On Writing: How to Start Your Writing Habit (in Just Ten Minutes)
There is only one thing that makes you a writer: writing.
But let's be honest now and a bit more accurate. The one thing that makes anyone a writer is actually "writing regularly" and that usually means developing and maintaining a writing habit. Maintaining a regular writing habit is a topic for another day, but it has to exist before you can worry about maintaining it. So how do you start a writing habit? This post aims to show you that while also showing you how you only need ten minutes to get it going. Ten minutes, a bit of stubborn determination and a lot of tea.
How to start your writing habit
Nothing you read in this blog post could be described as ground-breaking or eye-opening.
Everything you read in this blog post will very likely be something you've heard before.
Most of what you read in this blog post will not change your life, but a bit of it could greatly enhance it.
Because it only takes ten minutes to improve your life. And when I say "improve your life" I specifically mean, "start a writing habit" because in doing that I greatly improved my life, but before we continue, please know that it can also apply to anything. Anything you ENJOY doing or think you would enjoy doing. Seriously, whether it's writing, running, knitting, paper plane making, learning Japanese, cooking Thai food or trying out Tunisian crochet, if there is something you've long wanted to do, read on to find out why ten minutes is all you need to start a habit that will improve your life.
Here is what you have to commit to
In short, all you need to do is commit to are two things. The first thing is writing (or doing that activity you enjoy or may enjoy) for ten minutes a day. The second thing you have to commit to is giving yourself 30 days to do your new ten minute "thing", every single day, or as on as many of those days as you can.
On the days when you don't feel like doing some writing (or your thing) then remind yourself it's only ten minutes and that you have permission to stop after ten minutes. Sometimes you will want to stop after ten minutes, and other times you will want to carry on. Both is completely okay and both will be contributing to a habit that sticks.
Why ten minutes? Why thirty days?
Ten minutes is long enough to get into something, but it's also short enough that you can see the end making it a manageable amount of time to allocate to your new habit. Committing to the ten minutes every day for thirty days in a row (or as many of them as possible) helps "seal the deal" in terms of building a habit and routine in which those ten minutes (or longer) fit into your life without too much drama. It's also long enough to make that habit feel almost second nature but it's short enough that you don't feel you're giving something else up to do it, nor are you over-stretching yourself from the start.
With writing, it is better to promise yourself ten minutes of time rather than demanding a certain number of words. It is kinder, it is gentler and it is potentially more effective because even seasoned writers don't write at the same speed every single day. It's also true that writing is more than typing out new words, which I mention in more detail below.
It's also important to remember that you're doing something good in starting and building a writing habit. Writing regularly is good for you for a number of reasons, but it can be easy to forget this when you feel it's a chore or another thing added to your to do list. The ten minutes gives you long enough to get a taste of the creative fun, satisfaction and enjoyment you can experience writing, but as it's only ten minutes it won't feel too overwhelming a commitment.
And doing this for thirty days gives you a good chance of creating something - or many things - that you can look back on after thirty days and feel proud of.
What happens next...?
Some days, especially at the beginning, your ten minute sessions won't look very pretty or productive. With writing it could mean days of staring at a blank computer screen or an empty notebook page but occasionally a few words will find themselves a new home on one or two lines. Often, especially at the beginning, and possibly for many years after the beginning, those words won't make much sense and they won't really go anywhere - they won't have wings, so to speak - but they will exist and they will form the foundations that you build on ten minutes by ten minutes, day by day. With writing, those ten minutes could even be spent without a single new word being written. When I "write" I also research, read, think, make notes, delete words, plan, prepare, procrastinate, and sometimes just close my eyes and think about my characters. I used to think that many of these things weren't writing, but when plot-changing ideas come to me in the bath or plot-hole filling solutions pop into my mind when I'm researching another story idea I know that writing has many, many forms that don't involve tapping away at a laptop until its (or your!) battery dies. Give yourself the freedom to make writing more than just sitting at your laptop staring at MS Word.
Expect the unexpected... and the good.
Of course it's true that on some days your ten minutes will turn into an hour. Some days your ten minutes will be enough. Some days you will wonder how ten minutes can stretch so far, but if you stick to your ten minute gift by the end of 30 days of ten minutes spent writing (or whatever it is you want to do) you will have spent (at least) five hours on your writing. I can't tell you exactly what those five hours will result in. Maybe you'll have the finished draft of a story. Maybe you'll have one hundred new ideas. Maybe you'll have a really big headache and sore wrists. Maybe you'll have a heart full of newfound joy for this thing you didn't know would feel so good. Maybe you never want to write again. Maybe you'll want to try something else. Maybe you wish you'd done this ten year ago (which may or may not have been my reaction once I started writing regularly).
Either way all of these outcomes (headaches and wrist injuries aside) are worthy outcomes. They are all things you will feel good knowing. They are all little gifts in one way or another.
Give yourself one of these gifts over the thirty days.
Give yourself the gift of ten minutes a day, and watch that gift grow into something way bigger and oh so good for you.
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The cards featured in the photos in this post are WriteNOW Cards - affirmation cards designed for writers to help you build and enjoy your writing practice - they're available to buy in packs of 10 or 50 here.
Frances M. Thompson
Londoner turned wanderer, Frankie is an author, freelance writer and blogger. Currently based in Amsterdam, Frankie was nomadic for two years before starting a family with her Australian partner. Frankie is the author of three short story collections, and is a freelance writer for travel and creative brands. In 2017, she launched WriteNOW Cards, affirmation cards for writers that help build a productive and positive writing practice. When not writing contemporary fiction, Frankie shops for vintage clothes, dances to 70s disco music and chases her two young sons around Amsterdam.
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Find Frankie on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and Google+.