One of my greatest excuses on days that I don't write is I just don't have time. Have you ever said or thought that? Well, in fact, the opposite is true.
Here's the thing about writing:
No, it's not easy to write on the days when you feel like you just don't have time. But it is possible.
The secret to finding time and maintaining successful writing habits is to set an intention.
An intention is an aim or a plan to do something. In writing, there are three things you need in your intention in order to be successful: when, where, and how much.
When will you write?
It's important to decide when you write. That decision will enable you to create a habit you can hold yourself accountable to maintain. That habit is important to the success of your writing=.
We all dream about getting up before the sun rises to create our masterpieces, or maybe instead, to stay up writing until the sun rises. While writing during these times can be inspiring and even productive, for most of us it is not sustainable.
When is a realistic time you can set apart and dedicate to your writing?
Where will you write?
Where you write can be a deciding factor for your success. It's also a very personal decision. Each writer has an ideal writing spot, but what works for me might not work for you.
Proust wrote his best work in a solitary, cork-lined room. Hemingway wrote in cafes and bars. Maya Angelou wrote in the isolation of hotel rooms and Virginia Woolf wrote in her basement.
To decide where your ideal writing spot is, you need to consider three factors: focus, space, and inspiration.
1. Focus. You need to find a place where you can focus. Do you need isolation? Does it help you to be around other people? Do you need complete silence?
2. Space. When you write do you need to sprawl out all of your materials on a huge table? Or do you just need a spot for your notebook or laptop?
3. Inspiration. Where are you inspired? Do you need to be outside near nature? Do you like to surround yourself with blank, white walls to give your mind the freedom to wander?
After you’ve answered these questions, decide where you will write. When that decision's made, you'll be well on your way to developing regular, sustainable writing habits.
Heidi Grant Halvorson, a researcher at Columbia University, says:
Deciding in advance when and where you will take specific actions to reach your goal can double or triple your chances for success.
Visualize the steps to get to your writing spot: Will you have to wake up early? Will you have to drive, or just walk down the hallway?
Where will you write?
How much will you write?
The answer to this question often depends on what you’re writing. Are you writing a short story or a massive novel?
(Not sure how much you're writing? Here's a tip: A full-length novel can be anywhere between 60,000 and 150,000 words.)
It’s also important to know yourself, how fast you write, and how much time you can dedicate to writing every day so you can set yourself up for success.
Some of the most productive writers, like Stephen King, suggest writing 1,000 words per day. Depending on the time you have, I suggest writing between 500 and 1,000 words a day.
Give yourself the freedom to write longer on days the writing comes easily. Let your writing guide you, but most importantly, make sure that you keep writing.
Create Your Intention Today
What does an intention look like?
Joe's intention while he was finishing his Parisian memoir was:
Each morning before work, I will write 500 words at Carroll Street Café.
When I was writing my last book my intention was:
Every morning from 8:30 to 11 I will write at Octane.
No, writing every day isn't easy. But when you know exactly when, where, and how much you'll write, it takes much less energy to follow through.
And soon enough, you'll hold your finished manuscript!
Do you have writing habits? What challenges do you face in maintaining them? Let us know in the comments below.
Set your intention! Take fifteen minutes to craft one sentence that answers the three questions:
- When will you write?
- Where will you write?
- How much will you write?
If you have time left over, use it to make progress on your daily writing goal. Pull out your work in progress or start a new story and see how much you can write.
When you're done, share your intention and your writing practice in the comments, and be sure to leave feedback for your fellow writers!
Kellie McGann is the founder of Write a Better Book . She partners with leaders to help tell their stories in book form.
On the weekends, she writes poetry and prose.
She contributes to The Write Practice every other Wednesday.