Building The Writing “Habit” (October #Authortoolboxbloghop)

This post was written for the Author Toolbox monthly Blog Hop – if you want to sign up you can do so right here!

One thing I always hear other writers complain about is the fact that they say they “can’t” write at a certain time; they lack motivation, they lack inspiration, they lack the right environment. While its true that all of these things can cause you to slow down and become stuck in a rut, I really don’t believe the should cause you to come to a complete halt.

There are some things we can do in order to minimise the effect of these various lacks and issues. The most effective, in my experience, is to get into the habit of writing regularly when you’re riding high on motivation, inspiration, and free time; while forming a habit might not help you to avoid losing motivation or hitting a writing wall, but it will enable you to begin pushing through such times in your writing career.

 

The Writing Habit

Habit – a recurrent, often unconscious, pattern of behaviour which is acquired through frequent repetition. 

There is a common myth that it takes 21 days to form a new habit, for example drinking a glass of water every morning when you wake up, but this, as it turns out, is very much not true.

According to various studies (one summed up succinctly in this site) learning a new habit can take a minimum of 21 days with many people taking closer to 3 months to form a concrete habit. This might sound less than comforting, but don’t stress too much; studies also show that if you miss a day here and there it won’t ruin everything. As long as you get right back on the horse you will be able to form the habit without having to restart the process all over again.

 

Laying The Foundation

So, while you’ll need longer to build the habit of writing than you may have anticipated the first two weeks can easily be classed as critical; these are the foundation for going forward.

If you want to give yourself the best chance of laying a strong foundation you need to be consistent and reasonable in your goals. Trying to write five thousand words each and every day will most likely be unattainable unless you have the time and means to make writing a full-time job. Try to set a routine that is:

  • Manageable
  • Reasonable
  • Intuitive

If you are a night owl, for example, and try to force yourself to get up early to write you’ll find that you become exhausted and fed up very quickly. When trying to build a new habit do so one at a time. At first, work with your body and mind in ways that they are used to.

For example, set yourself the goal of writing a single page first thing in the morning or last thing at night for the first two weeks. For the first two weeks do this every single day, including weekends.

 

Capitalising On It

Once the first two weeks are over you should begin to work into the grooves you have already laid out for yourself, so to speak. At this point, you should start treating your writing habit like a day job; five on, two off.

I can hear you screeching to a half – “what? Deliberately skip days?” I hear you ask… well, no, because you’re not skipping days as much as you are building a working routine that allows for decompression. The best way to fail to build a habit, or to build a habit that breaks you down, is to set a routine that does not allow for rest and recuperation.

When you’re hitting your single page goal each working day you can begin to up your quota; try going for a page and a half for a week, and then two pages per day for a week. Adjust your daily goal until you find a level that is engaging, but comfortable. This will depend on your personal situation; if you’re writing full time this could be three or four pages per day or more. If you have only an hour or two a day jump back down to one page.

The key is consistency.

 

Moving Forward

Once you have a good habit behind you, you can start to think about technique and style. Considering how to world build, how to develop ideas, and how to build characters.

The important thing is that you first get into a habit of consistent productivity and that you allow for your own nature; you will miss your goal now and then, but that should never dissuade you from trying the next day.

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Published by

Sheree

Writer, proofreader, and owner of Merry Writing UK.

19 thoughts on “Building The Writing “Habit” (October #Authortoolboxbloghop)”

  1. Great post, Sheree! I’m trying to work on my posture right now, which as an avid writer and reader, is difficult, and one of the things I’ve noticed is that even though I’m not 100% in the habit yet, it gets easier everyday. Thanks for contributing to the hop! You might want to consider adding ‘author toolbox’ or #AuthorToolboxBlogHop to your post’s title, so that other participants know which post of your for sure to click into. They’ll probably know with how you have it right now, but to be on the safe side. Also, do you have a Facebook author page? If you do, would you mind emailing me the link? I like to tag people when I post there stuff on FB. 🙂

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    1. Hi Raimey, thanks so much – I’m a little behind as I was travelling home from the USA yesterday, but I’ve enjoyed this so far! I’ll tweak the title in future so people know where to go!

      I don’t have an author facebook page yet, but when I do I’ll add it in a reply to this comment!

      Like

  2. Interesting post. I am one of those people who claim I can only write at a certain time of the day. I move mountains (well, small ones, but still) to ensure that time of day is free for me to write.

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    1. That sounds like and excellent way to make sure you’re working with your natural energy levels (also why I get up so early – I CAN write later, but notice a difference in my enthusiasm and endurance). Thanks for reading!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! I’m much the same – it takes me a solid four or five weeks to cement new habits; my current pet project is starting every morning with light exercise of some kind!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. This was a super helpful blog post in that I’m getting ready to start NaNoWriMo, and am mentally preparing. These steps you’ve laid out make it manageable and feasible to write and hit goals. Thanks for sharing!

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  4. I agree. I think many overemphasize what is accomplished in a day, or a week, and they lose sight of the “big picture”, that what matters is continuing, because what one can accomplish in the long term through consistency far outweighs what is possible in the short term, no matter how hard one works.
    For my part, I found that requiring a specific quantity of text often hindered my process, so I shifted to a time based system. I require myself to dedicate a certain number of hours each day (how much varies), and however much content I produce or revise in that time is what it is.
    And as part of that, every year I try to increase the number of hours I expect of myself by 25. I definitely think it’s good to challenge oneself, and sometimes one may not meet the challenge, but I think there is merit in testing one’s limits on a semi regular basis.
    Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

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    1. Thank you so much for the feedback – I loved your post on how we view being writers (sorry I’m a bit late – I was travelling all day yesterday)

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  5. Very interesting. I write best in the morning, sitting on my house, with my dog curled at my feet. If the rest of the house is asleep – that’s even better. It’s my private time to get in word count. This habit works well for me.

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  6. Welcome to the Author Toolbox Blog Hop!

    I’m not good at developing and sticking to habits (well, good habits. I’ve got the bad habits sorted!). Thanks for the tips.

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  7. Great post! I think this can be one of the hardest things as a writer – sometimes you just have to sit down and work even when you don’t feel motivated. Thanks for sharing! 🙂

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