This is the year. The year that you finally finish that draft of your novel, or start that blog, or maybe even just fill up that journal that your aunt gave you in high school. Whether you're a professional writer cranking out another collection of short stories, or a student putting together a poetry chapbook about your ex, this is the year that you finally make good on that New Year's resolution to "write more." You with me? Good. Here are a few tips to write every single day in the New Year.
I'll be real with you: training yourself to write more every day is very possible, but it's not going to be terribly romantic. If you have dreams of sitting in smoky Parisian cafes, writing with a fountain pen, you might want to replace those with an image of you wearing a heating pad for your tense shoulders, frantically typing at your homemade standing desk (unless you do live in Paris, then you can probably do the cafe thing).
It's going to take a pinch of willpower and a whole lot of coffee to get yourself on the writing schedule of your dreams. But this is the year that it's going to happen, so ready your typing wrist supports and check out these tips:
1Give yourself a REASONABLE daily minimum
Daily minimums are a great tool, but the key word is reasonable. If you think that you can write 1,000 words every day this year, do it. Go for your upper limit. But if you have a full-time job, friends, a needy pet, classes, and a whole laundry list of other obligations, set a goal that you think you'll be able to accomplish. Maybe it's 200 words a day, with weekends off. Maybe it's 20 minutes a day, word count irrelevant. Pick a goal and work towards it. You can always up your daily word count later, and you'll feel more motivated if you choose a goal that's within reach.
Look, writers, I get it. You say you get your best writing done at 2am, and maybe that's true. But if your day job starts at 8am the next morning, you're setting yourself up for a tired, cranky year. Sometimes the key to writing more in the long run is getting to bed on time and waking up early, so that your mind is sharp and well-rested. All-nighters were cute when you were a college freshman, but that chapter you wrote while hopped up on Diet Coke at dawn is just not as great as you think it is.
3Give yourself permission to write badly
If you're terrified of writing badly, you're never going to improve. Writing is a skill like any other. It takes work. It takes crappy first drafts. Don't stress about making it perfect, just get it down on paper. Lock your internal editor in a trunk, and let yourself write without judgment (do not do this to your real editor, though, they will not appreciate it).
I'm not going to tell you that you must quit all social media cold turkey, and I'm not going to tell you that you can't mess around on the internet doing research for your book. But... are those adorable photos of Prince George with a candy cane really research? Cut down on procrastination. Download a self-control app, or buy a cute board game timer, or delete Candy Crush from your phone (well, Candy Crush Jelly, at least). Your time is too valuable.
5Write down ideas when they come to you
You never know when inspiration will strike. Get into the habit of scribbling down ideas and quotes, wherever you are. Carry a journal with you, or a pack of note cards, or start using that memo app on your phone to keep yourself in writing mode even when you can't actually be writing.
I know—you set aside all this time for writing, and now you have to find time to read more too? Well, yes. You do. Reading will inspire you to write more. Reading is fun and relaxing. Reading will keep your mind sharp like a sword for stabbing people with. Every moment you spend reading is secretly educating you as a writer, so bring on the books.
7Find your writing habitat
Do you write best in the morning? While drinking a latte? While standing up? After your S.O. has gone to bed? While hiding in a cupboard under the sink? Find or create an environment that supports your writing, and then go there and write.
8Share your writing
Some people like to keep the world updated on every stage of their writing with a constant stream of selfies. Other people finish a manuscript and then bury it in peat moss and refuse to let anyone else ever read it. But if you want to write outside of personal journaling, you'll have to share eventually. Wait until you're ready, and then share excerpts with a trusted person who can give you helpful feedback. Chances are, they'll encourage you to keep going. Even better, find a writing buddy to hold you accountable for your daily writing goals!
9Deadlines, deadlines, and deadlines
Deadlines are a cruel but necessary fact of life. Maybe you have incredible willpower and don't need self imposed deadlines. But if you're a weak-willed disaster of human being like me, then you're going to want to make a writing schedule with firm deadlines in place. Find a writing contest you want to enter, and finish your story before it ends. Treat yourself to a fancy new candle every time you reach a deadline. Send an embarrassing photo to your crush every time you miss one. Do whatever it takes to motivate yourself to drag that draft across the finish line.
10Guard your writing time like a Hungarian Horntail
As J.K. Rowling puts it, “Be ruthless about protecting writing days... Some people do not seem to grasp that I still have to sit down in peace and write the books, apparently believing that they pop up like mushrooms without my connivance. I must therefore guard the time allotted to writing as a Hungarian Horntail guards its firstborn egg.” Writing time is scared. Guard your precious writing hours from social plans and work emails like a mama dragon with its egg.
11Don't give up!
You can do it! Be patient with yourself, even if it takes a while to get into the habit of writing everyday. If all your glorious plans start to crumble, just start over. Keep trying. Forgive yourself for lapsing. Every writer has off days. Persist, and soon enough you'll find that writing has become an unbreakable daily habit.
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