The Baseline Writing Routine
Writing is a lot like running. The more you do it, the easier it gets. If you start skipping days or stop writing altogether, you will get rusty. The longer you take off from writing, the more difficult it will be to start again.
When you’re always starting over, you'll struggle to build enough momentum to enjoy the benefits that compound over time. You’re making it harder for yourself.
But your writing routine doesn’t have to be a never-ending quest to meet impossible daily word goals. In this post, we'll share four principles that you can put to work today to create a writing habit that fits your lifestyle and is sustainable for the long term.
The first mistake writers make is setting a daily goal that’s far too ambitious. Maybe you get a new idea or read a book that inspires you to start a new project. You're excited about it and start writing 1,000 or 2,000 words every day. It may work for a while until you burn out and stop writing altogether. To go back to our running analogy, most people can’t go from not training for years to running 10 miles every day.
Instead of an ambitious goal that will stress you out, set a baseline — a low minimum word count that you can write every day no matter what. It can be 100 or even 50 words. Go for a number that you can comfortably finish in 10 or 15 minutes.
On good days, when you have enough time and energy, feel free to write more. Nothing is stopping you! And on a day when everything goes wrong, you can write your 100 words right before bed.
The first principle of the baseline writing routine is to avoid burning out at all costs.
Coming Up with Ideas
When you get your writing habit up and running, you’ll find that the words add up pretty fast. You may run out of things to write sooner than you think.
The second mistake writers make is trying to come up with ideas on the spot. Again, this may work sometimes, but you won’t feel inspired every day. Not having an idea to work on will stress you out and make you postpone writing to later in the day. Ideally, you should know today what you’ll be working on tomorrow.
Many writers maintain a list of vetted ideas, ready for drafting. Some prepare extensive outlines so that when the time to write comes, they know exactly what to do.
In case of emergency, keep a list of writing exercises and prompts that you can use in case when you’re truly stuck. Completing a writing exercise or writing a short flash fiction based on a prompt can be a great way to get your main project going again — and you won't skip a writing day.
Whether you’re working on a book or writing a blog, it may be months — if not years — before you start seeing the fruits of your labour. Writing is the definition of delayed gratification.
Use a writing tracker to set goals and track your progress along the way. Habit trackers are also an effective way to establish a routine.
Writing Analytics tracks words, time spent, how much time you spend typing and more. This happens behind the scenes while you write. You can set goals and schedule writing sessions. It also comes with a built-in habit tracker that ticks off days automatically.
When you reach an important milestone on your writing journey, you’ll get an award to celebrate 🎉.
Some writers like to join writing groups or share their goals with friends to stay accountable.
Learning From Your Mistakes
Mistakes happen. If you end up missing a day, don’t panic. Instead, focus all your energy to ensure that you’ll write the next day. Move your writing session to earlier, bring your laptop to your lunch break, ask your partner to cook dinner so you can get the extra time and energy you need to get your words done.
Often, it won’t be your fault — meetings overrun, plans change, cars break down, pipes leak. Still, take a moment to see if there’s anything you could do differently in the future to safeguard your writing time from events like that.
Missing a day is a mistake. Missing two days in a row is a beginning of a pattern. Try as hard as you can to never skip two days in a row.
It’s counter-intuitive, but by setting a low daily goal and building momentum, you’ll end up writing more words over time than writers who try doing too much and keep falling off the wagon.
There’s only one goal: to keep you writing.
Turn writing from something you aspire to do to a habit that you do every day with Writing Analytics. Start your free trial today.