How to get into the writing routine.

This is a quick and simple blog post that sums up some advice I gave in the Bestseller Experiment Facebook Group, when we were asked for our favourite tips to build and maintain a writing habit.

If you missed it somehow, I’m pledging to write at least 200 words a day for 2020 as part of the BestSeller Experiment Challenge.

Now while 200 words a day might not sound like much (and it isn’t), the point of this exercise is to build the habit of writing every day. Once that’s a typical part of your daily routine, you’ll find you write more than that - and even if you don’t, 200 words a day for 366 days will give you over 50,000 words - a pretty fair-sized novel - ready to edit!

It’s a little early to see if my tips work for the BXP, but these are techniques I use to keep myself going through Nano, so they ought to help…

  1. Set a time when I definitely write. Whether it’s an hour, 20 minutes or half a day, putting my butt in a chair with that intention goes a long way. Setting a timer can focus the mind, as some others have suggested. I’m not allowed to do anything else in this time - even if I just stare at a blinking cursor for the duration!

  2. Turn off notifications and distractions. I silence my phone & computer - they almost all have a ‘do not disturb’ mode. If you can’t resist checking Twitter or FB look into a blocking app to protect you from your own impulses. I tell family that I need to be undisturbed.

  3. Have a ritual or routine. This ties into the first 2 - I sit down, with my beverage of choice, turn everything off… and my brain started to associate this routine with ‘it’s writing time.’ I literally have a writing cap - I put it on and it helps remind me what I’m doing (and tells people what I’m doing so they don’t disturb me). That and the scent of Earl Grey tea cue me in to knowing it’s time to get writing.

  4. Blocking outside distractions. I find I work best with white noise - rain sounds and distant thunder suit my current WIP but you can find apps that do any kind of ambient soundscapes to block the sound of the washing machine and what have you. Music doesn’t work for me, but some folks swear by it - try a few things and see what helps you focus.

  5. Bonus points if you can have somewhere you write and don’t do other things. This is hard! If you’re using a computer it’s also the place you do social stuff, banking, shopping, etc, but varying your surroundings can help remind you to focus. I know people who go to coffee shops to write, or the library, or sit facing the other way in their chair…

Now I know lots of people have lives where any or all of these are impossible (try telling a toddler or a cat that you can’t be disturbed, or booking 2 hours to write when you barely find time to eat) but these work for me, and I’m sure you can find a way to carve out time for this goal. 200 words need not take too long - this post is around 400 words and took ten minutes!

And don’t beat yourself up if you miss a day, or two. It’s not ‘over’ if you slip up, just get back to it again tomorrow.

Black Typewriter