I was going to write three pages a day from Monday to Friday for six months. I wrote three pages on Monday and Tuesday. On Wednesday I didn’t write because I forgot to sit down. On Thursday I didn’t write because I felt so bad about not writing on Wednesday. And on Friday I didn’t write because I felt so bad about not writing on Wednesday and Thursday.
I was crushed. I thought, I will never be a writer. I can't do this.
Then I heard Shaunta Grimes from Ninja Writers speak at the Tribe Conference in Franklin, Tennessee. She has been writing for ten minutes a day for thirteen years. She asked, “What is the minimum amount of time you can write a day so you won’t skip, and you can develop a daily writing habit?”
Wow, thirteen years of writing daily. I don't even remember to brush my teeth before I go to bed every night.
6 (Sort of) Easy Tips to Develop Daily Writing Habits
Writers write. If you want to write a book or a story, but you only write once a week, or on every second Sunday when the temperature is between 72 and 82 degrees, you will never finish your book or your story.
The goal is to have daily writing habits so you can finish your book, or the story you keep thinking and talking about. And when that book is finished, you can write another one and one after that.
You probably already have the habit of brushing your teeth, flushing the toilet, and closing the front door when you come home so the cat doesn't get out. Here are tips to help you write daily so writing becomes a habit. A habit you don't have to think about anymore: you just do it. Every day.
1. Set a small daily goal.
Shaunta Grimes sets a ten-minute daily writing goal. Often she writes much longer, but her minimum is ten minutes.
The point is not the end time. The point is starting.
Maybe your daily goal will be smaller. It might be you have to write one sentence a day to keep your daily writing habits.
2. Lower the barrier to start.
Leo Babauta, the founder of Zen Habits and a speaker at the Tribe conference, said about building a running habit, “Lower the barriers —you only have to lace up your shoes and get out the door.” We don't have to run for five miles when we walk out the door; we might just walk around the block. And if our shoes are right next to the door, we don't have to run around the house looking for them before we leave.
Applying this to writing, we only have to sit down and write. We don't have to write perfectly. We don't have to write a novel in one sitting. And if the pencil and paper are already on our desk when we wake up in the morning, it will be easy to sit down and write a few imperfect sentences.
Well . . . it will be easier.
If we make the goal too big, or if we hide our pencils in the bottom of our closets, we may never start. Set a low barrier so that you can start writing daily.
3. Don't break the chain.
On your calendar write an X for every day you write. Keep your calendar where you can see it to remind yourself to not break the chain of X's.
Or even better than writing an X, use a sticker. I am going to go and buy stickers today and keep my calendar on my desk. I have been writing for ten minutes a day for twelve days, but I almost forgot to write yesterday. A visual reminder will help.
Oh dear, you might think you can't start writing daily because you can't get to the store until next Tuesday to buy stickers. Lower your sticker barrier, and start with a handwritten X on your calendar.
Just write every day of your life. Read intensely. Then see what happens.
4. Write whenever you can.
I have read suggestions to write at the same time every day and in the same place. I tried that, but if I couldn't write at the same time or in the same place, then I didn't write. My brain started to tell me, “You can only write in one place at one time, and if you don't write first thing in the morning you will never get it done.”
Keep a notebook and a pencil with you. You can scribble down thoughts or even complete sentences with an actual writing instrument; you don't have to have a computer to write.
Write when you are waiting at the doctor's office. Write when you are getting the oil in your car changed. Stop scrolling through Facebook and write, even for only ten minutes.
5. Get off social media.
What? You don't want to get off social media. But you just told me you don't have any time to write. Do you know how many times you check your email or scroll through Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram? How many episodes of a television show did you watch this week?
Find time in your day to write by looking at where you spend your time. Every day I have to clean the seven litter boxes, but I could stop scrolling on Facebook as often as I do.
6. Just dig.
I know writing can be hard. Some days I would rather talk about writing or buy another book about writing, but then I read this quote by Cheryl Strayed about coal miners.
“Writing is hard. . . . Coal mining is harder. Do you think miners stand around all day talking about how hard it is to mine for coal? They do not. They simply dig.”
Let's dig into our writing. We are writers and we have a job to do. Let's write.
What Should You Write?
We should stop at red traffic lights, brush our teeth so we don't get cavities, and call our mothers on their birthdays. There are no should's to what you should write. Except for the one my father told me before he died: “Remember to mail your birthday cards on time.”
You can write in your journal; you can write a story to submit to NPR; you can write every day on a novel. Shaunta Grimes said, “If you write ten minutes a day for 365 days, at the end of a year you will have a novel.”
Do you write every day? What do you do to create a daily writing habit? Let us know in the comments.
Today at the Write Practice we only have to write for ten minutes. Yes, I know, Joe Bunting, the founder of The Write Practice, has the practice time set at fifteen minutes. But, today, we are following the suggestion of Shaunta Grimes and Leo Babauta, and we are lowing the barrier. Today we will write for ten minutes.
And if you don't have ten minutes today to write, write for five minutes. Yes, five.
Write on your work in progress, write for five minutes about bacon, or write a letter to your mom and tell her how much you love her. Set your timer for the minimum amount of time it will take you to start. If it's five minutes, ten minutes, or fifteen minutes, please write today. Start a daily habit of writing today.
Please be kind and comment on someone's practice after you share your own in the comments.