Stories of failed promises are common to everyone all over the world. From fallen New Year resolutions to be more active, to yearly falsehoods of readings more books, or being more social, or sticking to a budget, we’ve all made deals with ourselves that end up falling flat. We are human. We make mistakes.
Yet, some people can fulfill their promises, complete their resolutions and achieve their goals. So how do they do it? People who are successful in sticking with their ideal habits don’t have s supernatural ability to make up their mind and make their dreams come true. Yes, it takes dedication to persevere. However, to achieve any goal is to have a good, realistic, and followable plan. A plan that allows you to stick to your habits for a lifetime.
Let’s talk about writing habits. Here are a few tips that will help you focus, build a routine, and put those words on the page. The rest is up to you!
No one automatically gets out of bed one morning, joins a marathon, and crosses the finish line first. Marathon runners follow a strict plan before competing, which includes training, eating a balanced diet, and keeping track of their stats. The concept of planning must also be applied to your writing life.
If you think you’ll be able to write for hours at a time, and finish the next best American novel in six months, or three, or one, without stretching your writing muscles first, you’ll face an uphill climb, and ultimately fail. Great things take time and careful preparation. Before you stare at a blank page:
- Respect the challenge: Writing is hard! It doesn’t matter if you’re writing your first book or your tenth, every new project is going to need a lot of time, energy, and attention. Don’t fear the challenge, but don’t delude yourself into believing every day will be a walk in the park. Give the process the respect it deserves. The hard work will soon overwhelm you otherwise.
- Take time to educate yourself: The more you sharpen your writing tools, the more enjoyable your writing process will be. You should devour books about grammar, style, and story structure. Learn about point of view and character building. This way you’ll develop the skills you need to solve problems before they arise and strengthen your confidence, so even when you struggle, you’ll feel capable of moving forward.
- Figure out your goals, career path, and definition of success: As you work on your book, you will be assaulted by a million doubts. Is this worth my time? Will I find a publisher? Will I get an audience? Should I approach a publishing house or self-publish? Unless you put this questions to rest, they will keep coming back, take your focus away from your writing, and make you fearsome of returning to the page before you find an answer.
- Make sure you know the story you want to tell inside and out: Even if you are a writer who avoids heavy plotting, sketching some notes about beats, characters and themes will help you stay on track and make your ideas flow. Getting into the weeds too often might skew you into confusion, and eventually, losing interest in finishing what you started.
No matter how fast you type, no matter how dedicated you are, no matter how many ideas you have burst at the seams, tackling a huge goal in a small amount of time is just not achievable. Ultimately, this results in abandoned habits that end as quickly as they had started.
Be realistic upfront. Instead of promising yourself to finish a writing project in a tight period of time, try writing a bit each day first to find your pace. If you’re having a hard time writing 500 words an hour, don’t expect to write 5,000 overnight. Deadlines are important, but you have to give yourself enough time to meet them.
Also, be wary of too much daydreaming. All writers dream of having their books on the best sellers list and a huge readership all over the world. But focusing on the wrong goals at the wrong time will pull your attention away from your work.
Unrealistic time, money, or fame markers for success, are always doomed to fail. Take a deep breath, and work on what you need to get done first, which is writing. Remember: if you don’t write the book, nothing else will ever happen!
Time isn’t always on your side, especially if you’re not a full-time author yet. Life is hectic, and you need to take this into account before setting your writing hours. Here are some recommendations:
- Never save time you don’t actually have: Again, be realistic. You’ll always be playing catch-up with your writing if you try to block time your actual daily schedule would never permit. It doesn’t matter if you can dedicate five hours a day to your books or 45 minutes. What’s important is that the time you block out is well spent, and free of stress and distractions.
- Be consistent: Routine and habits go in hand in hand. If you can schedule the same block of time for writing every day, your habit will build up. On the other hand, if you stay erratic, writing a few words here and there without a consistent schedule, there’s a higher chance you will fall off the wagon. Try to find what time of the day is best for you to show up, and write without distractions. This might mean waking up a bit earlier, or taking a bite off your TV time in the evening, but it will be worth it!
- Always factor in the possibility of an emergency, work opportunity, or event: Make sure you develop a writing schedule that’s strict enough to keep you on track and motivated, but flexible enough that you be adaptive if something in your life changes. Find a good balance: if your schedule it’s too strict, you will feel daunted to get back to it after a gap; if it’s too loose, you will end up leaving everything for later, and getting nothing done!
The world is full of distractions. From family to friends, to work, to daily chores, you are a busy person and you live in a place where things are constantly demanding your attention. If you try to stick to your writing habits in an environment full of noise, you’re opening the door to spending your time unproductive and unfocused, which will lead to frustration.
You will always benefit from a dedicated working space that’s for writing and only for writing. Your brain will soon make the association between the space, and a productive writing time. Your writing space should be:
- Uncluttered: Cluttered work spaces equal cluttered minds. Keep it simple and organized, a desk, a comfortable chair, and your writing tools.
- Separate: Enclose yourself away from anything (and anyone) that might take your attention away from your book. Teach your family your writing space is sacred, and they should respect the time you spend there, no matter what.
Procrastination affects us all. It comes in many disguises: family responsibilities, events at work, waiting for inspiration to strike, a house cleaning that just cannot wait… That’s way it’s essential you learn how to recognize these excuses and cast them away before they pull you away from your writing.
During your writing time, if something unrelated to putting words on paper starts nagging you, ask yourself: Is this really urgent? Most of the time, the answer will be no. Very few things cannot wait until you’ve accomplished your writing goals of the day!
Also, when you catch procrastination knocking at your door, take a deep breath, and remind yourself of why you decided to write in the first place, how happy it makes you, and how much you want to reach your writing goals. Then get back to work.
Believe it or not, procrastination vanishes as quickly as it appears, but only if you make a conscious effort to spend a few uncomfortable minutes ignoring its siren song. And the more you do it, the easier it will be to fight it!
Surround yourself with people who believe in you, love you, and will help you achieve your goals. They can be friends, family, or a writers community. Online and in-person writing groups meet frequently to check in on one another, keep each other accountable, and share a helping hand.
Never let haters or envious people tear you down and state that you won’t accomplish anything. If you hear someone say Why bother writing?, it’s time to cut ties with that person. This kind of negativity will only nurture your self-doubt, and you will never stick to a writing habit if you’re not fully confident writing is 100% worth your time. And by the way, it always is!
The more you write, the happier and more confident you will be, and the easier it will become to be consistent with your habits. So, try to implement this tips, get that writing time rolling, and you will see amazing results faster than you expect. We believe in you! Good luck!