It doesn’t matter that something I’ve written before turned out well — received a ton of views, clasps, and shares. My last notable piece of writing or viral story will never write my next one for me or the one after that.
This is what makes writing challenging.
Each day, you have to decide to write. Like you choose to make your relationship a priority. If you have a love of writing, it’s similar to other loves. You have to work at it if it’s important to you.
You have to get over that feeling, ugh, do I really have to write to today? It’s a perfect day to do x, y, and z.
You have to decide that sitting and staying in the chair is worth it.
Once you’re in it, fingers flying across the keyboard with confidence and ease, writing isn’t nearly as hard as your mind made it out to be when you got out of bed in the morning, looking for any old excuse not to write.
It is the starting that is hard.
How can we make the starting easier and more automatic?
Each writer faces the fear of writing when we sit down or right before we hit the first key.
Will my ideas be good enough, will I have anything new to say, is my point of view interesting?
It can be terrifying. While it’s daunting to face a blank screen, it doesn’t have to be.
We can use tools we learn from other creators who produce large amounts of content, add it to our daily writing practice to make writing easier so that the practice requires less mental effort to get over the hurdle of sitting down to write. Reduce friction for any goal you want to achieve; it will make it easier to stick to the habit.
Steven Pressfield, the author of The War of Art, says what we face each morning that keeps us from writing is resistance.
I highly recommend every writer read The War of Art. It is a quick read and describes the pressure writers face each day to overcome writing resistance and the many forms it takes: fear, self-sabotage, procrastination. The list goes on.
You can use some tricks to make the process of writing easier and more likely to get done. Over the last three years, I’ve refined my schedule and habits to revolve around writing so that I’m able to churn out large amounts of content each week and make a living from writing (and blogging).
Here are some shifts I made that worked for me to create large volumes of content on a regular content schedule.
1. Have a system of folders.
Start an “Idea Farm” folder. I learned this from writer Allie Brosh of Hyperbole and a Half.
When I log onto my computer, I have a folder staring me right in the face on my desktop named “Idea Farm” with dozens of things to write about. Every brilliant idea and more not-so-brilliant idea I’ve had, even if it is one sentence, an interesting phrase, or conversation I overheard in passing, thought of, or daydreamed about, goes into my “Idea Farm” folder for when I need something to work on.
The second folder is called “Drafts.” These are drafts in progress at any stage.
Occasionally, I write a post from start to finish in under an hour. It sometimes goes right out into the world and sometimes lands in my drafts folder to be added to and edited later.
The third folder is labeled “One More Edit.” This folder is for pieces that are important to me, and I really want to nail them. They need one more read, some fine-tuning, and polishing. Once I work on these drafts, they are published and then go into a fourth folder titled “Published.”
With this system, you have a ton of content to work with and are able to cross-reference ideas quickly, giving you access to content you’ve written that can be used in similar articles of the same nature.
2. Take your triggers seriously.
Writers need triggers. A trigger is a ritual that you do every day that tells your brain it is time to write.
A few years ago, my ritual was working out first, followed by my writing session. After I finished my first-morning workout, I’d write. It was a cue that my body and mind paid attention to because it was the same ritual every day.
Now, it is a veggie smoothie and an expresso.
The ritual you come up with will evolve over time because life changes over time, our schedules and responsibilities shift as we change. The important thing is to find what works for you.
Having a ritual is a way to beat procrastination. It is the first sip of espresso that prompts me and tells my brain and body it’s time to sit down and get to work. A ritual or trigger starts the habit. A habit must be established before it can be improved.
3. Standardize before you can optimize.
Prove it to yourself with small wins, first.
People think it’s odd to suggest writing for only ten or twenty minutes per day to start. It does sound strange. How are you going to write your bestselling novel by starting with only ten minutes a day?
The point of that exercise is not to do the one thing but to master the habit of showing up. The habit of writing must be established before it can be improved. Show up first. And then, you can refine the writing practice.
If you haven’t developed a writing habit yet, start small. It is unrealistic for most people to say they will write 1,500 words a day when they’ve never stuck to a daily writing schedule. If you haven’t written in a while, how likely will you start writing 1,500 words a day every day starting tomorrow? You might last a week, but then what will keep you going? Not the habit, because you haven’t established it yet.
It is more realistic to say I will write every day, starting at 7:00 am until 7:30 am, in my office. You may find that you write for longer, but start small first. Set the expectation of starting small, and then you may exceed it.
Having a specific time and place is far more realistic to achieve your goals than saying something vague like I’ll write 1,500 words each day.
If you show up at your writing desk five days a week — even if it’s only for ten minutes — you’re casting votes for your new identity.
You are a writer; the more you do things that add to the identity of being a writer, the more you’ll believe it and act according.
“New identities require new evidence.” James Clear, Atomic Habits
If you keep doing the same thing you’ve always done, you’re going to get the same results.
But if you focus on small wins — showing up, even if for only ten minutes of writing — you’re being the type of person who is consistent and reliable, which is identity-based.
When you show up, you are saying, I’m a writer. Because you’re adding to your identity of being a writer with all the words you’re writing for those ten minutes a day, it makes it more likely that you’ll continue and add on later.
If you want to keep writing the next article after your last one is complete, you need to adjust your thinking, so there is less friction to sitting in the chair, making that part easier.
Having less resistance comes with habits, routines, rituals, and being organized to create large amounts of content. Refine your schedule and determine through trial and error what works best for you as a writer.
What will you take from above to battle resistance and write instead?
The Seven Things I Had to Give up to Be a Paid Writer
Sometimes we have to rearrange our lives to make our dreams come true.
How I Made 5,613.47 on Medium in January
What you need to hit four figures a month from writing and have the same amount land in your bank account.
Jessica is a writer, an online entrepreneur, and a recovering type-A personality. She lives in Los Angeles with her extrovert daughter, two dogs, and two cats.