One of the trickiest things to do as a writer is find a writing habit that works for you. Many—maybe YOU—have joined NaNoWriMo in an attempt to find a way to establish a habit that’ll finally work.
But if you’re only writing every few months, you don’t have a good writing habit. You only need to ask yourself (and, ahem, answer) two questions to get started.
1. “How much am I writing right now?”
When I train for a 5k, I don’t go out and run three miles right away. I physically can’t. And if I tried, I’d hate running and quit. Writing is the same way.
If your answer is “Zero,” your goal should reflect that. Start with something small. Maybe that’s 200 words or 10 minutes per writing day. (Note: I say “writing day” for a specific reason, and I’ll explain that in Question 2.)
No matter how much you want to write 1,000 or 1,667 words every day (Hello, NaNo expectations!), it’s not going to happen. IT’S NOT. You’re going to sit down to write and dread it. And when you dread writing, you’re not going to write.
And part of the key to setting up a realistic and doable writing habit is creating excitement. If you look forward to writing, getting in the chair to write is easier.
2. “How often do I want to write?”
When I said “per writing day” before, this is what I mean. You don’t have to write every day. Maybe you only write on the weekends. Maybe it’s one day every week. The point is to write.
I write every weekday because I take weekends off. Weekends are almost sacred for me, and I need the time to disconnect. Don’t discount this need. Writing every day is a good practice only if it works for you.
Use your answers to craft a writing schedule
It’s that easy. When I started, I said, “I’m going to write 300 words per weekday.” And I did. And it was easy. In fact, it was so easy it frustrated me because I felt like I’d barely write anything, and then it was time to stop. BUT.
That frustration is GOOD. Here’s why:
1. You have to start small. If you start big and grand, you’re more likely to burn out and not write again for a long time. And you can’t have a decent writing schedule if you burn out.
2. You don’t have to stop at your daily word count. If that’s 200 and you still have words in you, keep writing. I had days when my goal was 350 words and I wrote 950. Embrace those.
3. Increase your daily word count as you consistently out-write your goal. Once it becomes easy to knock our your per writing day goal, it’s time to increase it. You don’t have to make big increases. Take it in 50-word or 100-word increments.