Many of us dream of being able to support ourselves on our writing alone. I have a 5-year goal to be able to quit my day job (if I like) and live off my writing income. That goal might be met sooner or it might be met later than 5 years. But the important thing is: I want to be a full-time writer. I want to be able to answer the question “What do you do for a living,” with “I’m a full-time writer.”
Feel like you would rather see a human being (me) speak about this topic? Make sure to watch the video below!
If you treat your writing like you do your day-job, you’re going to be able to meet that goal a lot faster. Just because you’re feeling a little down in the creativity department, doesn’t mean you should just call in sick. And the more you write every day, the less ominous it gets when you sit down to produce your work. You will already know the motions that work because you’ve sat at your desk every day and produced something.
Keep in mind that you don’t always have to be working on your WIP. I count things like my website or marketing into my daily habit, because they all push me toward being a full-time writer one day. These days can also be spent character developing or plotting, just make sure you do something for your writing career every day!
So without further ado, here are my top 4 tips to building your own daily writing habit:
Whether you’re a morning person or a night owl, discovering a time that works for you can be the key to sticking to a daily writing habit. But being a morning person in the general sense is a lot different that being a morning person in the creative sense. I like waking early and being able to get a lot of items crossed off my to-do list before noon. It makes me feel really productive and like I’ve accomplished a lot in a short period of time.
But I know that I can’t wake up early and produce something of quality right off the bat. During the workweek, I already wake up at 5:30 and there’s absolutely no way I’d be coherent enough to write at 4:30 in the morning.
Part of what makes that so easy to cross off my list is that I’ve found an alternate time to squeeze my writing in. For me, that’s the two to three hour gap I have between when I get home and when my boyfriend gets home. It’s just me, the dogs, and my writing. If you’ve already settled on a time to write during the day, and you’re just happy with your results (word count or productivity), then try something new! If you write in the morning, try writing in the evening or changing your writing location. Track your progress and see if you’re actually more productive at another time of day. Remember, it’s not about whether or not you like waking up in the morning, it’s about finding the most creative time of your day and utilizing it.
If you haven’t already been able to tell, I like goals. When I tell myself and others what my goals are, I’m far more likely to reach those goals than if I hadn’t. And when I’m writing, I need a defined stopping point where I can feel good about my day of writing and sleep easier at night.
A lot of writers choose to set word count goals. They sit down at their computer and they don’t leave until they’ve written 1000, 1500, or 2000 words. These goals are personal, so you should never compare yourself to someone else, unless you’re seeking to improve in your process (more on this in a moment). It’s never a good idea to make yourself feel bad about accomplishing your dreams! You can share these goals you set, or choose to keep them private. Whatever makes you more motivated to achieve your goals.
You can also pick a specific number of scenes to complete every day. Lately, this has been my goal choice since NaNoWriMo ended. Now that I don’t have to worry about my word count, I can focus on moving my story along via scene goals. So far, I’m liking it. This type of goal may be better suited for plotters, since you need an idea for where your story is going to go before you start writing. Since I’m an avid plotter, this goal has suited me well so far.
If you have a precise time you can write in, you can also give timed objectives a try. A lot of writers find they’re more productive with the Pomodoro technique. If you’re unfamiliar with this, you basically choose a quantifiable number of minutes to write without any distractions. After that specified time, you get a break. I tried this out with 25 minute increments of work, followed by 5 minutes of play. While this method did keep me very focused, I found that I would skip over the break and continue writing. Even though I didn’t continue using this method, I feel it served as a great exercise to keep me focused. I tried the Pomodoro method for a whole month, and feel it turned that focus into a habit. So even though I don’t continue to do it, I think it still had an impact on my writing!
Going off the last idea, you should always seek to learn about and improve your process. If you feel that you can do better than 500 WPH, then look up articles, read books, listen to podcasts, do whatever it is you can do to improve. I’ve recently picked up dictation and my productivity soared. It’s not always what I do, but I do it when I can. I tried something new and found out that I loved it.
One of my on-going quarterly goals is to read at least one book on the craft of writing every quarter. I do this so that I can always be on the lookout for ways that I can improve my writing, my productivity, or my knowledge on the business of self-publishing.
The main thing to take away from this point is this: if you’re unhappy with something in your writing, then don’t be afraid to take steps to change it. If you’re dissatisfied with your writing, then it’s going to be so much harder to sit down every day and write. There’s unlimited resources out there, paid and free, that can teach you a wealth of knowledge on whatever topic you want to learn about (hello, Google, nice to meet you). This is an industry where those who stay on top of the craft are rewarded greatly. Keeping up to date on the ever changing business could affect your chances at being a full-time writer one day.
This might be a hard pill for some to swallow, but I’m going to say it anyway: you don’t know everything. Say it with me: I don’t know everything. Listen to those who have trudged through the madness already (if you’re reading this, then you already are), or read about the experiences of famous authors and soak it all in. Don’t be left behind just because your ego got in the way.
Not just picking the best time of day to write, but doing the same routine just before you write every day can help you get into the right mindset for writing. Even though I always write after work, I take about 30 minutes to unwind from the day’s exertion. I take the dogs out, browse the internet, read articles or check out my social media accounts. All the while I’m mentally preparing for my writing session and making sure I get all of my distractions out of the way before I sit down to write.
A method I just recently heard about from Kristen Martin involved practicing yoga for 10 minutes before you start writing. Since I’m always looking to improve my practice, I’m planning on trying this one out in January (I’ll let you guys know how it goes).
I always find it’s important to stick with mostly what you know. If I’m going to change my routine, I always do it gradually and keep most elements the same. If you’re just starting out in your writing habit, then pick some things you know you’ll like and start with those. Sit down with a coffee or tea just before writing, journal for a few minutes, review what happened through the day, have a glass of wine (if you’re of age of course), or get inspired by something. If you know you get inspiration flares from people watching, then sit in a place you can people watch at. BUT, don’t do this while you’re writing. It’ll be a distraction then!
I want to take the time to acknowledge the spontaneous people in our lives. If you don’t like having a routine with any aspect of your life, then ignore everything I just said in this point. But not really...because I think everyone should try new things to improve their process. There are some writers that absolutely abhor doing the same thing every day, and that’s okay. The important thing is you know what type of person you are. Even if you don’t sit down at the same time every day to write, try doing one thing that gets you into the writing mood!
Remember, to make something a habit, you need to do it for longer than 28 days. There may be a transition time to some of these tips (I experienced it big time with dictation, but I ended up almost doubling my words per hour), so don’t give up on it right away! The earlier you hash out what works for your daily writing habit, the more productive your writing career will be in the long run. What may work for one person, might not work for you, but the only way to find out is to experiment!
Now that I’ve pitched to you how much you need to sit down and write every day, let me end by contradicting clarifying what I just said. While you should treat writing like your full-time job now if that’s what you want out of your future, it’s okay to take breaks every once in a while. You earn sick leave at work right? Then you should earn sick leave in your writing job. Just like your day job, though, you should limit yourself to how many of these breaks you can take. I would save these for instances when you really can’t help not writing, because life happens. If your cell phone spazzes out and you need to go get it fixed (happened to me), if your dog tries to lick off its own flesh and then you have to take it to the vet (oh that happened too), or if you’re too sick to form a coherent thought (wait a second...that was this week!), then you should probably take a sick day.
If you want to be a full time writer one day, then start acting like one! And that means taking the time every day to work toward that goal.
What have you found that works well for you? Let me know in the comments sections below - I’d love to hear from you, my wonderful readers!