For all of my life, I’ve had a problem with procrastination.
When I was in school I was always that terrible student who would wait until the last minute to start a project, always telling myself (and my mother) that I worked better under pressure.
The truth is, I don’t work better under pressure, I just work faster, and that doesn’t always mean better at all.
In fact, I have produced some of my shoddiest work when I’ve waited until I’m scared, tired, and full of resentment toward it.
Until recently, I had been doing all of my writing in the afternoons with writing partners or at night while the television has been on as my ‘background noise’ ahem, distraction.
I would find that toward the end of the day I would struggle to come up with ideas for writing, I’d feel pressured because it was nearing days end, and I was constantly kicking myself in the butt to write faster and more.
That all changed a few weeks ago when I decided that I needed to switch up my writing routine.
Now, I write in the morning.
The biggest change to my routine (besides actually having one now) is that I do all of my writing first thing in the morning instead of later in the day.
And when I say first thing in the morning, I mean first thing.
I get up, make my coffee, and settle in with my laptop and I tell myself that I won’t do anything else until the writing is done.
No TV news in the morning anymore.
No Homeland on as background noise.
Not much parenting goes on either now that my daughter can fend for herself for breakfast.
This one change, changing the time of day I write, has made all the difference in the world.
For one thing, it makes the writing feel like work.
Which is good, because it IS my work.
I wouldn’t show up to a ‘real’ job halfway through the day without a thought in my brain and no energy to make it through, right?
So why should I treat my writing time so badly when I should actually be protecting it like gold?
In the morning, I just write better — you might, too.
In the morning, nothing has happened in the day yet to make it bad or derail me from writing.
It’s given me more time to plan out my articles and take more time to write them well because I’m not pressured to publish so fast.
My head is clear, I have the most energy, and generally, it takes me about an hour to write, edit, and publish something before I move right onto the next because I have a goal of at least two to three articles a day.
It sounds like a lot, and maybe it is, but I know for a fact that I can get it done between the hours of nine and noon, and if I get up earlier, more the better for me.
And why not get all your work out of the way as soon as possible rather than waiting until the last minute?
If I finish my writing in the morning, that gives me the rest of the day to do whatever I want and feel accomplished while I’m at it.
The one thing that’s made a huge impression on me when it comes to pressure is that it’s better to put that pressure on yourself than other things to put it on you, like time constraints, or bosses. Ick.
Habit becomes routine which becomes your life.
It’s hard to start a new good habit for yourself, maybe just as hard as breaking out of an old destructive one.
It wasn’t easy at first to sit down and get started at writing without turning on the television.
That’s what I’d always done, and that is a habit that I needed to break while I built up a new one.
I’ll admit there are mornings where I sit bleary-eyed for a half-hour until the coffee really starts to kick in, but then off I go, fingers moving away at the keyboard, and sometimes it feels like a nice, quick slide until I’m done.
I’m not one of those people who believe they can form a new habit in just 21 days. It’s been only seventeen days since I’ve changed my routine, and it isn’t completely without creative resistance and distraction — I can get lost in my own head if I’m not careful.
But the thing about forming a habit is that it eventually becomes a routine, something you do every day of your life without thinking much about it, and then, eventually, it just becomes your life.
I hear Stephen King writes 2,000 words in the morning before he does anything else, and not for nothing, that may be one of his biggest keys to success, or at least to his prolificness. That man is a writing machine.
I, too, am trying to become my own little version of a writing machine.
I’d like to be able to wake up every morning and turn the words on like a faucet, and I am getting closer because it’s getting easier to do every day.
The more you write every day, the easier it gets.
I could write a whole article on this subject, because I truly believe that the more you write, the easier it gets to write, just like with any other thing we practice daily.
My habit of sitting down with my laptop in the silence with my coffee is like a switch that gets turned on in my brain that says “TIME TO WRITE!” and so I do, because that’s what a writer has to do.
Being able to write on cue, whether you want to or not, is priceless for a writer, and this routine is helping me get to that place of always being able to ‘write anyway’ because if I DON’T write, I sit and stare at my screen until noon.
I’m that committed to making a living writing, and if you are, too, I highly suggest you find a routine that works for you.
It doesn’t have to be in the morning — you don’t have to drag yourself from sleep at 4am every day to write, you don’t have to stay up until the wee hours banging it out either if that isn’t working for you — you just have to find the sweet spot in your day when you can block out time and do nothing but write.
And then keep up with that new habit every day.
Until it becomes routine.
Until it becomes your life.
Special thanks to Linda Fode for her comment that inspired me to write this piece.
Cheney Meaghan is a single mom and writer from Connecticut trying to make a living with her words. You can be awesome by clicking here to sign up for her bi-monthly email newsletter.