How to Write Every Day: Tips & Advice
I've previously shared posts with advice on how to build a writing habit, tips for doing a daily writing challenge for a finite amount of time, or the three things you need to be in order to write regularly, but one thing I've never specifically written is a guide to writing every day.
The main reason for this is that I don't actually write every day and indeed I haven't for some time. When I became a mother I quickly realised that trying to do that is setting myself up for a fall. Prior to having children I did write every day, most days. Now I'm a mother I don't write every day, most days. In fact, if I manage a string of four days or more writing every day I am VERY happy.
This is the way it will be while my children are very young, and I am looking after at least one of them full-time nearly every day. In the beginning I found this transition hard and frustrating, but now I accept it for what it is and instead I focus on just writing regularly - i.e. not letting too many days (or ahem, weeks) pass without me trying to write something even if it's just 100 words.
So, when Priyanka Gupta from On My Canvas, a fellow travel blogger and fiction writer, reached out to me and asked if she could share her tips for writing every day I was very keen to read it and share it with you.
I know for many people building a daily writing habit is a very effective way to achieve the writing goals they want to achieve, and quickly. There is a lot of power in writing every day as it becomes an easier habit to maintain as you naturally make time and space for it in your life - like cleaning your teeth, showering, getting dressed, which are all things you do every day without question or conflict (I hope!) - so if you want to learn how to write every day then please do read Priyanka's tips below.
Tips for Writing Every Day
Having changed my career from investment banking to become a full-time writer, freelancer, and blogger, I can vouch that you can be a writer if you believe you are one and have always wanted to write for a living or just for fun. More than being born with innate writing talent, it's very much simply about making the decision to write, and to write regularly.
After one mundane day at work a few years ago, I wrote a small post about my day on my passive Wordpress blog that I had launched in the first year of college. Writing that little article about the purpose of working in a big bank relaxed me, and since then I have been writing regularly simply because I enjoy it.
When I started, I had no specific writing skills for I had been invested in my engineering and banking career and didn’t have any time to read or write. On the first few days I sat to write, I opened too many tabs to read, multiple pages to write, and ended up staring at the blank screen. The words didn’t seem to come out. But I stuck with trying to write regularly, and now, some time later they don't seem to stop coming.
If you believe that you have important things to say, take out a paper and pen or a Macbook or a typewriter and just write. In the beginning, you may only write for a few minutes before it feels difficult or strained or you want to do something else, but then eventually, then you might find yourself writing for an hour, and soon you will find yourself writing for hours every day. The more you write, the better you write — that is the simple rule. And so these are my tips for writing every day and writing more and more and more...
My Best Tips to Help You Write Daily
When I don’t sleep enough, I find myself complacent with the characters in the story I'm working on. Though I try to energise and motivate myself with coffee, my travel memoirs end up sounding shallow if I'm writing on little sleep. But when I have had a good night’s rest, I find it so much easier to do the thinking, research and writing I need to do to make the character sound like a New Yorker if she grew up there.
Writing needs thinking. It demands brain work. To think and write fresh content, you have to exercise your brain muscles. So if you want your mind to work, you have to be properly rested and make sure your brain can do the work you want it to when you write every day.
Research says that adults need to sleep 7-9 hours on average in order to be at their best. So before you think about notebooks, writing rooms, and writing playlists, do what you can to sleep good, and you will see how a fresh mind will help you (better) write every day.
Exercise (or just move!) regularly
Many writers suggest that you have to get up early morning before other people wake up so that you can write without getting distracted. But I first go for a run, to get my mind clear and creative, and then, I write.
Josh Waitzkin, the chess prodigy and world champion, said in his book the Art of Learning that physical workout flushes our mind. Quoting Josh, “There was more than one occasion that I got up from the board four or five hours into a hugely tense chess game, walked outside the playing hall, and sprinted fifty yards or up six flights of stairs. Then I’d walk back, wash my face, and be completely renewed.”
If you are having difficulty finding that end of the short story, go for a run or swim and let the thoughts sweat away. Or do yoga when you don’t want to write. Choose the workout that suits you and stick to the routine. As your mind cleans up, fresh creative juices will flow. Then sit at the desk and write away.
(I can also vouch for this as a great way to beat writer's block and you should never think you're not helping your writing by being active. In fact, I wrote a whole post about how running makes me a better writer - Frankie).
Write at the same time every day
Stephen King said in his book On Writing that if you write at the same time every day, inspiration knows that you are waiting, and she shows up. Charles Dickens used to be in his study by 9'o'clock every morning to write.
When I sit to write at the same time daily, I realize that my body and mind is creative at that time because my brain has become used to writing then. If you write daily at 1’o clock, you would not feel like doing anything else at that hour. And if you chose to (let us say) go shopping at that time, you would possibly almost feel as if you are missing something.
Set up a time to write that works for you and don't worry if you need to experiment with a few different times before you find one that really works best for you.
Don’t check your phone before you start writing
I never check my cellphone notifications or scroll through Twitter before I write. Instagram stories, bank balance alerts, plans to catch up with friends, or a Slack message from a client — anything can throw you off your creative track.
Writing is another world within the real one. To give yourself entirely to it, you have to let other things wait when it is your time to write. Else you might feel that you are not able to pen down your Chile travel guide when you just got distracted by another traveler’s story from Turkey, your dream destination.
Stay away from phone and save your attention span for just your writing.
Switch off internet and avoid looking at phone while writing
I switch off my phone when I write. I turn off the WiFi on my computer. Otherwise, I am tempted to check the price of that Raymond Chandler short story collection or I might take a peek at my phone to see if my partner had a good reason to leave the wet towel on the bed.
Writing is hard. Keep the distractions to a minimum so you can hold on to the train of your thought and string them into words — which is what writing is all about.
(You may want to look at this post about the apps that can help you have more productive writing sessions - Frankie.)
Read every day (or as much as you can - Frankie!)
Reading is cliched advice for writers, but there is a reason for it. Read a lot if you want to write at all. Reading provides you with the creative ingredients that you run out of after writing a blog post or a short story. When you read, you pick up ideas you would like to integrate into your articles or the stories that you would have never thought of or words that you had never heard of and so much more.
Read everything you can get your hands on — good stories to see how to write and the bad ones to understand how not to write.
(Guess what? I've got another post on this! Here are some good reasons you should read more and how to do it! - Frankie)
Write freely and trust your intuition
Don’t overthink about what you want to write or the genre you will be writing. Just start writing. When you write enough travel memoirs, romantic poems, and detective novels, you will understand what you like writing the most and what you are good at. But in the beginning, follow your intuition and write what you want to write and without judgment or worry.
Anne Lamott said in her book Bird by Bird that every writer has to believe that she has a great story only she can tell. Go on until you find yourself writing the story you were destined to write.
Set a daily goal
Stephen King writes 2000 words every day. Paulo Coelho sometimes writes for an hour and some days continuously for ten hours. Ruskin Bond schedules his day so that he writes at least a paragraph or a poem or a short story.
Everyone has her style; But in the beginning, when you are trying to develop a writing habit, set yourself a daily writing goal. You could decide to write for an hour or two. Or write a minimum number of words every day. If you don’t let yourself get up from the desk without meeting the daily target, you will push yourself even though you would find it hard to write.
Many writers advise to write a minimum number of words every day. But I would suggest you be easy on yourself in the starting and set a target that suits you. (And in this post I write more about setting yourself a time target rather than a word count target as it's very likely that you'll write quicker some days and slower on others - Frankie.)
Write what you know (sometimes - Frankie!)
After reading The Shining, I wanted to write thriller novels. After finishing Ruskin Bond’s book the Blue Umbrella, I decided that I will write children’s books. After reading Maria Popova’s essays, I thought about writing philosophy.
The writers we read influence us. But we have to stick to (especially in the beginning of our writing journey) to what we know in order to make it easier for the words to flow rather than getting stuck in unfamiliar territory. Use another writer’s tricks and tips, but don’t tell their stories, for you have got enough of your own.
Write about what matters to you. List down your childhood games with neighborhood friends. Write about your sophomore year and your first boyfriend. Pen down your solo trip to Africa. Believe me, when you will start telling your own stories, there won’t be a day when you can’t write.
(I agree completely with this advice, but I also want to encourage all writers to indulge their imagination and most importantly of all, to HAVE FUN! - Frankie)
Choose your writing inspiration wisely!
Some days after reading a few articles on Medium, you might feel that you will never be able to write as well as other writers. This is normal and in some ways, healthy as it can act as motivation to improve and learn more, and ultimately write more. But it's not something to get obsessed with as they will then not serve a purpose.
All these comparisons are actually irrelevant. Everybody’s life story is unique, and so is their writing style. So instead of being jealous and thinking it's not worth you continuing to write, just tell yourself this is not a line of thought that serves you. But writing, writing does serve you, so write. Rather than obsessing over why you are not good or popular yet, writing will make you a better writer.
When I started writing for my career, I stopped hanging out with my friends and closed myself in a room and looked serious. I read voraciously, thought incessantly, but actually wrote poorly.
Irrespective of what movies and TV might show, the truth is that you need to live to write instead of burying yourself under books in a closed room. You don’t have to isolate yourself from others to write. Instead, you have to do the opposite and go live and watch others live, for if you are away from society and people, what will you write about?
You write stories, and you need to see real humans living those stories. To develop believable characters, you need to observe people and how they behave. You first have to have a life about which you write.
Believe in yourself and your writing
It is almost cliched to quote Stephen King but there must be a reason why the best writers listen to his writing advice, and I will follow. He said in his book On Writing, “You must not come lightly to the blank page.” Tell yourself every day that you have a story to tell. And then write it, my friend.
About the Author: Priyanka Gupta is an itinerant blogger from India who left her investment banking career to travel the world and write about it. Read her best ideas and travel stories on her blog On My Canvas. You can follow her travel and life adventures on her Instagram and she tweets as @guptapranky.
And if you'd like more positivity to help you write, check out my little side hustle 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, and you can follow WriteNOW Cards on Twitter and Instagram.
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Frances M. Thompson
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