Beginning a Writing Habit for Non-Writers

4 steps to developing a writing habit when writing is not your profession

Jeffrey Keefer, Ph.D.
Jan 4 · 6 min read
Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash

Let’s get this out of the way . . . I am not a professional writer. Nor, likely, are you, so we are even.

However, I bet you know something in enough depth or complexity or with a novel (pun intended) approach that you still want to share it with the world in some written form. Right?

What do we mean by being a writer?

We all write things, like shopping lists, performance reviews, or to-do tasks, though few would consider them an example of being a professional writer, right?

Seems we are speaking about something a bit more intentional here, yet not quite professional as being the full-time effort, right?

Doing this as a one-off can be exciting, and while it may likely not lead to a career shift, it very well may help others through their day with a little more knowledge or passion shared as a result.

However, here I am writing this, yet I still do not consider myself a professional writer. I am more of an adult educator who likes to write to help inform, support, inspire, and perhaps even entertain others who may find some value in some of what I say.

Again, I bet you have some of these same thoughts yourself, as why else would you still be reading this given all the cuddly cat videos, get-rich-quick schemes, or news alerts about you-know-who being accused of anything (fill in the blank with anybody who would be shocking and sensational!) that await you just . . . over . . . there.

Is there really such a thing as a non-writer, anyway?

Let me share what I have found works for me. Perhaps it may help you to get started with the first step in writing.

Remember, neither of us are professional writers, and we merely want to write something for the benefit of somebody else learning something new, ideally so they can make more informed action in some aspect of life.

Now that we have gotten this out of the way, namely that you do not have to classify yourself as a writer to still write and share, let’s talk about beginning some simple writing habit, one that can help you get the idea out of your head (where it does no good for anybody else) and puts it into a medium (yes, pun intended again!) that others can access.

Photo by Viktor Hanacek on picjumbo

To do this, I have found the following 4 steps helpful.

4 steps to developing a writing habit for non-writers

1. Write down your ideas and ignore what anybody may think about them

Perhaps in a journal. In a computer program. On Post-Its. On index cards (I personally like blue or green unlined index cards myself, as I find them soothing). Just identify a spot you feel free to get out your ideas.

The place matters less than the opportunity to get the thoughts out of your head.

Ignore the little voice that wants ideas to be perfect, that imagines how others may receive these, or that ideas do not hold together as a single unit.

We just want to get ideas out. They may flow or plop into a bullet list. That does not matter — what matters is if they are out of your head and into some small portion of the world.

2. Gather or chunk ideas together

Draw pictures. Connect with lines. Insert links. Use different colours. Do whatever you need to do to help you make sense of those ideas you pulled forth earlier.

Remember, nobody sees this messy part of the writing process, though I guarantee every writer ever, professional and non-professional alike, has done some form of this step.

You are in great company.

You also may just be surprised by what you begin to notice about your ideas and how they connect.

If not, that is ok, too. There is no right or wrong at this point.

3. Choose one theme to focus on

When you choose, consider some questions to help you focus this:

✓ Who do you want to read your work? This is your audience.

✓ What do you hope they do as a result of reading it? This is your purpose.

✓ Where do you imagine they may actually find your work? This is your media outlet.

✓ What style is acceptable in those sorts of media outlets? This connects your publication venue with your writing style for the benefit of your readers.

Now, there are other factors to consider (payment, timing, etc.), but these steps are enough for now.

Remember, you are not a professional writer, so you do not have to get this all perfect as if your livelihood depends upon it, but once you match your main idea with some of these steps, you will start to bring some structure to your creation.

4. Repeat and remind yourself why you are doing this

This leads to getting more detailed, and when we learn a little more through doing it, we then revising and expanding upon our ideas as we test them through spending more time with them. Developing them. Freeing them from our minds and making them real.

In one area of my professional experiences, this is called improvement work and involves trying something small, learning from it, and making small steps to continue improving upon it.

The key here is that it does not have to be perfect. It simply has to be.

We remind ourselves that we do this to express ourselves, and in the process, we begin to actually write.

What writing habit?

This is the writing habit we need, and while habits often deal with repetition, the main idea here is that what we repeat in the process, with the result being a written project that slowly forms.

Sure, we may want to do this daily in some manner. That daily repetition is the essence of habit, but rather than focus here on the time, or the habit trigger, I believe we want to focus on the process.

Write ideas. Group the ideas. Explore the theme. Repeat this in a deeper form and continue to develop it.

Do this habit cycle a couple of times, and you will be surprised how a simple idea will begin to develop into a written format that seems to appear magically.

Hey, neither of us are professional writers, yet it may just surprise us how much we actually do begin to write. This is, after all, how this article itself formed.

I am really eager to hear how this goes for you, too, so please share how you have made this your own.

The Startup

Medium's largest active publication, followed by +585K people. Follow to join our community.

Jeffrey Keefer, Ph.D.

Written by

I help people take intentional actions for success through balanced learning strategies. Connect with me via

The Startup

Medium's largest active publication, followed by +585K people. Follow to join our community.

More From Medium

More from The Startup

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch
Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore
Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade