Ray Bradbury once stated, “I know you’ve heard it a thousand times before. But it’s true — hard work pays off. If you want to be good, you have to practice, practice, practice.”
If you need thousands of hours of practice to become an expert at your craft, then writing every day is the quickest way to start racking up those hours in order to become a master wordsmith.
Writing daily has other benefits besides helping you sharpen your writing skills.
It forces you to clarify your thoughts and arrange them logically. It helps you become a more creative person because you must think up new ideas each day to write about. And, finally, it gives you a constructive way to redeem the time by training you to work productively every day.
Who knows? Maybe one day you’ll end up on this list.
Of course, if you’re not used to writing regularly, you’ll probably find it difficult at first. I know I did. I’d make excuses that I didn’t have enough time that day, that I wasn’t inspired, that I had just finished a project and had no idea what to write about next, that I was suffering from an incurable form of writer’s block.
However, these are all rather bad excuses. Writing every day actually boosts your creativity and helps you overcome writer’s block. Writer’s block is more difficult to beat if you write only sporadically because then writing is unnatural rather than being second nature.
Ultimately, when you start writing every day, eventually it becomes easier and easier to write every day.
Now I make sure to write something every day: it might just be an entry in my journal or it might be several paragraphs of a new article or a new short story.
Here are the steps that help me write every day:
1. Make It A Habit
If you are going to train yourself to write consistently every day, it must become a habit like eating dinner or brushing your teeth. Work it into your schedule so that it becomes something that you truly miss if you forget to do it.
Often it helps to set aside a specific chunk of time in your schedule when you know you will be free. Usually, early mornings when you first wake up are best (your day hasn’t gotten crazily busy yet), but evenings might also work for you if that’s when you have free time, maybe right before you go to bed if you’re not too tired.
The important thing is to choose a block of time (say, 8:30 in the morning) and always write at that time until your brain becomes so used to writing at 8:30 that it automatically focuses and switches into “writing mode” at 8:30 in the morning.
Now, if writing at a specific time doesn’t work for you, try choosing a special place to write and always return to that place when it’s time for your writing sessions. This should be a relatively quiet place where you know you will be able to write for a set period of time and not be disturbed.
If you have trouble focusing, try timing your writing sessions with the Pomodoro technique. I wrote an article about the Pomodoro technique here.
What I like to do is play a piece of music that’s a specific length, say, thirty or forty minutes. I tell myself that I have to write until the music ends. There is one movie soundtrack I’ve listened to so many times during my writing sessions that now as soon as I start playing it, I feel eager to start writing.
(Listening to a specific piece of music is a type of writing ritual. I wrote more about how rituals can awaken your creativity in my article here.)
Here is how Ernest Hemingway described his daily writing practice:
“When I am working on a book or a story I write every morning as soon after first light as possible. There is no one to disturb you and it is cool or cold and you come to your work and warm as you write.
You read what you have written and, as you always stop when you know what is going to happen next, you go on from there. You write until you come to a place where you still have your juice and know what will happen next and you stop and try to live through until the next day when you hit it again.”
I love Hemingway’s advice for not using up all of one’s inspiration. If you’re working on a piece of writing that isn’t finished by the end of your writing session, make sure you leave off at a place where you still have an idea of how you want to move forward the next day.
This will prevent writer’s block.
2. Start Small
As I mentioned before, if you’re not used to writing daily, you’ll probably find it a bit difficult to stay on track when you first start out. Don’t let that discourage you.
You obviously don’t have to write a novel in your first week, and you certainly don’t have to write for two hours each day. The important thing as you take your beginning steps is just to write, to feel the words flowing from your fingers.
Set small goals for yourself that you know you can accomplish and gradually build up to longer writing periods. That first week you might just challenge yourself to write for fifteen minutes each day or maybe just set a small word count goal for yourself. It can even be as small as 100 words.
Be careful though. Writing has a way of drawing you in, and soon you might be finding it harder to stop than it was to begin.
3. Find A Writing Partner
When I was in middle school, my friends and I started a writing club. We’d meet once a week and share the stories we were working on. This was a great way for us to stay motivated and receive feedback on our writing.
Now, I like to meet up occasionally with friends for writing sessions. It helps me to focus when I’m working on a story when I know my friend is busy writing too. If you enjoy working with others, then finding a writing partner might be the perfect way to keep you accountable to your daily writing sessions.
You might not be able to meet up with your friends for every single writing session, but they can certainly hold you accountable and can critique your writing and help you when you get stuck.
Writers sometimes find their best ideas when brainstorming with others.
4. Keep a Journal or Start a Blog
You can also hold yourself accountable and watch your writing grow by keeping a journal or starting a blog here on Medium (depending on whether you want to keep your writing private or share it with the world).
Blogging lets you share your writing with others. At first, you might be hesitant to share your work if you’re a newbie writer, but as you continue to write each day, you will become more and more confident with your writing ability and better able to teach and inspire others.
I don’t publish on Medium every day but sharing my writing here and being able to see that people are reading my writing does keep me motivated.
5. Use Writing Prompts
Inevitably, you may come to a writing session and really have no idea what to write about. This is a great time to use pre-written prompts. Just like an essay assignment, a short prompt tells you exactly what to write about.
I know some people who have gotten ideas for novels from work that they did while following a prompt.
If you write nonfiction, sign up for an account on Quora. You can follow topics related to your interests and see the kind of questions people are asking in those fields.
If you write fiction, a quick search on Google will turn up lots of websites with story prompts. I also sometimes search Pinterest for pictures and use them as prompts.
You can also steal Ray Bradbury’s method for banishing writer’s block. Onto a blank page jot down a list of nouns — any nouns that tumble from your fingers: “THE LAKE. THE NIGHT. THE CRICKETS. THE RAVINE.” Let the words spark memories and ideas for stories or new articles.
The lists don’t even have to be nouns. You can also write lists of your favorite books and movies, lists of places you’ve visited, lists of all the most interesting experiences you’ve had, lists of the things you love or hate.
I recently wrote this article on how to find new writing ideas.
6. Experiment With Different Kinds of Writing
Writing sessions are also a great time to experiment with different kinds of writing. If you usually write nonfiction, then why not spend a writing session trying your hand at fiction? Maybe attempt writing a poem or recounting a story that happened in your own life.
When you’re first starting out with your daily writing practice, try to find the type of writing that is easiest and most enjoyable for you, the kind of writing that you get excited for and look forward to each day.
You might want to try writing a novel (just for the fun of it). You’ll have to continue the story each day so you’ll always have something to write about.
7. Get Away From Your Desk and Gather Experiences
Sign up for a class to learn a new skill, pick up a new hobby, or maybe visit a place you’ve never been to before (it doesn’t have to be far away — it could just be the new restaurant that opened in your town). These experiences will give you more topics and ideas to write about. Reading books is another fantastic way to gather new topics to write about.
Julia Cameron observes in her book The Artist’s Way,
“In order to create, we draw from our inner well. This inner well, an artistic reservoir, is ideally like a well-stocked trout pond…Any extended period or piece of work draws heavily on our artistic well. As artists, we must learn to be self-nourishing. We must become alert enough to consciously replenish our creative resources as we draw on them — to restock the trout pond, so to speak.”
If you make time for your writing every single morning or afternoon or evening, despite the distractions and the craziness of your everyday life, and if you don’t give up when you miss a day, you will gradually develop a daily writing habit.
And that means that you will also develop an incredible amount of focus and determination and passion for your craft.
Steven Pressfield writes in The War of Art,
This is the other secret that real artists know and wannabe writers don’t. When we sit down each day and do our work, power concentrates around us. The Muse takes note of our dedication. She approves. We have earned favor in her sight. When we sit down and work, we become like a magnetized rod that attracts iron filings. Ideas come. Insights accrete.
Nicole Bianchi is a writer, copywriter, and storyteller at nicolebianchi.com. By day, she works with business owners and creatives to help them clarify their websites’ messaging and craft compelling words that resonate with their audience. By night, you’ll probably find her writing a story or reading a good book.