Let’s talk about a problem we’ve all struggled with at some point: getting yourself to write every day. Now I know what you’re thinking--Lauren, if you tell me to “just sit down and write,” I’m going to scream. Spoiler alert: Nope. Not saying that, because then I’d hate myself. And I’m not going to give you some lofty tips that you’ll never try either, cause I hate those. Instead, here are some concrete things that I actually do in my life. Come take a deep dive with me into how I trick my brain to get things done every day.
Step One: Minimize your decision-making. The easiest way to procrastinate is to convince yourself that there are too many things to do in order to get started. So, beat your brain at its own game by cutting down significantly on the decisions you have to make before you get started. The best way to do this is to establish a routine for even the smallest things. Laboring over what to wear in the morning? Guess what: you’re going to wear the same outfit every time you write from now on. Don’t know if you should check emails first, make coffee, walk the dog? Figure out what gets your butt in that seat the fastest while still giving you peace of mind, and then make that what you do every single day. All the great writers established a writing routine to help them write every day, and you should too.
On writing in the morning: If you look at the writing patterns of most famous writers, you’ll see that they prefer to write in the morning. If you’re like me, then you’re probably not a morning person, but hear me out: Writing in the morning makes sense. You’re more likely to be creative in the morning because your day has just begun. If you wait until later in the day, you might be too tired or too preoccupied to get any writing done. Personally, I’m the type of person who can only write when I feel like no one needs me or my attention. If this applies to you too, writing early in the morning, before the business day starts, makes perfect sense. It lets you beat the voice of doubt before it can start trying to convince you not to write.
But hey, if the thought of waking up early to write each morning is still making you cringe, that’s perfectly okay. All you really need to do is find a time that works for you and write at that time every day. The formidable Haruki Murakami established a routine that he follows every single day, down to the minute. He says this is helpful because he doesn’t have to waste time making decisions about what he’ll do next, or when he will complete that task.
Learn from the greats: Routines work. By following a writing schedule, you will be establishing a pattern of creativity that your brain will recognize each day. This is a great thing because you will tacitly condition your brain to be more creative during this time. Once you set your schedule, don’t question it. Don’t leave any room for you to talk yourself out of it. Set your schedule, know your schedule, and stick to it.
Step Two: Have someone keep you accountable. Once you’ve started writing, there are a few things that you can do to make sure you keep writing. First, you should give yourself a deadline. It can be based on word count, page count, or (for those of you who follow these tips so well that you just can’t stop writing) a manuscript count. The pressure it provides is good and can be constructive to the writing process. Once you have your daily deadline, tell your friends, tell your family, post it on Twitter...you get the picture. Make yourself accountable. You can also bring on a professional book coach (like me!) to help you move forward and counter any writer’s block. They’ll have you set a date and time to send them your work and will actually follow up with you if they don’t receive anything (unlike Twitter). Either way, having someone hold you accountable will motivate you to get that writing done!
Step Three: Gamify your routine. People talk a lot about gamification, or the idea that by turning something tedious into a game, you’re able to trick your brain into wanting to do it more. My new way of doing this is by tracking how many hours I spend on specific tasks each day (for me, it’s editing, marketing, and business). I have a narrow whiteboard on the wall next to my desk with those three categories on it, and at the end of each day, I move a small post-it note to however many hours I spent on those tasks, similar to when a fundraiser tracks how much money they’ve raised. It sounds silly, but I can’t tell you how much harder I work during the day just because I want to be able to move those little stickers up enough to beat last week’s score. You can do this with your writing by tracking the number of words written or completed pages. At the end of each week, congratulate yourself on a job well done (or promise to do better), and then wipe that board clean. It’s a new week and you now have the opportunity to start fresh.
Trying to write every day can be intimidating, and at first you’ll want to talk yourself out of it, but you just have to get past your initial fear. Once you establish a writing routine and have structure, you’ll find the entire process a lot easier and rewarding. In fact, you’ll look forward to the part of your day where you get to write. Now, go forth and write!