Having a passion in life helps you resist the urge to waste time. Writing is my passion but it took me years to develop it into a habit.
What I learned along the way was that for me to write a novel, I had to treat writing like it was a job. It took time, intent, commitment, focus, and prioritization to turn an idea for a historic story into a book.
Here are my big take-aways that can be applied to any new habit.
1. Show up and do the work. Writing isn’t always easy, but do it even if the ideas stick to your fingers and the words flow like mud, not water! Write. Write more. Write until you’re done.
2. Plan in time every day – even if it’s just a half hour. As with any new habit, writing at the same time every day is a help because you have the same cue every day. For me, this was “Get up. Have breakfast. Write for two hours.” Then the rest of my day happened.
3. Treat your writing time as sacred – with no excuses to cancel, no phone calls, and no email interruptions. Make sure others who need to reach you know that this is your writing time and that you can’t be interrupted. I will add that when I was in the thick of writing a novel, I often scanned email before writing to make sure I was on top of client issues, but I made it a practice to not read all of my emails – just the vital ones until I had finished my writing for the morning. Checking in briefly on email set my mind at ease, and helped me focus for my two hours of writing.
4. Work out a plan for how much you are going to write, and track your results. Getting thoughts and ideas onto a page is fun AND seeing how much you’ve gotten done is a whole different reward. Tracking results helps form any new habit.
5. Write without editing. Your first pass at writing should be to get down the bare bones. When you have the story written, go through and edit to get the story in working order. Then do a last pass to make the writing wonderful. If you try to write, edit, and make the writing wonderful in the first pass you won’t get far.
This applies to anything new that you’re trying. You aren’t going to be perfect at what you attempt. But just do it. Track it. And do it some more.
Here’s one last writing tip from author and publisher Sean Platt about finding an outside editor for your work. First: don’t skip this step. Then: pay 10 or 20 different editors at Fivrr, Upword, or Elance to edit 2000 words at $5 a page. Decide which one you like best, choose one who is most in line with your vision, and then pay them a better rate to edit the rest of your work.
Whatever passion you decide to chase, whatever habit you try to form, remember that intent, focus, and commitment will help clear your mind – and that helps clear your schedule. Then take the time to do the work.