Anchoring Habits For A More Productive Writing Life

There is a very helpful technique for creating new habits, known as ‘anchoring’.

The idea is this: you don’t think about brushing your teeth before you go to bed at night, or showering when you get up. It’s just something you do.

If you want to create a new habit (and stick to it), try doing it immediately after something you already do by rote.

So, if you want to remember to floss your teeth, say you’ll do it after your morning tooth scrub. If you want to brainstorm ideas for stories, say you’ll do it as soon as you’ve poured your first cup of coffee.

Choosing Your Anchor

Your anchor has to be something that works for you, specifically.

In my case, if I start in on my fiction as soon as the door swings shut behind the last kid through it on a school day, then I write.

Anchoring my writing time to a fixed point makes me more likely to write than if I ‘decide’ when to writing each day.

(Sometimes I go somewhere else to do the writing, but if I implement the habit “write now” as soon as the kids leave, my day goes well. If not, I have to make a decision about when to start, and that is so much harder, somehow!)

Perhaps you could anchor your writing time to:

  • The moment after dinner when someone else is doing the dishes (you delegate, right?)
  • The moment after the last kid goes to bed?
  • The moment your spouse turns on The Late Show.
  • The moment you get in your car for your commute (turn off the radio and start talking into your phone’s voice recorder!)
  • The fifteen minutes after lunch that you usually spend scrolling through Facebook (trust me, writing will reinvigorate you much more!)

Even if you only manage to write a few sentences, or a bit of an outline, or your Morning Pages, you’ll be creating a habit that says “This matters to me. This is what I do after the moment when XYZ happens.”

Leave a comment sharing your ideas for how you might anchor your writing habit. Bonus points if you’re already doing it and can share some war-stories!


Originally published at storyaday.org on January 4, 2016.

Show your support

Clapping shows how much you appreciated Julie Duffy’s story.