Writing is a muscle. Like your glutes or your pecs, it needs to be exercised to be toned. Developing a regular writing routine is like starting back to the gym after the holiday binge or months of couch potato-ing.
You won’t want to do it. Or you will, but just once. And then the pain of doing it again will make you want to abandon this stupid plan.
Like working out, you gotta stick with it. The more you write, the easier it is. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy, a positive feedback loop of more and better storytelling.
And, like building a fitness routine, over time it will actually start to feel good. On your best days, it will be downright easy (until you decide to really challenge yourself, of course). It gets better, in every sense. You’ll enjoy it more. The quality of your writing will ramp up. And your story ideas will improve.
In no time, you’ll be rolling through a mutually reinforcing cycle of storytelling goodness. If you can push through the first 30 days, you’ll have created a new habit. But first, you need to build your routine. Here’s how.
Block Time For Writing
A couple of years ago, I did a personal leadership program that included a thick, black daytimer. At first, I thought it was ridiculous. Why would I lug around this behemoth? There’s an app for that. Ugh, so heavy, ugly and old school.
Grudgingly, I tried it.
I’d write down a goal, like, say, starting a blog. I’d list all the steps I needed to take and then detail the action steps I needed to take. Then I put those in my daily calendar.
My sense of calm and focus – and my productivity – skyrocketed.
For most of us, writing and marketing fall to the wayside when more urgent tasks arise.
That’s why you need to schedule it.
DO THIS: Take out your daytimer, calendar, or whatever you use to organize your time.
Every week, for the next 12 weeks, block off at least one, ideally two, hours to write and edit.
This is when you’ll start to shape the raw materials from your notes into shareable posts.
Ideally, it will be the same time every week to really build that sense of expectation and habit.
For me, I like to spend a couple of hours on Saturday mornings writing and editing. It’s blocked off in my calendar, so it feels real. And I look forward to it. It feels like sacred creative time, outside the din of weekday hullabaloo.
Talk About It Online
Accountability is huge when we’re starting something new. If you’re like me, there’s no one easier to break a promise to than myself.
So if I have a project like starting a blog in the works, I tell friends, family, clients – anyone who’ll listen – about it. It makes it real, but it also becomes a topic of conversation. If someone asks, I want to be able to tell them about progress, not hang my head in sheepish shame because I’ve been slacking.
Also, I’ll tease up upcoming projects on social media. This builds anticipation of what’s coming but also functions as an informal contract with my followers.
DO THIS: Talk about your writing project. When people ask what’s new, this is your answer. These conversations.
Take accountability a step further: ask a colleague or friend to be your accountability partner. Share your plan with them. Then ask them to check in once a week, to see if you’re keeping your commitments.
You might skip promises to yourself. It’s a lot harder to miss a deadline for someone else who’s counting on you.
Keep Notebooks Everywhere
You need a system to capture ideas when they come to you. Ideas are unruly – you never know when they’re going to pop up, so you need to always be ready to catch them.
I have little black notebooks and pens all over my house. I have them in my purse and my car. The most important one is on my bedside, as my best but also most elusive ideas come to me right before I fall asleep and just as I wake up. Ideas are fleeting: you want to snag them before they dissipate. Don’t think you’ll remember it later. Jot it down now.
DO THIS: Whether you’re old-school like me or always have your phone handy, make sure you have a system for capturing ideas anytime, anywhere. These notes and ideas will be the raw ingredients of your posts.
Ride the Wave
Sometimes, a post will arrive in a rush of inspiration. Feeling a burst of creativity? Grab that feeling by the tail and shake it for all it’s worth. Don’t worry about editing, just bang out as much writing as you can. You can always go back and edit later. But those moments aren’t always easily won, so you need to take advantage when you can.
Some of your best work can come from these unexpected streaks. You need to be ready for them.