When writing is a habit and not merely a goal, tackling a creative project as large as a novel becomes manageable. Despite everything happening in the world today, writing can serve as your refuge if it’s something you’re used to turning to in your daily routine.
Build your writing habit
When writing is a habit and not a goal, you don’t have to rely on willpower or the muses to get you into the writing chair. “According to researchers at Duke University, habits account for about 40 percent of our behaviors on any given day,” writes James Clear, author of Atomic Habits. “Understanding how to build new habits (and how your current ones work) is essential for making progress in your health, your happiness, and your life in general.”
The Atomic Habits strategy:
- Start with an habit so small you simply can’t say no. Could you write or outline or sit with a notebook thinking about your novel for five minutes a day?
- Increase your habit in baby steps. Don’t attempt to add 500 or 1,000 words per writing session; consider instead adding five or ten minutes to your total.
- Hit your goals by breaking habits into chunks. There’s no need to pound out 500 words every morning; try 250 words in the morning and 250 after dinner.
Here’s how to set up habits that take hold:
How to Build a New Habit: This Is Your Strategy Guide The high-level view.
How to Start New Habits That Actually Stick This breaks down the method.
Identity-Based Habits: How to Actually Stick to Your Goals This Year This sweet little article actually shows you how to think like an author.
More on writing habits, goals, and productivity
How to Fall in Love with the Writing Process: 6 Questions to Hone Your Creative Workflow “Understanding how best to approach your writing—how to kindle your passion—is as essential to becoming a more polished craftsman and artist as studying the craft of writing,” writes Bob Mayer.
How to Hold Yourself Accountable to Your Writing Practice “The simplest way to circumvent resistance is to make an action automatic, to turn it into a habit, a consistent practice,” writes Kristen Kieffer. (Yep, we’re right back to habits again.)
How to Maximize Your Writing Time Like a Pro This article is unusual in that it offers strategies designed for new writers, emerging writers, and seasoned writers.
After a break It’s the rare author who has the luxury of uninterrupted focus time over the duration of an entire manuscript. When you need to get back into the swing of things, these strategies will ease you back into the flow.
The truth about writer’s block “As writers, we all have come to accept certain maxims to be true, or at least we have grown so familiar with the consensus memes of the creative writing world that we have become unwitting suckers, blindly accepting them, without exercising personal discernment and healthy skepticism as artists,” writes story coach and colleague Jeff Lyons. Have you swallowed the myth of writer’s block?
How not to be inspired Sick of advice on how to blossom like some sort of creative flower? Sometimes it’s easier to avoid creativity killers than it is to try to set yourself up to flower on demand.
How about a little more screen real estate? You may not have the space or the budget for another monitor, but connecting your iPad to your laptop or PC could be just the ticket. For about $10, the Duet Display app (iOS devices only) lets you use your iPad as a reference monitor for notes or research while you write on your main screen—all controlled by your main keyboard. I loved this when I first tried it, but more recently it’s made my system boggy and slow; your mileage may vary.
When you need a leg up, I offer short-term coaching on story development and writing technique and long-term coaching from concept through editing. For manuscripts that are ready for editing, I specialize in developmental analyses (a coaching-size version of a manuscript critique) and substantive and line editing.
Sound like the kind of help you’ve been looking for? Let’s talk!