I decided to put together a list of 10 writing strategies that have helped me start a new writing habit because I noticed there are many out there who want to become writers but don’t know where to start. I can relate as I’ve always wanted to be a writer. In fact, in one of my earliest memories I find myself reading an essay I wrote on family values back when playing the classic version of the snake game on your computer was all the rage—way before Nokia took it mobile. A decade or more later, I have found that I have been a writer all along just because I make it a point to sit down and write. Unfortunately, not everyone is on the same page (pun intended).
Before we get into the writing strategies, let’s talk about the importance of setting up good writing habits.
For many years I dreamt about writing a novel and becoming a published writer. It is also true, that all along I did nothing other than daydreaming about becoming a writer. In other words, I had big dreams of becoming a writer but wasn’t doing anything about it. And that, my friend, is the recipe for heartbreak because your dreams didn’t come true.
As a side note here, in the last year or two, I have been doing a lot of hustle because I realized that my dreams weren’t going to come true if I didn’t take action and moved in the direction of my dreams. It was somewhere along the way that I got very serious about being a writer and started regularly updating my blog as part of my efforts to becoming a published writer. I have even typed 40 thousand words for a book I plan on publishing sometime later this year. A stark contrast from my days of daydreaming about being a writer.
Then, after i started writing, came the self-doubt. I may have been writing, but in my eyes it didn’t matter because not a lot of people were reading my work. Many a times I thought of giving up as I used to tell myself that without an audience I could not possibly call myself a writer. I later came to learn that, as it turns out, it is not my audience that makes me a writer, but rather the fact that I engage in the act of writing.
I was already starting to think of myself as a writer when I was fortunate enough to find Jeff Goins, a blogger I have been following for some time now. From cyber-stalking him (ok, he self-discloses this) I found that this “I am not a writer” syndrome is more common than not, to which he says:
Everybody is a writer. Writing is a basic life skill and everyone should be able to put sentences together. To be a writer, all you have to do is write – Jeff Goins
In fact, you should listen to this podcast interview with Ann Handley about how if you write anything at all, you are already a writer.
So this whole ramble on writing came about because I happened to attend Thrive Blog Conference this last weekend. Over the weekend I got the opportunity to win some prizes and meet many wonderful ladies who are all at different stages of their blogging journey. This was my very first conference as a “professional” so I am super glad I attended.
One of the things I heard from some of them was “I haven’t got the time” or “I haven’t started my blog just yet” and it certainly reminded me of when I was in the beginning stages of my blog. And you know me, I can be kind of a black or white kind of girl and one of my mottoes is: No excuses! So… a while back I realized that if I wanted to become a writer, it all came down to getting serious about my writing career, and as such, I would have to put a consistent, and good writing habit in place.
Ok, I will be writing about the importance of having a writing habit and on how to build your writing habit in the upcoming weeks. For now, onto our 10 writing strategies!
10 Effective Writing Strategies for Starting a Writing Habit
Now, this list of writing strategies is really meant to teach you how to set up a writing habit based on what has helped me write regularly. There are many types of writing strategies, so I would suggest you do a nifty Google search for other examples of writing strategies if you are not looking to build a writing habit.
However, before you can get into writing style and grammar, you may as well get a writing habit in place. So without further ado, the 10 writing strategies that have helped me start (AND KEEP) my writing habit:
p.s. I know sometimes it’s easy to forget the bits of knowledge jam-packed in the interweb, so in order to help you keep this info in your back pocket (literally) I created printable cards that you can either download to your phone as a PDF or as PNG’s to print! Your choice! To get them, all you have to do is type your name and email below:
This is what it would look like:
1. Is writing a priority or is it not?
It really is as simple as this. I don’t believe in not having time for an activity, especially when it is a goal you really want to accomplish. In the end, “not having time” for your dreams is an excuse to play small.
You want something? You make time for it. And how do you make time for it? You re-assess your priorities and become very conscious of how your day flows. I will be writing more about the subject in the upcoming weeks.
2. Find your golden time and make it a point to write during this time.
One of my past employers introduced the idea of “golden time” to me back in 2004. Golden time, as he described it, is the time of the day when you can concentrate best and do your best possible work. Psychology uses the term “flow” to describe the same idea.
The thing about creative work is that, as an artist, we feel like we are at the mercy of our muse (or inspiration) when it should be the other way around. One way to take advantage of your muse is to experiment with setting a writing schedule at different times of the day until you find what works best for you. Some people are night owls, some are morning birds. Be strategic, make it a point to find the time that flow and inspiration comes to you most easy and write during those hours.
3. Set up your environment for success.
One of the most important factors in reaching your goals is going to be your environment. I have a small cork board next to my computer with inspirational words reminding me of why I do what I do. My desk is also clutter free (ok, for the most part, don’t judge). I like to make coffee to help me feel at ease, and I play Mozart on Pandora or listen to binaural beats to help me get focused. I also close my web browser and email, and when that I am distraction-free I just type away.
What does your environment feel, sound, and look like? Is it conducive to getting focused, or distracted? Marinate on that and act accordingly.
4. Create a writing ritual.
Ok, this doesn’t mean you have to behead a chicken every time you set out to write. It just means that you create the sacred space to get the work done. If writing a book or a blog is one of your dreams in life, then give it the love that it is due. Your dreams deserve no less. My ritual is as simple as coffee, journaling, background music, incense, and lighting candles. It may be simple, but it really sets the stage for writing to flow more effortlessly, especially when I’m feeling “uninspired”.
To create your own ritual, ask yourself: What will help me turn this moment into a sacred space?
5. Get in the zone.
Getting in the zone basically means to get inspired, even when you are not feeling inspired. Remember, the difference between a pro and an amateur is that the pro is an amateur that didn’t give up. I am going to be writing more about this in the upcoming weeks but, for now, suffice it to say that getting in the zone is as simple as remembering and meditating on a time when you felt inspired rather intensely. Ideally, you will want to practice this mental state as often as possible.
6. Make sure you ARE ready for when the muse does strike.
I have a gazillion little notebooks that I carry around with me. In fact, I am obsessed with little notebooks. One day my roommate had to go through my stuff to find my passport so that I could get back into the country (because only I forget my passport when I cross the border into Mexico) and the first thing she said to me upon my return was “you write a lot!” That is because I make sure that whenever inspiration strikes I am ready to receive it with arms wide open by getting a pen and a notebook out.
7. Set a ridiculous writing goal.
When I say ridiculous, I mean ridiculously low.
If you are wanting to start a writing routine and are overwhelmed by the prospect of not knowing where to start, my recommendation is to set a rather accomplishable number of words you want to shoot for. What I found to be easiest for me is to set a low number, i.e. 500 words daily.
Why set the bar low? I found that I felt overwhelmed by the idea of writing 1000 words daily, which resulted in a whole ZERO words being writen. On the other hand, if I set my goal so low that I knew I could easily accomplish it, I found that more often than not, somewhere around the 350th word I’d get really inspired about what I was writing and would end up writing upwards of 1,000 words. So start small and leave room for growth.
8. “Please excuse me while I write”
Once you start doing the actual writing, you may notice that there is a pesky little voice inside your head that will be glad to let you know that whatever it is you are writing sucks. This is your critical mind, super useful for analytic thinking, not so much for creative endeavors like writing. More often than not we let this voice get the best of us and our writing and so we give up on our dreams. What I have found works best in these situations is to ask my critical mind to go sit down elsewhere for a minute while I write. I let it know that it can come back and help me when I’m editing, but for now, my sole focus is to get words on (digital) paper. And in case you are wondering, yes, I literally have this conversation in my head with my inner-critic.
You can also (not literally) follow Ernest Hemingway’s advice on writing:
Write drunk; edit sober” Ernest Hemingway (Tweet this!)
9. Track your progress.
Remember all those gold stars we used to get on our forehead when we did something we were supposed to do? Believe it or not, gold stars on your forehead still work when it comes to rewarding your accomplishments. Before consistent writing became a habitual routine, I found that keeping track of when and how long I wrote would motivate me to keep going. There are lots of smart phone apps out there that can help you keep track of your progress, but the important thing is to be able to see that progress mapped out in front of you.
10. Just do it!
Sit down and write. No excuses + no fear = no regrets. This is the most important piece of advice that I can give you about starting a blog, writing a book or becoming a writer. Because in the end, a writer is someone who writes.
If you want to be a writer, then you ought to write. Setting up a good writing habit can help you take the guesswork and save you a lot of energy when it comes to getting the writing done. So please, do yourself (and the world) a favor, and follow your dream to become a writer! There is a lot of juicyness and satisfaction to be found in pursuing your dream of becoming a writer, trust me!
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As always, thank you for reading! Looking forward to seeing you here next week!