Every writer dreams of forming that consistent routine that has them writing a few thousand words a day. If we were to write at the pace we normally do all the time, that is only a few hours of work at the most. Yet, to reach that level, we need great habits to keep us productive. That’s what we are talking about today!
If you want to start writing like a machine, here are 5 habits to get you started!
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1. Setting a Writing Goal and Crushing It
The first and most obvious habit is setting a goal, and I mean a real goal. Don’t start a book with your only sense of direction being to finish it. Break it down, and set manageable goals that you can easily imagine achieving.
Professional authors do this because if you only measure your work against its completion rather than the accomplishment of each step, you are setting yourself up for a disappointing experience. That’s why so many writers tend to set goals chapter by chapter or even by word count, such as 500 words a day.
These are goals that are easily achieved when you sit down and try, but what’s great is you feel better about the process by acknowledging these achievements. Imagine if your goal is 500 words a day, which isn’t a bad goal. That’s a novel-length book in just over 3 months!
There will be days where you crush this goal, getting ahead of schedule, then there will be days where it’s a struggle, but still very manageable. The writing process becomes a lot less daunting when you take the time to break your ultimate goal into these achievable steps that you can take each day.
Of course, these goals will go a long way in encouraging you to build the habit of writing, and when these small goals become easily achievable, you can start adding to them. Much like adding weights to your exercise routine, add words each month. Go from 500 to 600, and so on.
This is advice I give all my writing students when they are struggling to get into their writing. Sometimes it’s tough even to start, but then you need only lower your goals to the appropriate amount. If a few hundred words seem daunting, I suggest writing a single sentence for the day, don’t question how good or bad the sentence is, just write it. It always leads to a paragraph or more, which slowly leads to that 500 words a day. That is the power of setting achievable goals and crushing them.
2. Establishing a Writing Schedule and Sticking to It
Anyone who is consistent about anything has a schedule. In modern-day life, having a schedule is crucial for forming new habits because our adult lives are filled with work and responsibility. For many beginner writers, finding a single hour to spare is tough and it usually means sacrificing time that was spent elsewhere.
However, there is time to be found. Whether one forms better sleeping habits, works a little faster, or cuts down on bad habits, time is eventually found.
And sleeping habits are important. If you are a morning person, the best time to write is usually between waking up and going to work. Some writers write while they have their morning coffee, or on their phone during the morning commute. However, night owls write into the night, only ever stopping when it’s time to crash into bed.
Once you find the ideal times to write during the week, it’s all about consistency from there. Focus on sticking to the habit, in the beginning, more than the quality of your writing if you have to, because comfort and quality will come easily once the writing habit is formed. No need to force yourself to be the perfect, write-on-command, professional author that talks about their amazing daily writing habits.
This goes doubly so if you are a beginner. Just taking the time to write consistently is a great step in the right direction!
Your goal from earlier might just be hitting those daily writing timeslots, but if it’s word count, that works well with your schedule too. What’s better than sticking to your writing schedule? Occasionally getting ahead of it!
3. Creating a Writing Environment and Maintaining It
Your writing environment is more than the table you sit at, it’s also the distractions that surround you, the responsibilities. Too often I hear writers who sit down to write, but then stand up to do a little chore, then another, then another, and eventually waste their time on small things that lead to full-blown procrastination.
First, identify your distractions.
For most, it’s the phone or the internet. Whether you passively scroll on Instagram or click through videos on YouTube, you are doing anything but helping your writing habit. These are modern-day distractions that everyone faces no matter their hobby or career, which is why some have made it their career. As a writer, you need to spot these distractions and find out how to create an easier environment to write in.
If you want to find music to listen to while you write, use your free time to collect songs and make a playlist, something that would work well as background noise while you write. That way when you sit down to write, you simply turn on your playlist and then jump straight into writing.
If you have an active social life, then it might help to turn off your phone or at least mute notification noises so it only makes a noise when someone calls.
If your desk is untidy, clean as much junk off as you can, and shoot for that spartan look. If you have too many knick-knacks, you will always find something to fidget with or adjust, so best to remove them completely.
There are so many things you can do to create this environment, but the best thing you can do is get your head in the game and mentally tune out these distractions. Focus on the story in front of you, go through your references, and read the last page you wrote to get back into the swing of things.
4. Productivity Tools and Using Them Effectively
Now, while some things will distract you from your work, some things enhance the experience. We’ve mentioned one productivity tool already; music.
Many writers like to listen to music while they write, most recommend listening to music that doesn’t have any singing to avoid focusing on the lyrics, or playing it with low volume so the mind doesn’t latch onto the singing.
Some writers like to reward themselves with each small step. Whether it’s a time break for every finished page or even a treat, like a piece of candy, whatever your reward system is, it might help train your brain to consider writing a rewarding process in itself and then you can slowly cut out the rewards as you see fit.
I like to think that there are some more basic productivity tools that every writer should have, such as good writing software. I’m sure that nobody is working with Notepad, but if you are, what are you doing?
Personally, I recommend Google Docs. It’s a great way to store your writing and not have to worry about backups. Before I started using Google Docs, I was writing with Microsoft Office, saving the files to a flash drive so that I could write on my computer or my laptop when I was traveling.
However, that became a bit cumbersome and sometimes frustrating if I lost the flash drive or it got damaged. So, storing the document online was the next best thing, and that eventually led to using Google Docs. Now, I can write from anywhere, even my phone if I feel so inclined, so it’s certainly a great tool for productivity.
Yet, as I said earlier, we will use the tools that best suit our way of writing. Whether it’s small candies, embracing a small distraction, music, or better software, there are certainly more tools out there that can help you write more efficiently.
5. Prioritizing Self-Care, Avoiding Burn Out
The most common and terrifying productivity killer isn’t the small distractions I mentioned earlier; it’s burnout.
When one has the energy to write, either from a burst of inspiration or sheer willpower, it can lead to burnout if it’s taken too far. It’s exciting to get into the flow of things and write non-stop, the story is just developing in front of your eyes at a rapid pace, and you’re making all sorts of progress, but as the days go by, you notice a steep decline.
At some point, writing feels like the last thing you want to do, or your mind simply can’t think of how to continue, it won’t click. You’ve reached burnout.
Burnout, or writer’s block, can last a few hours, but usually, it is a few days, but when one gets into the habit of not writing, it can stretch into weeks or even months. It’s the worst productivity killer because not only does it halt your writing, it frustrates you, spoils the writing process, and weakens those habits you worked hard to build.
That’s why it’s important to prioritize self-care even when writing. Don’t overdo it, take your breaks and remind yourself of why you started writing in the first place. Go through some old inspirations, read other books, and enjoy the time you are not writing as well. You can train yourself to switch writing mode on but also need to learn how to turn it off, otherwise, your body and mind will do it for you.
I think we can all agree that forming good habits in anything is always a great idea. These are some habits that I recommend and certainly, try my best to use in my daily writing life. There will be days where it’s just not possible, but all understand that’s sometimes out of our hands.
However, there are certainly more than 5 ways to turn yourself into a writing machine. If you are an experienced writer, what would you recommend to beginner writers for productivity? What are some of the habits you formed to write consistently? Let me know in the comments below!
Thank you for reading and as always,
Good day, goodnight, and happy writing!