Last week we looked at why consistency is important for building up a writing habit. Today we’re going to look at what the basics are for setting up a consistent habit.
Let’s dive right in.
- Set goals. If you don’t know what you’re trying to do, it’s hard to know what you have to do to get there. It also helps to set a single goal at first and add additional ones as you become more comfortable with your habit.
- Realize you can’t change everything at once. If you’d never run a step in your life, setting a goal of running a marathon after a month would be unrealistic. Along the same lines, if you’re having trouble finding time to write, a goal of a book of month is not going to be achievable. (Probably. There are always outliers on everything.) There’s a reason why so many people and books recommend “baby steps” when working on changing habits. Your baby steps will look different from other people’s. One person may need to start with a goal like “Write at least 10 minutes every day” whereas someone else might jump straight to “Write 2000 words a day.” Do what’s right for you.
- Figure out how to make your goal happen. If you don’t make writing a priority, it can be hard to squeeze it in around everything else. Figure out how you can fit in your writing every day. Do you have a block of time that you can easily convert for writing? Will a simple change of routine clear something up? For example, I recently decided to start getting up half an hour earlier and write first thing in the morning.
- But don’t sabotage yourself. While it’s important to plan out how and when you’re going to fit in your writing goals, you also need to be realistic with yourself and how you work. I can get up a little earlier and write because that’s when my creativity’s at its best anyway, but if I was someone who liked to hit the snooze button five times before finally dragging myself out of bed, I’d never be able to stick to my plan. If you know you always spend your lunch break chatting with your friend, you’re unlikely to be able to use that time for writing.
- Define what counts as meeting your goal. Remember those writing challenge months that pop up every now and then? What can count varies by challenge (some allow work only a single, specific project, where others allow you to count anything you write, including schoolwork, blog posts, and work reports). Be fair to yourself and your goal. If you really need to get something done, don’t allow yourself to count words on a side project you’re doing for fun. Likewise, if your goal is just to practice without a specific end goal, then, sure, count the words on that fanfic you wrote while the kids were eating lunch. Does research count? Editing? Marketing research? Make sure you lay this out beforehand so you’re not tempted to improvise on the fly.
- Don’t be afraid to change your goal as needed. If your goal isn’t working, don’t stick with a losing plan. Maybe you were too ambitious (“fly and die,” as we used to call it in crew) and you’re getting depressed at your “lack” of progress. Maybe you finished writing and need to transition to a different part of the process, so your daily word count goal is now worthless. Make sure your goal is working for you.
- But don’t give up before you try. If you’ve set yourself a reasonable goal, figured out how and when you’re going to do it each day (or week, or however often you’ve picked), and have implemented appropriate baby steps for you, don’t give in to fears that you’re taking on too much at once. You’ll be surprised to see what you can get done when you put your mind to something and make sure you take the right steps.
- Set a trigger. A trigger, in this case, is something that signals to your brain that its time to get down to business. A trigger can be literally anything, as long as you link it specifically to your consistency habit (i.e., don’t do it other times) and do it each time you sit down to write. For example, I have specific writing gloves I put on (they are specifically for wrist support for typing, and I would link you, but alas, the company went out of business) when working on a novel that I don’t wear at other times (like now) which are part of my trigger. I also put on fingerless gloves over my writing gloves, and put on a specific Pandora station.
Anything else you would add, Squiders? Next week we’ll talk about ways to help your habits become and stay habits.