the best day/s or time/s to get your work done. Making a routine around your writing will help you to form a habit. It took me probably a couple of months of daily writing to remap the pathways in my brain into making this just something I do – like brushing my teeth.
Set a reminder
Once you have your routine worked out – especially for those integral first two months or so – set a reminder. It’s so easy to get caught up in the day to day, that writing can tend to take a back seat – if you don’t give it the airtime it needs.
At 9.30pm every day, a reminder goes off on my phone to do some writing. If I haven’t written yet that day, I’ll leave the reminder notification on my lock screen until I do my session, big or small. Only then will I mark the task as done. Then it resets for the next and the cycle continues.
You could choose to do the same – a phone reminder is good because now days, we mostly always have our phones nearby. Once the notification dings, get to work!
Be kind to yourself
This is probably the most important for keeping motivation up. Don’t pressure yourself. It’s okay if you don’t feel like writing more than a sentence or two today. Tomorrow is a new opportunity for more words.
As the saying goes, ‘you can’t edit a blank page,’ so even if you can only muster a few words, it’s all forming part of your story. It’s all work and it all matters. Give yourself a break, you’re only human!
Get it out of the way
Once you start establishing your routine, you’ll find the best times for you to write. I work an 80% load in my day job, so for four days I’ll write from about 9pm. However, I do have that extra day through the week to write, which some people don’t. I usually fail to take this opportunity because I want to do relaxing brainless things like watch Netflix or play games. Same goes for the weekend! Note to self: see above point about being kind…
But on those rare times, like today, where I get myself sorted and write during the afternoon, it’s nice come the evening to know my daily (self) obligation has been satisfied. The later it gets, the harder it becomes for me to put some decent work in purely due to time pressure.
So whenever you can, try and do your writing earlier in the day to get it out of the way. Some days you’ll really struggle to motivate, and it will feel like a chore. Other days, you’ll have a great time and be glad you started early so you can just keep on writing as long as you want!
However, if circumstances force you to write very late, I remind you of the kindness rule. It’s okay. The only obligation is to yourself (unless you are under contract!)
Change it up
Every time you sit down on your planned writing days and actually write, is a massive win and another feather in your habit-forming cap.
But sometimes it’s tough to keep up the momentum, especially if you’ve been working on one thing for a long time. When I’m struggling with my main work in progress, I’ll switch gears and write a blog post, do a flash fiction piece, or work on another project. This helps me to stop agonising over my main project and just focus on something else for a day or two. It’s a good way to reset your brain, and also to test out different forms of writing.
It doesn’t matter really what kind of writing you’re doing, as long as you do something.
I love writing and I love the characters and world I have created in my upcoming series, the Parasomnia Chronicles. I’ve been living and breathing them for several years now, and they have infected every part of life. By surrounding myself in the story, it means I find inspiration in different parts of life. A walk to a park might spark an idea for a new location. An interesting meeting with a new person could be the basis for a conversation or character.
Talk about your work. Think about it. Write down notes. Record ideas that you can use for a future scene. Dreams, thoughts, conversations, observations: these are all great fodder for later writing. The more you surround yourself with your story, the harder it becomes to ignore it.
When you are feeling low on motivation, and tired from the pressures of life (especially in this pandemic world we’re currently existing in), think back to why you started your project.
For some it will be money or fame, but for many of you, I’m quite sure you’ll be like me: a person with a story inside them, who wants to tell it to the world, to leave a mark and create a legacy. To create rather than simply consume.
Don’t forget why you are doing this in the first place – that right there may be all the motivation you need.
Keep dreaming, dreamers!