I can’t emphasize too strongly how important it is to guard your writing time. This is probably the most important lesson that I’ve learned in the past year. All of the ambition, desire, and good intentions of an aspiring writer are worthless without a writing schedule. Once a writer has set a daily time for writing, that writer must defend and support the activity. Here are four key tips to keep in mind.
You need to find the ideal time for writing. It should be the same block of time every day, with maybe a day or two off. For me, it’s mornings. That’s when I’m the sharpest mentally. That’s when I know I won’t be disturbed by my family. It’s a period that I can count on almost every day.
Maybe you’re an evening person. Perhaps you can only make time during a lunch break or right after you get home from work. Whatever the block of time, commit to it.
As soon as you’ve set aside that time to write, it will come under attack. If it’s mornings like me, you’ll want to sleep in. If it’s evenings, you be tempted to chill on the couch. You may find that loved ones resent your commitment. They may think that you should be doing something with them instead of writing. It could even be your dog, whining at you to take him for a walk.
Whatever the source of the attack, you must resolve to defend that writing time. Keep it safe. Make it a precious part of you day that you relish. Missing it should tear you apart. If you do miss, get back on track as soon as possible.
Find a way to track your sessions. Keep a log of your writing in a journal or an app. Some people buy a big calendar and draw out a big X through every day that they’ve written. And don’t forget about the value of being accountable to other people. It’s very helpful to have at least one other person to whom you report on a regular basis.
It’s best if you can see the results of an unbroken chain of sessions. This will make you very reluctant to miss. Draw on the energy of all of the previous days to fuel your commitment. I’ve found that this energy not only keeps me from missing, it also pushes me to write even more than my target word count.
One last tip that many writers neglect: perfect the activities leading up to your daily writing session. It’s best to have some kind of ritual that gets you in the right frame of mind. While you could just jump into the writing, a better course is to warm into the activity.
Because I write in the morning, my ritual starts the night before. Little things that I do prepare me for the writing in the morning. I set the timer on the coffee machine. I put the pan on the stove to cook my eggs. I jot down some goals in a journal after I climb into bed. All these things get me prepped for the writing, and I honestly find that doing them makes it much easier to faithfully adhere to my daily session.
In conclusion, I find that setting a specific time to write and supporting that session by practicing defense, accountability, and frontloading strategies have been crucial to my growing success in developing my writing habit. I strongly encourage you to adopt this approach.