Thoughts on Daily Writing Habits
At this point, pretty much anyone who has ever aspired to write anything has heard that they should get into a daily writing habit, or start a blog, or both. Some of the most common and popular advice from the writing greats comes down to: “Write. Write a lot. Write some more. Keep practicing, but call it writing.”
The tricky part is actually doing it.
I am one of those writers who could never keep a journal. I tried many times, first when I was required to for school in elementary school. I made it for the minimum amount of time required, jotting down a few sentences every day about school, the baby chicks that had just hatched on the farm, what we had for dinner, or where we might go for vacation in the summer.
Between then and now, I racked up stacks of partially-used notebooks and journals. Sometimes I look back at them and wonder where I went wrong.
Now, I think I know. A lot of people suggest journaling random thoughts and observations about your day and experiences. For me, personally, this has not worked. I find that I can write much more consistently when I have a planned time to write, and a goal, both with word count, and with content. For me, journaling has been the icing on the cake every few days instead of the main course.
Daily writing habits can apply to poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and even songwriting. When I am writing a song, I find it much easier to complete a full draft if I work on it every day until it is done than if I write a verse, wait a week to write the chorus, and then wait another week or two to write a second verse. It is easier to stay in tune with the mood, goals, and characters or other elements of my writing if I spend at least a little time every day.
For the past three weeks, I have been writing 500 words every day before work. Right now, I am putting those 500 words/day towards a long-form story (which some might call a novel, but something about that word scares me). I came up with characters and a general plotline. As I come to the end of each chapter, I make sure that I have at least a general, two-three sentence outline for the next chapter. But I do most of this plotting on the weekends or in the evenings, outside of my writing time. This lets me focus all of my creative energy for 15-20 minutes every morning towards actually writing.
This is my first suggestion for anyone who wants to start writing daily: think at least a little bit about what you want to write before it’s time to write it. This doesn’t mean you can’t change your mind about things in the moment, or that you have to have every detail planned out in advance. For me, a short guide to help me remember where I’m going and a few steps along the way to get there is usually enough.
This brings me to my next suggestion: bank ideas as soon as you can when they come to you. I get a lot of ideas when I’m walking or driving. Whenever I stop, I make sure to at least jot down a few notes about any ideas that came to me in my phone or in a notebook. If you notice you have a lot of ideas in the shower, or in the middle of the night when you wake up, or while you’re at the gym, try to keep a small notebook or your phone nearby in those situations. It really doesn’t matter where you write things down as long as you can get to them later.
The last key thing for me has been having a planned writing time. For me, before work is usually the best time because I am a morning person, and I know I will be more tired and less eager to write more after work. Some people prefer to write before bed, or right after work (or class, if you’re a student), or some other completely different time.
If you’re not sure what works best for you, try a few different times and see what fits best. You may have to make some minor adjustments to your schedule. For example, I used to work out in the morning, but now I exercise after work and write in the morning. I also try to plan out breakfast and lunch the night before so that I don’t feel rushed trying to get everything done in the morning.
Daily writing can seem like a lot of work sometimes, especially if you are already working or studying full time. But writing, not publishing, planning, talking about writing, wishing you could write more, or even editing, is what makes people writers. It really doesn’t matter what genre or content you choose to write. If you spend a little time on it every day or almost every day, you will improve. So, feel free to ask me anytime, “Sarah, how’s that daily writing habit going?” It might be the little reminder I need every now and then to keep up an important routine.