6 Simple Tips to Create Daily Writing Habits

by Pamela Hodges | 16 comments

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.

6 Simple Tips to Create Daily Writing Habits

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.

—Shaunta Grimes

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.

—Ray Bradbury

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.”

―Cheryl Strayed

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.

PRACTICE

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.

xo
Pamela

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Pamela writes stories about art and creativity to help you become the artist you were meant to be. She would love to meet you at pamelahodges.com.

16 Comments

  1. EndlessExposition

    I really needed this post today. Here’s a bit of my WIP I managed to work on before bed. Asterisks denote italics. Reviews are always appreciated!

    Detective Cameron returned moments later with a First Aid kit. I slipped off my heels, grimacing as they scraped the bloodied soles of my feet.

    “Are you alright?”

    “Yeah, it just smarts a bit. Pass me the tweezers?”

    “Do you want me to help?”

    “That’s okay. I’m the surgeon and all.”

    “Are you sure? It would be the least I can do. I got you in this predicament after all.”

    “I –” Detective Cameron rubbed at the back of her neck with one delicate hand. Her wide, dark eyes made her look like a worried greyhound. “Well, if you insist.”

    Detective Cameron shrugged off her suit jacket and, after removing her cuff links, rolled up her shirtsleeves. Pulling up a chair across from me, she sat. I gingerly settled one foot her in lap. She studied my injuries and winced sympathetically. “This is going to hurt a bit,” she said, picking up the tweezers.

    “No shit, Sherlock.” *Jesus, Alex!* The retort slipped out without thinking. But before I could apologize, Detective Cameron was looking up at me, smiling.

    “Shut up, Watson.”

    Reply
    • Sisca

      This is interesting, makes me curious about what the predicament is and the identity of the narrator. Dialogue feels real. Love the analogue between Sherlock and Detective Cameron.

    • bernadette

      Worried greyhound: that is one strong image! It is really sticking in my mind along with the idea that Wearing Heels is a very very very bad idea. I’m want to know more! What was going on to cause that much damage to her Soles?

  2. bernadette

    Hi Pamela and fellow procrastinators , I’m assuming ;~) !
    #2 above made me smile: put the shoes by the door. I can leave a journal by the sofa I sit in to have coffee every morning. But what made me smile was I heard a similar piece of advice to overcome having a Miserable time every morning getting out the door on time: have keys, briefcase, pocketbook, complete outfit ready Before Bed. Life Changing. Going to write about this now. And drink coffee.
    Thx!

    Reply
    • Pamela Hodges

      Hello Bernadette,
      Did you write more since you read this? I hope it helped.
      Did it work to put your journal beside the sofa?
      I still want to buy stickers.
      xo
      Pamela

    • bernadette

      Hi, Pamela
      Did you get your Stickers 😀 I did put my journal there, put forgot to WRITE when it got shoved under Papers. I found this note, when I joined Joe’s 1/22/18 Challenge to Write 1000 words a day for a week. However, I’m not going to wait… I play Solitaire every night to unwind; putting another Journal THERE>

    • Pamela Hodges

      Hello Bernadettte,
      🙂 I didn’t buy the stickers. But I do get to color in a circle on the day with a yellow highlighter. My goal is to fill in 5 circles every week.
      How was Solitaire last night? I need to unwind at night. I might try Solitaire too.
      xo
      Pamela

    • bernadette

      Hi. 🙂 I’m still playing Mindless solitaire, but Not Writing in the nb I put there . Too tired out to concentrate at night. I’m better, not consistent, with the one by the sofa. I joined the one week challenge,btw. I’m doing nanowrimo sprints to warm up. Have you joined? P.s.: Solitaire can get addictive! =-O. I’ve had to stop playing at times! Fair warning! Lol.

  3. Sebastian Halifax

    Wolfe drew in a breath, the air visible in the
    face of the cold. Taking a long swig from his drink, he sighed, savoring every
    drop of ale that hit his tongue and beyond.

    He
    turned to see Krista stepping through the tent flap, her smallclothes more for
    a shield against the frosty air than for modesty. Many a night he’d awaken to
    one of her naughty bits pressed against him.

    “How much farther is it?” Krista asked, sitting next to him.
    Wolfe knew her desires all to well. Her appetites for the pleasures of male
    flesh could not be limited to just one man. He laughed to himself as he
    considered the irony. Most of the clergy were outwardly chaste, though from
    experience he considered it a cover. Krista, on the other hand, did not even
    try to hide her passions.

    “We’ll reach the town by midday.” he said. “If the weather’s
    clear and no surprises abound.” He was referring to the rumors of trolls living
    in these lands.

    She clung
    to him, one hand running through his unkempt hair while the other roamed lower along
    his garb. “Another romp before the road? I’m in need of warmth that furs alone
    cannot provide.”

    He
    laughed, then embraced her as his lips found hers. They crawled into the tent,
    the gray walls the sole witness to their passion.

    ***

    The town
    was as lively as one could expect in this frosted region. Wolfe and Krista
    headed straight to the inn, eager to escape the frost air’s chilling embrace.

    A blast
    of warm air struck them as they entered. There were no spare tables, so Wolfe
    and Krista took stools at the counter.

    “Where
    you from?” the innkeep said, more out of habit than genuine curiosity.

    “Here
    and there, no destination in mind.” replied Wolfe, as a foaming drink was
    placed in front of him. Krista looked offended.

    “It is
    not acceptable for women to drink men’s brew.” The innkeep said, his determined
    stare matching hers.

    “Another
    pint for me.” Wolfe said. When the innkeep placed it in front of him, he
    offered it to Krista. The woman Downed it in several gulps, glancing at the man
    whose eyes glared like daggers at her. She belched, grinning at the innkeep’s
    displeasure.

    A
    commotion a table away broke out, involving a barrel height Kelmar and a man
    whose faced could be mistaken for that of a troll. It turned from verbal blows
    to physical in a matter of heartbeats. The kelmar launched a right hook that
    sent the other staggering right into Wolfe, spilling his drink. Wolfe elbowed
    the man’s face, then raised his tankard and brought it down hard upon the man’s
    bald head.

    The man
    crumpled senseless to the ground. Nonchalantly Wolfe turned back to the innkeep
    to order more ale.

    The
    tense silence was far more deafening than the rattle of chairs as everyone rose
    from their tables, their attention fixed on him.

    Kneeling
    by the man’s body, the fire-haired kelmar rose to his feet. “You killed him, you
    tree-witted son of a whore!”

    Wolfe
    didn’t appear to care. “I don’t give a shit who or what my mother was, and that
    clumsy oaf spilled my ale. Should’ve watched where he was going.” He turned
    back to the innkeep.

    He had
    but a second of warning when the kelmar hopped on a nearby stool, but no time
    to react as a heavy blow plowed into his face, knocking him to the floor.

    ***

    He woke
    to a pounding ache in his head, finding himself in a dimly lit room. Attempting
    to stand, Wolfe saw his limbs were bound by thick ropes to the chair. He looked
    up to see the kelmar watching him.

    “Aye,
    you’re quite the scrapper, ain’t ya?” The stocky humanoid stood on a nearby
    chair, at eye level with Wolfe.

    “Now, we
    got ourselves a wee dilemma.” The kelmar said, puffing on a small wooden pipe.
    “You killed my partner, and this town don’t take kindly to murder.”

    “Oh,
    just shut up and get it over with.” Wolfe said.

    “Oh, the
    folk here would love nothing more. You ever seen a man drawn and quartered?
    That’ll be your fate if you don’t listen up, laddie.” The dwarf blew smoke in
    Wolfe’s face, but the man had no reaction.

    “There is
    a way you can redeem yourself, if you survive the trek.” The kelmar continued.
    “Become my new partner, and help me scout out the Frostwoods.” Wolfe jut stared
    blankly, as if to ask why he should care.

    “You see
    the dead trees ‘round here? The forest nearby is full of ‘em, and they’re
    useless for firewood. I’ve heard there’s a grove in there with good trees, and
    ancient treasure as well.”

    “And?”
    Wolfe said, his tone betraying his impatience. The dwarf ignored it. “Here’s
    the tricky part. A month ago fourteen men from the town ventured to find this
    place. They were never heard or seen again.”

    More pitiful sheaves for the Pale Rider’s
    harvest. Wolfe sighed. “This is the part where you tell me my role in your
    little venture.”

    The
    dwarf smiled, puffing his pipe. “Still got some brain in that bug jar of yours.
    You’re a big man, been in many scraps I wager. If you’re half as good with that
    mace as with a tankard, might be we’ll survive this trek.”

    “Rumor
    has it trolls dwell in those woods.” Wolfe said.

    “In that
    case,” the dwarf said, standing up to refill his pipe, “you’ll may get to kill
    one, maybe two.” He chuckled as he looked back at the bound man. “And as far as
    payment, you’ll get your cut of the treasure.”

    “If
    there’s treasure.” Wolfe grunted, emphasizing the ‘if.’

    The
    dwarf turned back to him. “This will hurt.” Wolfe had no time to respond before
    the stocky creature’s fist plowed into his head.

    ***

    At the
    edge of the withering forest, the townsmen untied Wolfe and returned to their
    homes, leaving him and the kelmar staring into the woods.

    “I
    forgot to mention,” the dwarf said as Wolfe rubbed his sore head, “if they see
    you come back alone, they’ll kill you.” As an afterthought, he added, “If you
    try to kill me, I’ll bash your balls in and leave you deep in the forest.” He
    tossed Wolfe his mace as he strode into the woods.

    Wolfe
    followed him, still craling the lump on his head with one hand. They walked in
    silence, to avoid any unwanted surprises.

    It was
    midday when they came upon a deer carcass. Wolfe knelt to examine it. A
    bwildered look crossed his face. “This is no troll kill.”

    “Might
    be, might be a breed we’ve never heard of.” The kelmar said. “Your mother never
    told you of trolls?”

    “Never
    knew her.” replied Wolfe. “For all I know the Pale Rider is balls deep inside
    her.”

    “Well,
    aren’t you a true bastard.” The kelmar said, clear notes of sarcasm ringing in
    his voice.

    “In
    every sense of the word.” Wolfe said, fighting the urge to open the annoying
    little man’s brains with his mace.

    Reply
  4. Josie Di Sciascio Andrews

    Thank you for this. I needed the motivation to get back writing.

    Reply
  5. Monica

    Just what I needed today. Thanks!

    Reply
    • Pamela Hodges

      Hi Monica,
      Nice to see your smiling face. I am glad this helped. Have you been writing more since you read it?
      xo
      Pamela

  6. Mojone

    Seven litter boxes?!?

    Reply
  7. Laura

    Hope this isn’t too bad, but I tried my best. Enjoy!

    He was losing his mind, sanity slipping through his fingers like sand, thoughts flying over the barriers of normalcy, body crossing the line of coherency.

    He couldn’t stop, his head was spinning endlessly, falling and falling, he was like a ticking time bomb ready to blow. But he blew up already didn’t he?

    It started since he was little. The hallucinations. The visions. All normal things for a 4 year old, the doctors said. He wished he believed them when he had the chance.

    He tried to control it, tried seeing the world in color not black and white, tried to hide his new found passion for the beautiful crimson red that flows through every body.
    It worked, for a short while, nobody suspected a thing, but non-detectives never do suspect, do they?
    It started again shortly. The loathing. The burning hate for this world. And the _visions_ . Oh so many visions, showing him what he should be doing, what he can _do_ .
    He started hearing things after that, voices, helping him along his path.
    ‘Kill him,’ the voices said, ‘he doesn’t _deserve_ to live.’
    “N-no, ki-killing is wr-” He tried to mumble, but was soon interrupted. ‘ENOUGH! Have you forgotten what happens when they are allowed to live? Do you really wish for a repeat performance?’

    He did not.

    He was never caught, always left fake clues to distract the police from the real ones, destroying the evidence leading to him in any way he could.

    And so the world lived on, while this man carried death upon it.

    Too bad. He never met the people behind his voices. Such a shame.

    Reply
  8. Susan W A

    Hi, Pamela. Thanks for the post! One way I ensure I keep my writing muscles in shape is to be thoughtful in writing emails. I send emails every day, and each time I do, I rummage through my mind and thesaurus.com to find engaging words, and I craft each sentence and phrase with the goal of inspiring. It’s an easy two-minute exercise to keep creative communication at the forefront.

    Reply

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