Writing is not a goal, it’s a habit.
The act of sitting in your chair and writing new words on a page is not an item that belongs on your To Do list.
Writing is something that needs to be built into your day—like brushing your teeth.
The moment that you put writing on your To Do list it loses its appeal. It’s now one more thing to knock off your ever-growing, soul-crushing list of things to do. You are responsible for the completion of words in whatever limited box you put them in—because I guarantee you put them in a box.
1000 words a day, ten pages a day, one chapter a day…
By placing these output expectations on your writing, you just further ground it into an unenjoyable activity that creates a large open space to fail in.
Setting a results objective for your creativity is a sure fire way to murder the joy of the process. And enjoying the process is the only way you’ll make it through the tough deadlines and bad reviews.
If you can stop setting yourself up for failure and making your words a chore, writing can grow into an effortless habit that becomes woven into your very existence.
THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN HABITS AND PRODUCTIVITY
When something becomes a habit, what that really means is that a task you do becomes ingrained in your brain and then begins to happen automatically without trying to make it happen.
Every time you sit down in this chair, or wear those pants, or brew your coffee, you then write new words. Your brain becomes ‘triggered’ by certain actions to settle into creation mode. There is no result or outcome you’re working toward, you are simply writing.
Productivity is forced action attached to a predictable outcome. Productivity is ‘This book is due to my editor in five days, looks like I’m pulling a couple all nighters to get it done’.
Or if you already have a good consistent creative practice then you are able to put more emphasis on output or productivity goals because your foundation is already solid.
You can’t build a writing career in start and stop writing fits of inspiration. Foundations are built in healthy habits.
WHY HABITUAL WRITING HELPS YOU BE MORE PRODUCTIVE
If you’ve trained your brain to do something, and it becomes automatic, wouldn’t it logically follow that you’d have more mental space to shape it into something bigger, better, more efficient? Good habits set the foundation for increased productivity.
When you can get to the point that writing just happens when you sit in your chair, wouldn’t it make sense that you would feel more relaxed and comfortable ‘getting into the zone’ and therefore be able to crush specific deadlines?
Habitual writing also gives you reliable data that is organic to you. If you force yourself to write X words per day because some online expert said you should, your output is not organic, so you have zero idea if it’s sustainable. When writing becomes a habit, you have accurate and reliable data on how many days a week you can comfortably write, how much time you can afford to dedicate to new words, and how many words you can average in a specific time frame.
That is information you can actually work with!
HOW DO I MAKE WRITING A HABIT?
Two things are extremely important when building a writing habit.
Separate creative writing from business writing. This means that when you are habitually writing you are more focused on stretching and strengthening your creativity.
Habit writing is NEW words.
Not editing old words, not rewriting old words, not rearranging words. Brand new words in your WIP or a short story or flash fiction or a new idea. Writing NEW words on a consistent basis (even if it’s only a few moments) is what will build your confidence in your ability to sit and create on command.
Business writing is getting that book polished for your editor, hammering out the next draft of your WIP, or any writing that has an outcome/deadline attached to it.
The second thing is forgetting about the end and focusing on the beginning. The habit is NOT in how many words you end with. It’s not even in the amount of time you dedicate. The habit is in the action of sitting down to write. Of beginning. The only way you train your brain to create is by showing up consistently.
1. SHOW UP
Show up, and keep showing up. No matter what. Pay attention and adjust accordingly. Set a timer for 10 minutes. If that doesn’t work try attaching your writing to something else, like you have to write before you are allowed to check your email in the morning. Go early to pick up your kid from school and write in the car while you wait.
There is NO formula. I repeat, not one single formula that works for every writer. Sure look up other writer’s processes and try them out but always be willing to play, tweak, shift, or adjust anything that doesn’t feel right to you. Writing is hard, but if you’re miserable and unfulfilled, try something different.
3. MANAGE EXPECTATIONS
Inspiration is bullshit. Consistency and healthy expectations are what create solid writing foundations. If you expect that you will be overtaken by the Muse of Storytelling and feel her magical influence bursting through your fingers as you wildly type the best story ever written…you will fail.
Yes, those moments happen, but they are not how careers are built. They are simply moments. Careers are built by putting one word after another over and over and over again until you finish. And then repeat.
Expect to love it sometimes, to hate it sometimes, but also expect that the more consistently you show up and write new words, the stronger your writing will be.
I believe in you.