Find Momentum that Works by Creating Writing Habits
Like Facebook popups of memories from years past, I had a vision of a distant Fourth of July.
I was nearing the end of my first novel, Trees with Deeper Roots, and still a novice fiction writer.
Up until I’d started that novel, I’d only written journalistically. Fiction returned me to the roots of my writing desires, and it definitely stretched me as writer.
The Fourth of July was coming up and fell in such a way that I was able to schedule an extra day off, giving me several days in a row together, coupled with the holiday and weekend.
I made a plan to finish my novel during my extended break. Back in those days, my definition of a plan fell a lot looser than it does today, but nonetheless, I was determined. It was more of an intention to get the novel finished than a full-fledged plan of how to get there.
The early part of the week I still had to work my day job, but on that Tuesday and Wednesday, I wrote six and a half and then seven pages, respectively. I was pumped.
By Thursday, my first full day off, I felt like a horse headed to the barn. If you’ve never been on a horse once it realizes home is nearby, then let me tell you from personal experience: hold tightly onto the reins.
That week had a similar trajectory for me, and the deeper into the week I progressed, the more excited and elevated I became in my project. Honestly, I couldn’t type the words fast enough as they were forming in my head. I had never experienced that before.
On Friday, I wrote 13 and a half pages. I was blown away by my level of output. I didn’t think I could ever top myself. I was wrong.
The next day, I knew the end was extremely near, and I had a hard time staying in the seat to write. I’d write for a while, and then get up and walk aimlessly around my house for a few minutes before returning to my story. The energy coursing through me made it nearly impossible to sit still enough to write. This went on for almost eight hours. But I wrote 21 pages that Saturday, finishing with “The End,” two of the most exhilarating words I had ever written.
Right about the time I was typing those words, I was supposed to be at a holiday cookout. I started to get dressed and go late (people would have understood), but I knew I would be hugging myself throughout the night and that might look a little weird.
Honestly, I felt too exhilarated with having finished my first novel to make small talk with non-writers and acquaintances. Sometimes we have to give up our plans, our gatherings, our social activities in order to follow dreams. It was a price that I have paid willingly over and over again.
During the entire week, I wrote the last 50+ pages of my novel. These days I keep a word count instead, so I don’t know how many words I actually wrote in that compacted time frame, but it was an extraordinary achievement for me to realize that I could write so consistently.
The novel was the proverbial first effort that gets relegated as the “manuscript in a drawer.” But my writing and skills grew exponentially with that first attempt.
The characters still run around in my head and some days we cross paths much like old friends that I see occasionally on Facebook. The love is still there.
If you’re also on a writing journey – regardless of whether you’re active at the moment or not – take time to think about your project and set the time aside to write it.
When working other jobs to support our writing habit, we have to find ways and times to get our stories written. Create a Plan:
Make a Date with Yourself – Decide when you’re going to write and put it on your calendar. Do this each week, figuring out what days and times work best for you. If you are an early riser, then get up 30 minutes to an hour earlier to give yourself time to write. I’m not an early bird so this has never worked for me, no matter how many times I’ve tried it. When I’m in that half-sleep/half-awake stage, I can talk myself out of anything that has to do with getting up earlier than needed. (This also applies to exercising!) If you’re like me, set a time in the evenings and on weekends.
Show Up for your Appointment – Once you’ve put it on your calendar, stick to it. Life has a way of intervening. Dishes need to be done, the cat knocks over a plant, the bathroom needs to be clean. Life is full of endless chores, but don’t let them sidetrack you from writing. Believe me, I know it’s easy to do. Unless the situation is an emergency, it can wait until after your appointment – like any other appointment. After you’ve worked on your project, you’ll probably be more energized to complete those mundane tasks.
Stick to your Goals – Decide ahead of time how much you want to get written during each session, and then don’t stop until you’ve reached your predetermined target. When I first started writing, I chose to write a set number of pages. These days when I’m working on a larger project, I set a word count for each day’s output. I also write it down in a separate document. Some days, I don’t hit the target, but the next day I seem to double it.
This Plan is not to be used as a shaming device but rather one to keep you moving forward. What I figured out is that as long as I was writing regularly, I usually made my word count each day. And if I didn’t, I made it up the next day.
Making writing an important component of our daily lives, not just in our thoughts, but in our actions as well, feeds the part of our souls, that for me, stays hungry. You can’t just eat one potato chip. In the process, the daily routine creates a more satisfying life.
What strategy keeps you on track? Please share your ideas in the comments below.