Writing is a fickle beast.
Sometimes it comes easy; sometimes it does not. We can go for significant stretches of time with little or nothing to show for it. The blank page mocks us cruelly. Then there are periods of great abundance where sleep becomes something other people do because the ideas won’t leave us alone. Rarely is there a happy middle ground.
But that doesn’t stop us from trying, and you can create that fabled middle ground. You can train yourself to do almost anything.
Human beings are (generally) creatures of habit so why not make ourselves creatures of writing habit. Creating a habit helps you squeeze into the headspace for any particular task more easily. Setting yourself a nighttime routine will help you fall asleep sooner (usually), setting a morning routine will help you get to work on time, setting a writing habit will help you write each and every day.
Creating a daily writing practice helps, it took a while to settle in (apparently it takes at least 21 days to form a habit that will stick), but now that it’s there I find it easier and simpler to write at certain times of the day. Once I trigger my brain through the little rituals I’ve built up, it automatically shifts into writing mode.
What makes great habits?
Good rituals are anything that works for you. We are all different so what works for some may or may not work for others. But in my opinion rituals should be three things:-
Easy – you’ll be doing this daily, don’t over complicate things.
Engaging to all (or as many as possible) senses – touch, smell, sight, sound
Relaxing – stress may be productive for some, but it also leads to stomach ulcers. Those suck.
Habit Number One!
Read! It’s so straightforward and fun as well. The more you read, the better you will write, as you absorb all the different styles into yourself and see what works and what doesn’t. Scrutinise everything you read, expand your vocabulary, and keep your style fresh and exciting. You should study as much as possible, and hone your craft, the way you would for any other skill. There may be such a thing as natural talent but that’s only a leg up, it’s not the be all and end all of the existence. You need to practice and learn as much as possible, and the best way to do that is reading, reading voraciously.
Habit Number Two!
Do not wait to be inspired.
Motivation and inspiration are right b*stards, they come and go as quickly as the wind. Do not rely on them. Go and find your inspiration. Take a walk, listen to some music, and put your headphones on and do both. If you manage to write every day, then you will automatically train your brain to kick into writing mode at a particular time each day, and your inspiration will be waiting for you.
Habit Number Three!
Always carry a notebook, either paper or electronic.
Write every day. This is harder than it sounds, especially on those days when you finally get in from the office, your feet are killing you, your starving hungry and smelling like public transport. By the time you’ve had a shower, reheated yesterday’s left over’s and finally sat down the last thing you want to do is write. But if you build a daily habit it will become easier, and over time, you won’t even have to look for inspiration, your brain will naturally click, “oh it’s 8 pm, time to write,” and away you go.
Of course, it can take a while for this to happen but hang in there; it’s worth it.
Habit Number Four!
Practice having a thick skin.
You’ll need it. You will either develop this over time, or you will quit. If you don’t want to stop, then I strongly recommend developing your armour as soon as possible. The way to do that is to send out your writing as often as possible, not always to magazines, agents, publishers or anyone professional, maybe share things with your group, share things on Facebook, post them on your blog. It doesn’t matter where but post it, get feedback, get criticism. The internet being the internet you will suffer some harsh criticism, not all of it will be constructive. But even the trolling will serve a purpose, you will develop that thick skin, or you’ll learn that writing is not for you.
Rituals help to form habits
It’s all well, and good lecturing on forming good writing habits but getting into these habits can prove troublesome at times. I have discovered an easy way to form them, however!
That is by using rituals.
The word ritual may conjure up images of blood sacrifice or overly dramatic scenes in old movies, but I mean it in the sense of a repetitive action. Something you do at the same time every day, similar to a habit.
These little rituals help get me kick my brain into writing mode and have helped me form good writing habits.
Ritual One: Tidy the space.
I cannot work in a mess. So each time I sit down to write in the evening after a day at the office, I clean and tidy my space. This automatically makes me feel more relaxed and ready to start.
Ritual Two: Tea
There is something about a good cup of tea that just makes all the troubles of the world seem a little bit further away. Once my space is tidy, I settle myself in with a warm tea and the moment the smell hits my nose my brain clicks into gear. This is now so efficient that I have shifted to iced tea while at work as the smell of warm tea sets my brain into writing fantasy as opposed to drafting statements and particulars.
Ritual Three: Music
Not all music works. I have a special playlist saved on Alfred (that’s my laptop), my writing playlist. It’s mostly instrumental, with some songs in languages I don’t understand. Music, at least for me, is very inspirational. It triggers thoughts and emotions and can make a story take off.
While inspiring, this is a background ritual, not something that should occupy or dominate your thoughts. It shouldn’t be something you want to sing along to, that way lies distraction. It should be something that can be on in the background so you can concentrate on writing.
I sincerely hope you found this helpful, at least a little and I also hope that this helps you start your writing habit. Remember it won’t work quickly; it took me over a month of setting this up on a daily basis before it worked. But now that it has worked, I hardly even need to think about it, I just clear space, sit down with my tea and some tunes, and the writing comes.
Don’t forget Katie Marie wrote a Book. A big one and a couple of little ones. Check them out!