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The perfect daily writing habit
The 7 essentials you need for a perfect—yes, perfect—daily writing routine
First, a disclaimer: this is not, in fact, going to be perfect.
But the lure of a perfect daily writing habit is compelling, right?
If we could just get our perfect number of perfect words down every day in a perfect environment, what could we achieve?
So maybe a better title is: A few tips to help you aim for a generally achievable and mostly consistent writing habit.
But that’s not as catchy and would have been too long for a subject line.
So let’s get to it.
The 7 essentials you need for a perfect daily writing habit
“Environment is the invisible hand that shapes human behavior. We tend to believe our habits are a product of our motivation, talent, and effort. Certainly, these qualities matter. But the surprising thing is, especially over a long time period, your personal characteristics tend to get overpowered by your environment.” —James Clear
Having a place to write may seem obvious. It is, after all, difficult to write in a non-place.
But your place—your environment—should be pre-constructed to suit your particular needs.
Pause right now and consider what about your writing space tends to bother you as you’re writing.
In the middle of typing, do you suddenly find yourself thinking about re-alphabetizing your library (again)? Or opening the mail that’s piled up? Or dusting your keyboard? (Seriously, I bought this electric air duster last week to help with that exact problem.)
Whatever you need to adjust so as to have fewer distractions the next time you sit down to write, adjust it now!
Oh, and you should also write in the same place as often as you can. To me, consistency in place and time are two of the greatest assets in setting a routine.
“When I used to work a forty-hour-a-week job and could only write in my spare time, I often thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be great if I could write full-time … instead of squeezing in an hour here and an hour there?’ Guess what? I am writing full-time and it’s true … I can still only squeeze in an hour here and an hour there.” —Steven Pressfield
You may find immense benefits from scheduling your writing time.
The length doesn’t matter compared to your dedication to clocking in.
If possible, schedule your time for your peak focus and alertness.
I’m a fan of early-morning sessions because I’m most alert (and my house is the most quiet) pre-dawn. I know of many others who prefer late nights, after everyone’s gone to sleep (notice a trend?).
Whatever time you set and however long you set it, make it a habit and don’t miss twice.
When you write in the same place at the same time every day, your mind and body will adjust like a Pavlovian-trained dog.
So if we’re turning Pavlovian, we need a bell, right?
Except you can make it whatever sound you’d like.
Maybe it’s an exceptional instrumental playlist on Spotify (if you have a good one, please share it in the comments!)
For my money, I highly recommend Brain.fm. The button below will get you the first month of a paid plan for $1.
In addition to a wide assortment of aural landscapes, you can also set interval timers. And since I know that my writing brain tends to tap out after 45 minutes of use, I set the music to notify me at 40 minutes that I have 5 minutes left before all creativity escapes.
You can also save your favorite landscapes. I’ve discovered that repeatedly listening to the same track quickly gets me into a focused state.
Speaking of focus, take control of your computer before it takes control of you.
When you want to focus on writing, place your computer, tablet, phone, doorbell, fire alarms, children, spouse, roommate, and pets on do not disturb.
Well, maybe not the last few, but I hope the hyperbole has served its purpose.
We have so much technology constantly screaming for our attention.
Don’t give it to them.
Figure out the do not disturb settings on all of your devices that seemingly exist just to disturb you. Many of them offer a DND for 1 hour option, which is perfect for a perfect daily writing routine.
To further enhance your focus, use a simplified writing tool, especially for your first draft.
If you write in Google Docs, it’s very easy to “just check my email.”
You may also want to invest in some noise-cancelling headphones. (Who said you can’t turn your kids on DND?)
So small but so important.
Don’t let a momentary waning of energy deter you from completing your daily writing habit.
Store your favorite energy-increasing eats nearby. My current favorite is Trek Mix from Trader Joe’s.
Of course, a snack also requires a beverage, but I’d like to think that you’re all staying well hydrated or caffeinated, especially the early-risers and the late-nighters.
Truth: I’ve never done this.
I’m sure my wife would say that my office smells like the remnants of a sixth-grade boys locker room. (I hope it’s not actually that bad, but my olfactory sense won’t detect what it’s used to.)
However, I have to imagine that having a distinct scent in your room while writing would boost your creativity and your brain’s agenda when it smells that scent.
The last thing you need for a perfect daily writing routine is literally the last thing you need for your daily writing: a bridge to the next day’s writing.
Here’s Tiago Forte on what kind of bridge you need to build:
“Besides his prolific works, Hemingway was known for a particular writing strategy, which I call the ‘Hemingway Bridge.’ He would always end a writing session only when he knew what came next in the story. Instead of exhausting every last idea and bit of energy, he would stop when the next plot point became clear. This meant that the next time he sat down to work on his story, he knew exactly where to start. He built himself a bridge to the next day, using today’s energy and momentum to fuel tomorrow’s writing.” —Tiago Forte, Building a Second Brain
That is such a staggeringly good tip.
When you spend time today to help your future self know what to write, you’re saving both of yourselves invaluable time.
And a bonus tip: An essential essential for the perfect daily writing habit
You can begin incorporating each of the 7 essentials for a perfect daily writing habit tomorrow, but you won’t see progress until you promise yourself to just do the work.
Commit to writing for 7 days, or 17, or 31.
If your life won’t allow for daily writing, reconfigure. Aim for every other day. Or once a week. Or every other week.
The timing of your particular daily writing habit isn’t as important as your faithful dedication to pursuing the hard yet rewarding work of writing on a persistent basis.
Then show up again.
Then show up again.
And know that none of these days will be perfect.
But they will be progress.
Which of these suggestions do you already do?
Which ones might you begin incorporating?
What would you add?
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