How to Develop a Daily Writing Habit (for the Long-term)
Whether you want to write a book, build a successful blog or start a newsletter, a daily writing habit will help you get there.
Even if you can only write for 15 or 30 minutes each day, that's enough to see real progress. The words add up faster than you think. You'll be amazed by how far you can get by writing as little as 100 words a day.
When it comes to writing habits, most writers struggle. Not because they don't have the time or aren't capable of writing every day. They don't have the right tools and processes in place to make it possible.
If you want to develop a daily writing habit, you've come to the right place. In this guide, we'll explore:
- What are the benefits of a daily writing habit?
- Is writing every day a good fit for you?
- How many words should you write every day?
- Do you have to write every day?
- How can you make your writing habit sustainable?
- Strategies you can use to start developing your writing habit today.
Let's get started!
Do you have to write every day?
A daily writing habit is a powerful tool to help you achieve your writing goals. For many writers, it's the only way to make progress while juggling a full-time job and other responsibilities, leaving them with limited time for writing.
Of course, you don't have to write every day. If you find that writing in occasional, super-productive bursts works better for you, that's perfectly fine too.
In any case, daily writing shouldn't feel like a burden. Even if you decide to develop a writing habit, you don't have to write every single day for the rest of your life. Taking breaks is healthy. Take as much time off as you need between projects to prepare for the next push.
Stephen King does exactly that. He doesn't sweat it when he doesn't have a project. Once he starts working on a book, he writes 2,000 words every day, no matter what — including weekends and holidays.
3 Benefits of Writing Every Day
A daily writing habit has certain advantages you won't get any other way.
Here are three benefits of making writing an integral part of your daily routine.
No Room for Excuses
I'm sure you've experienced something like the following. You wake up with a vague sense that you should start working on that draft you've been putting off for so long.
You get distracted in the morning and miss your writing window before work. To make up for that, you plan to have your lunch alone and get some words written. But then your colleagues decide to have lunch together and ask you to join. You don't want to be the only person to refuse, so you come along.
You still have a few more hours left after work, but you're tired. You don't feel like writing, and you pass out on the sofa before you can decide.
This pattern can go on for weeks and months without you writing a single word.
Every day, you have to decide whether you'll write or not. The ambiguity leaves room for excuses to creep in.
Too tired? Too busy? Oh, well!
Committing to writing every day eliminates the tension that comes from having to decide. You've already made that decision. Then you can focus on making it happen.
Writing every day is so simple.
Excuses are much easier to dismiss because you aren't just postponing your writing for one day. You're breaking a promise that you made to yourself.
Like many other things in life, writing gets easier the more you do it. The more you write, the less intimidating it becomes.
Your "writing muscle" adjusts to the process over time.
A daily writing habit allows you to build momentum. You will be faster and feel much less exhausted after each session. Writing 500 words isn't that big of a deal when you're doing it every day.
At some point, it will start feeling odd when you don't get to write anything during your day. A writer in motion tends to stay in motion.
The Words Add Up Fast
When you write every day, you will produce a lot of material. The words add up fast whether you're writing blog posts, short stories, screenplays or books.
As Ray Bradbury said when he advised new writers to finish a short story every week for a year, "It's impossible to write 52 bad stories in a row."
You will explore ideas that you would've never considered before. Your writing and storytelling abilities will inevitably improve.
You will have pieces to submit to competitions or magazines or to publish online. You will be able to seek feedback from editors and fellow writers alike.
Are you working on a book? Regardless of how big your target word count is and how few words you write every day, you will get there. That instantly puts you ahead because 90% of people who start working on a book never finish the first draft.
10 Strategies to Help You Develop a Long-lasting Writing Habit
The benefits of a daily writing habit are clear, but developing one certainly isn't easy. The first few weeks are the hardest but also the most important.
Here are ten effective strategies that you can use to develop a long-lasting writing habit. These tactics will help you stay focused, motivated and accountable.
1. Create Space for Writing in Your Life
You're already filling the waking hours in your day with activities. Whether they're productive or not, they all serve a purpose in your daily routine.
Perhaps you have a job, run a business or are raising a family. You spend time with your friends or loved ones. You might also take some time to exercise, relax or unwind.
The first mistake writers make is trying to add writing to their already busy schedules. It's not as easy as turning your evening TV time into a writing session. Writing is hard work. You'll have to make real compromises.
When doing too much, the slightest change to your circumstances will throw you off. When that happens, writing will usually be the first thing you abandon.
Make sure you give yourself enough time and energy to write. Create space for it in your daily routine so that you can do it sustainably.
2. Start Small
Most people start by setting a daily word count goal. Usually, this comes at around 500 and 2,000 words per day. While these goals are perfectly achievable, trying to hit them from the start will lead to frustration and (ultimately) failure.
Writing is a lot like running, as Haruki Murakami showed in his memoir What I Talk About When I Talk About Running.
Like running, writing has a limit on the number of words you can produce each day. It does improve with practice, but if you try to do too much too soon, you will hit a wall.
Imagine attempting to run 5 miles every day with no prior athletic training. You may be able to do it a few times, but you'll have quit already by the end of the week. Similarly, writing 2,000 words daily is too ambitious in the beginning.
Start small and work your way up. Whatever daily goal you have in mind, divide it by ten and start from there. Only increase it once you can comfortably reach your goal for seven consecutive days.
3. Schedule Your Writing Sessions in Advance
Many writers prefer to write at the same time every day. It may be early in the morning before work or late at night before bed. Some write during their lunch break or on their commute.
Writing at the same time every day creates a rhythm that helps you keep going. You train your brain to be ready to write at a specific hour.
If this isn't possible, schedule your writing sessions ahead of time — preferably at least a day in advance.
By scheduling a specific time, you're making an explicit commitment. Put it on your calendar and treat it as any other appointment.
You wouldn't skip a meeting with your boss or a date with your partner without saying anything. If something truly urgent comes up, reschedule your writing session to a different time.
Treat your writing time with the same respect that you would treat the time of other people.
4. Make Writing a Priority
Maintaining a writing routine would be easy if every day were the same. But life brings about all sorts of disruptions, sometimes daily. You can't always get everything done.
When things don't work out as planned, your writing time is often the first thing to go. The boiler stopped working. Your car broke down. The trains are delayed. That means you no longer have time to write. Or does it?
If you dream of publishing a book or launching a blog, writing is probably pretty important to you. Do you give it the appropriate priority in your life?
When you miss your morning train, you wouldn't go back home and skip a day at work.
"Oh well, no point in going in now."
You committed to writing every day. Protect your writing time, and treat it with the respect it deserves. Don't give it up unless there's an emergency.
5. Come Prepared
Staring at the blank page without knowing where to start or what to write about can be extremely discouraging. It happens to all writers sometimes. However, maintaining a daily writing routine will become nearly impossible if it becomes a regular occurrence.
That's why it's crucial to prepare for each writing session in advance. Whether you're a plotter or a pantser, think through what you'll be working on the next day.
Some writers prepare extensive outlines, while others get by with a vague idea of where they want the story to go. Do whatever you need to so you can start writing as soon as you sit down.
Many writers stop writing in the middle of a paragraph or sentence. When they return to their draft the next day, they can immediately finish what they started. It helps them to recover their train of thought and overcome the blank page syndrome.
6. Track Your Progress
Writing projects can take weeks, months and sometimes years to complete. Although the words add up over time, it can feel like a right slog when it takes two weeks to finish chapter 38 out of 125.
The middle of a project is often the most difficult. The novelty wears off, but the end is still far away. On top of that, the most exciting stuff usually happens at the beginning or during the climax of your story. The middle part is where you build tension and connect the dots — not the most engaging material to write.
Tracking your progress can help you quantify how much work you're putting in and keep you motivated throughout the entire project. By staying on top of your word count, you can set smaller goals and celebrate hitting them along the way.
That said, tracking how much you write and processing that data into useful insights can become a chore of its own. That's where Writing Analytics comes in. Our editor tracks various metrics while you write. When you finish, it processes the data into actionable insights right away.
There will be times when you feel like you'll never finish. When that happens, focus on hitting your daily goal. Just write the words, however bad they seem. Take it one step at a time.
7. Build a Streak
Losing $100 will annoy you more than winning $100 will make you happy. Psychologists call this cognitive bias loss aversion. Our brains experience the pain of losing much more powerfully than the pleasure of gaining.
Writing streaks leverage this bias by tracking the number of consecutive days you hit your writing goal. When you miss, you have to reset the counter back to zero.
As your day counter climbs higher, you naturally don't want to lose your streak.
When developing a writing habit, make sure to start tracking your streak. If you use Writing Analytics, the app marks the built-in habit tracker when you write or revise. It also resets the counter when you miss a day.
8. Stay Accountable
For most people, writing is a completely self-motivated endeavour. When starting out, you don't have a boss or publisher waiting for you to deliver a finished manuscript.
If you quit tomorrow, nothing will happen. Chances are nobody will even notice. When it gets tough, it's way too easy to give up.
Getting as much accountability as possible is vital to force yourself to follow through.
Set daily goals and do your best to hit them. If word goals don't work for you, consider setting time goals instead.
Join a writing group or a writing challenge. Enlist a friend and text them every time you finish your daily writing session.
Make quitting as hard as possible. Doing so will make getting on with your writing the preferable thing to do.
9. Never Skip Two Days in the Row
Despite your best efforts, you will likely miss a writing day at some point. It happens to everyone.
It can be disheartening to lose your streak, but it's important not to panic or beat yourself up over it. That only makes things worse.
Remember that missing a day doesn't mean that you failed. It's not all or nothing. Don't give up just because you missed a day. Instead, focus on getting back on track as soon as possible. Even if you only succeed 70, 80, or 90 percent of the time, that's still much better than not writing at all.
When you do miss a day, do whatever is in your power to write the next day. Cancel your evening plans. Skip other activities to make sure you have plenty of time to write.
James Clear, the author of Atomic Habits, says that missing a day is a mistake, but missing two days in a row is the start of a new habit.
Never skip two days in a row and risk falling back into your old habits.
10. Change Your Habit When It Stops Working
Life is constantly changing. What worked for you in the past may no longer be feasible when you change jobs or move into a different area. Even small changes can affect your ability to maintain a writing habit significantly.
Let's say you change jobs. Your commute goes up from 30 minutes to over an hour. If you used to get up at 5 a.m. to write, waking up an hour earlier may not work.
Pushing through with the sheer force of will may work for a while. It will get you through a few bad days, but it won't work forever.
Don't linger on something that is no longer working. When your circumstances change, look for new ways to fit writing into your schedule.
Perhaps you could take the train instead of driving to work and use that time to write? You could write on your lunch break or go to a coffee shop after work to get some writing done.
Don't be afraid to experiment and change things up. Routines are an iterative process.
Writing every day can unlock a world of possibilities for your writing career. You will generate a steady stream of material and practise your craft daily. As you build momentum, the words will start flowing more easily.
A consistent writing habit is what separates frustrated aspiring writers from published professionals.
You can absolutely develop a steady and sustainable daily writing habit if you put these strategies into practice.
Don't let missing a day discourage you. Focus on your long-term goals. Be intentional about finding a routine that works for you. Your persistence will pay off.