The Benefits of Starting a Writing Practice (Six Steps to Getting Started)
Writing is hard.
But there’s something truly beautiful and gratifying about it.
The transmutation of thoughts into words; the act of bleeding words onto the page is cathartic.
Had a bad day? Write about it in your journal.
Have a goal you want to reach, a great dream you aspire to? Write it down. The very act of writing it down makes it come alive.
Whenever I think of writing, I’m always reminded of the following quote:
If you would not be forgotten as soon as you are dead, either write something worth reading or do things worth writing. -Benjamin Franklin
Writing takes thoughts, words, feelings — and makes them timeless.
For example: If you write something down in a journal, stache it away, and then open it back up a year from now, What happens? You’re instantly transported back in time. You get to inhabit the person you were at the time and even think the very thoughts you once pondered. It’s retroactive magic.
The magic doesn’t stop there, though…
The Benefits of Starting a Writing Practice
Writing is like therapy for the soul. But instead of talking to a stranger (This can be liberating, admittedly), you’re talking to yourself.
So, why is talking to yourself helpful? A few benefits worth mentioning (not exhaustive):
1) It helps clarify your thinking
2) You’re able to identify emotions and feelings that are either helping you or hurting you.
3) You gain powerful insight into the world around you.
4) It gets you used to the idea of being a producer instead of a consumer
By this point, you might be thinking, “If writing is so great, why doesn’t everyone do it?”
The answer is both complicated and simple…
Your Friend, The Resistance
I’m obsessed with Seth Godin. If you don’t know who he is, go check him out — right now. He talks a lot about this thing called “The Resistance” from Steven Pressfield’s book, The War Of Art. (See Below)
The resistance is the most insidious, evil thing I can think of. I have trouble trying to muster up words to describe it (it’s foul). But I do know this: It’s killing your ability to art.
Resistance’s goal is not to wound or disable. Resistance aims to kill. Its target is the epicenter of our being: our genius, our soul, the unique and priceless gift we were put on earth to give and that no one else has but us. Resistance means business. When we fight it, we are in a war to the death. — Steven Pressfield
The resistance is the fear that prevents you from doing your best work. It’s the part of your brain that tells you to “shut up” at business meetings instead of sharing your ideas. Or it might tell you, “There’s no way you can write worth a damn.”
It’s deep seeded fear, and it keeps most people from writing anything.
Imagine how many people went to their graves with amazing insights left unspoken, all due to fear. The graveyard isn’t just full of bones, it’s full of dead dreams.
The resistance has a very high body count.
This point can’t be overstated. How do you know if you’re experiencing resistance? Check out the symptoms here.
Now that you know what you’re up against, let’s get to creating a writing practice.
Writing is Like Meditation/Yoga
Notice that I’m calling it a “writing practice” and not a “writing habit.” I think writing is similar to meditation or yoga. Meditation or yoga can be a habit for people, but the act of doing it is usually referred to as a “practice.”
Becoming a more consistent writer requires the same kind of thinking. The stage has to be set. We have to calm the mind, light the candles, breathe in, breathe out.
Realizing that the resistance is keeping us — at varying levels — from giving it our best, requires a meditative quality.
Here are six steps to creating a writing practice.
Six Steps To Creating a Writing Practice
1) Start a Blog
I don’t care if anyone ever reads it or not. Write every day. You don’t even have to publish it for other people to see (You should, though).
Committing to having a point of view and scheduling a time and place to say something is almost certainly going to improve your thinking, your attitude and your trajectory.
A daily blog is one way to achieve this. Not spouting an opinion or retweeting the click of the day. Instead, outlining what you believe and explaining why.
Commit to articulating your point of view on one relevant issue, one news story, one personnel issue. Every day. Online or off, doesn’t matter. Share your taste and your perspective with someone who needs to hear it.
Speak up. Not just tomorrow, but every day.
A worthwhile habit.” — Seth Godin
There are numerous benefits to blogging, but simply making it a daily practice — writing out your thoughts, posting it, not posting it, whatever — will help you understand your own thinking (And ease the resistance, too).
When you write your blog, use the hierarchy below:
You> Others> Robots.
In other words, write for yourself first, others second, and robots (SEO) third.
2) Find Your Safe Space
Grab your coloring book snowflakes, it’s time to find your safe space!
You need a safe place to do your art. Some environments are better than others. Here are a couple of options worth considering:
1. Home office — This is ideal if you can hack it. Lots of folks have too many disruptions, roommates etc… But if you can quarter off space in your house and dedicate it to your writing, you’ll become a better writer.
You need a space that says “We’re here to do work.” This is sacred space.
3) Create Triggers
A writing practice needs “triggers.” For example, when I start to write, I always have fresh, hot coffee ready. After that, I turn on a song. It’s always the same song, and I put it on repeat for several cycles.
This triggers my brain to recognize that it’s time to work, time to write. It works. Try it.
4) Schedule Creative Blocks
Block off times dedicated solely to your writing pursuits. If you have a planner, this works well. Put it down on paper. This tells your brain, “We’re here to work at this time!”
5) Make Time For Solitude
After writing, give yourself time to process. Structure periods of time for non-thinking. Walk the block. Be with nature. This allows the subconscious mind to process ideas. This is especially helpful if you’re stuck or have “writer’s block.”
Step away from the screen. Come back later. Let ideas percolate.
6) Show Up, Even When You Don’t Feel Like It
A mentor once told me, “Just show up. Most people don’t even show up.” It’s true.
Showing up is how you kill the resistance. Ignore the voice in your head saying, “Just do it tomorrow,” and you put yourself closer to reaching your writing goals.
Forget Motivation, Seek Momentum
A lot of people believe that motivation is everything. They’ll say, “If only I had more motivation,” or “I just didn’t feel motivated to do it.”
Motivation is overrated. You don’t need motivation, you need momentum. The resistance doesn’t give a fu*# about your motivation or your goals. It’s here to kill.
Starting a writing practice as outlined above will give you the momentum you’re looking for. You’ll crush the resistance, clarify your thinking, and improve your life.
The only thing stopping you is you. Get to it.