“Over time, as the daily routines become second nature, discipline morphs into habit.” – Twyla Tharp
No matter how many articles you read on becoming a better writer, or how to write 1000 words a day, the problem is not a lack of information or the quality of information. Changing the quality or the quantity of information won’t make any difference in your writing abilities. The real secret to becoming a skilled writer lies in understanding human behavior. The key to unlocking your most prolific self lies in turning writing from a task on your to do list into a habit that is as second nature as brushing your teeth. In other words it has to become a part of who you are instead of something that you do.
Understanding How Habits Work
If you’ve not read Charles Duhigg’s book, The Power of Habit, I highly recommend it. To turn writing into a habit, you need an understanding of how habits work.
Anyone can use this basic formula to create habits of her or his own. Want to exercise more? Choose a cue, such as going to the gym as soon as you wake up, and a reward, such as a smoothie after each workout. Then think about that smoothie, or about the endorphin rush you’ll feel. Allow yourself to anticipate the reward. Eventually, that craving will make it easier to push through the gym doors every day. Rather, to change a habit, you must keep the old cue, and deliver the old reward, but insert a new routine.” – Charles Duhigg, The Power of Habit
Take a look at your habits. You do plenty of things without even thinking about them. But you weren’t born smoking cigarettes, brushing your teeth or drinking coffee. They were habits you developed over an extended period of time.
Why a Writer’s Routine is So Important
One of the things that the most prolific writers have in common is a routine for creating.
“If you want to create something worthwhile with your life you need to draw a line between the world’s demands and your own ambitions. Yes, we all have bills to pay and obligations to satisfy. But for most of us there’s a wide gray area between the have to’s and want to’s in our lives. If you’re not careful that area will fill up with emails, meetings, and requests of others, leaving no room for the work you consider important. ” – Mark Mcguiness.
The first hour of my day goes somewhat like this:
- I use the same coffee cup every single day. This is my cue.
- I block Facebook and email for the first 2 hours each morning. If World War 3 starts, somebody will call you to let you know. It won’t begin in in your inbox.
- I throw on some headphones and load up a playlist I write for 30-45 mins in a distraction free writing tool without stopping. This is my routine.
I also don’t schedule any meetings in the first few hours of the morning. To reward myself, I publish what I’ve written on my blog, on Facebook, or on Medium. To me creation is often its own reward. But if you need an external reward try one of the following:
- Waste Time
- Go for a Walk
- Take a quick Break
- Eat some chocolate
Your rewards don’t need to be anything special. The goal is just to create a positive association in your brain with finishing a task.
Process and Consistency is More Important then Quality
One thing that traps almost every single blogger or content creator I talk to is an excessive concern for the quality of their writing. I’m not saying you shouldn’t care about quality. But to worry about the quality of something you haven’t even done yet is a fool’s errand. Don’t judge your work while you’re creating it. Remember that you don’t have to publish every single thing you write. When turning writing into a habit, process and consistency is more important than quality.
Overcoming Writer’s Block
I don’t have writers block anymore and the secret to overcoming it is actually simple. Just put your fingers on a keyboard and write WHATEVER is on your mind. The simple act of getting your fingers moving seems to unlock plenty of insights. You may write 100, 200 or even 500 words before what you write doesn’t sound like complete gibberish. But, somewhere along the way a switch flips, an idea sparks, and you enter a state of flow. Writing becomes effortless.
Don’t judge, don’t edit, don’t suppress. Just write. This is the process I use to write several 1000 words on a weekly basis. Do you have any creative habits that make you prolific and productive? Let us know in the comments below.