Making a habit of it
One of the hardest things about writing is being able to do it consistently. Every writer knows the pain of dreaded “writer’s block,” which can strike at any time and for a variety of reasons. There’s no easy short-cut to get rid of it, of course, but there are ways you can get around those terrible periods where nothing you write turns out well and you lose all motivation.
One way is to just make a habit of writing a certain amount every day, no matter what. Many famous writers have used this method to ensure that they have a reasonable amount of output, and it can be especially helpful if you’re writing longer works that just seem to drag on and on. It can be difficult to keep going sometimes when you’ve been working on a novel for a month and realize you’re only about 1/5 of the way through it.
If you write every day, it will eventually become habit, and habit is a powerful tool in the human arsenal. The way our brains are wired means that things we do every day become second nature, until eventually it’s not a struggle to find the time to write out those words. Instead, it becomes just something you do, and something that you’ll account for in your daily schedule.
I’ve been struggling with this aspect of writing myself for quite a while. I started a novel last June, wrote 5000 words in a few days from the initial rush of excitement, and then… well, stopped. It sat untouched until December, when I wrote another 1500 words and stopped again. This May, I sat down and restarted the novel from scratch, rewriting what little beginning I’d done.
But this time, I did something different. I made myself write at least 500 words a day, with a preference for more. I told people I knew I was working on it, so that I’d have some kind of external motivation when they asked me how it was coming along. It’s now the end of June, and I have about 40,000 words with more every day.
I hope to finish by the end of August, which means I’ll have to churn out roughly 1000 words a day for the length I have in mind. It’s a tall order, but I’m hopeful. Now that I’ve been doing my daily 500 words for a while, it’s not nearly as hard. Even when I have periods (and I do still have them) where I hate every single word that goes from my pen to the paper, I still churn them out, where before I would get discouraged and quit. Habit is a powerful tool.
Some famous authors who wrote habitually:
- Virginia Woolf - 1000 words a day
- Kingsley Amis - 500 words each morning
- Isaac Asimov - Woke at 6am and wrote all day, sometimes until 1am
- Haruki Murakami - Writes 5-6 hours a day when working on a novel
Obviously, the more prolific writing schedules (Asimov, for instance, published over 500 books in his lifetime) are not for everybody. But even setting aside an hour a day, or setting a small word count goal, will help improve your output’s quantity. And since “practice makes perfect,” it’ll eventually improve your writing, as well!