Completing a big writing project, like a novel or memoir, might seem like an impossible mountain to climb.
Most people won’t reach the summit unless they have a solid writing routine.
In this post, you’ll find 5 strategies you can implement today to make your writing journey as painless as possible.
Time isn’t found, it’s built
When it comes to finding more time for your creative pursuits, you might already be thinking, “my schedule’s full.” As a father of two who works full-time and is also self-employed, I empathize with the feeling.
Time is a precious, finite resource. The question isn’t “how do I find more time,” it’s “how can I make better use of what time I have?
The Pickle Jar Theory of time management offers a simple, effective way to visualize time and how we fill up our day. The glass jar represents time, which is filled with rocks, pebbles, and sand. The rocks represent your most important tasks, the pebbles are of lesser importance, and the sand is “filler,” the unimportant and inconsequential.
How much of your day is sandy filler? How often do surfing the web, idle gossip, doomscrolling on social media, and meaningless tasks enter into your jar first?
The sooner you address your writing, and the bigger of a priority you make it, the more inclined you’ll be to schedule your sessions like clockwork.
Set the Table for Success
Closely related to the “when” of your writing routine is the “where.” Find the place you will consistently use to craft your story.
Now, I’m not asking to create this lavish study with shelves of books and a solid, oak wood desk in the middle. We all work with what we’ve got, even if it’s in the laundry room, in your car during lunch break, or on your bedside table.
When you’ve picked a spot, you can engineer the area to be more conducive to picking up the pen and writing.
In the bestselling book, Atomic Habits, James Clear writes how we humans rely on visual cues to trigger habitual behavior. If a plate of delicious, chocolate chip cookies is out on the table, it’s far easier (and more tempting) to eat one versus if the cookies were packaged and hidden in the pantry.
To invite the habit of writing, make it more obvious in your environment. Leave your notebook open on your desk with your pens ready to go. Set the lock screen of your phone to an inspiring quote from a writer you admire. Put a fun pen sticker on your coffee mug. Find creative ways to set visual cues that will bring you back to the page.
Stack the Pages
One of the most helpful, habit-building tips I frequently use from Atomic Habits is “habit stacking.” Stacking links existing daily habits to new ones.
Find a habit you do every day. Something that you do almost unconsciously. As an example, let’s say you make a cup of coffee in the morning without fail. As the bean juice is brewing, take out your notebook and pen. Even if you write for 5 minutes while sipping your morning brew, it will start to link the new habit (writing) with the established one (coffee time).
Once you’ve identified the routine habits you perform each day, pick one and attach a session of writing to it. You can write it down like this to commit it to your memory:
“When I do [established daily habit], I will write for 15 minutes.”
Our brains are wired to avoid pain and chase pleasure. Make your daily writing sessions as pleasurable as possible so you’ll want to come back time and time again.
If you feel that writing is a chore, your brain will do everything in its power to avoid the task.
If you can find enjoyment and contentment in putting pen to paper, then you will be more successful in building a writing routine.
How do we make writing more fun? Ah, that’s my specialty.
Consider your writing environment and your tools. Circling back to engineering your environment, you can make your writing area inviting by lighting a candle, playing peaceful music, and choosing a comfortable seat, for example.
Folks who enjoy using fountain pens (like myself) relish in any excuse to put pen to paper. Setting out my currently inked pens invites me to sit down and write. Each of my pens has a colorful ink that looks awesome on paper, even if I’m writing absolute nonsense. In short, writing with a fountain pen provides plenty of low-tech pleasure.
You can also use the habit stacking technique to set a pleasurable habit right after your writing session. Once you’ve finished your writing for the day, you could reward yourself with 15 minutes of scrolling on social media, going for a walk outside, having a (healthy) snack, calling a friend or family member - anything that gives you a feel-good moment.
Link with a Writing Buddy
Writing is a lonely task. Hours are spent in isolation, cranking out pages without any sort of feedback, good or bad.
If you go a day without writing on your novel, will you hold yourself accountable? Most of us won’t. Or, we’ll beat ourselves up so bad that we give up.
This is where we can leverage the network of communities available on the internet. Turn what is normally a time-wasting, passive activity into one that keeps you committed to your craft.
Join a community of like-minded writers. There are dedicated Facebook groups, Discord servers, and paid cohorts that provide support, camaraderie, and feedback to hold you accountable.
The key motivation behind the group dynamic is the idea that you don’t want to “let them down.” Even if you check in once a day to post your word count, you are showing up for others in a supportive way.
Some of us also have a competitive streak and need to show we have what it takes to be elite. While competition can be a strong motivator, always keep in mind the reasons why you’re working on this writing project in the first place.
To get your pen moving, InkJournal hosts a fun writing challenge on social media called 30 Inks 30 Days. Fountain pen enthusiasts are encouraged to write with a different ink each day, posting the day’s pen and ink combination on their social media platform of choice.
If you enjoy writing with fountain pens and inks, we hope you’ll join us to creatively express yourself in a multitude of fun colors.
Tackling that long writing project might seem like an impossible mountain to climb. Following the 5 strategies I outlined here, it should be as painless as putting one foot in front of the other.
After finishing this article, spend 5-10 minutes writing down these tactics and see how you can apply them to your daily routine. The aim is to produce more writing consistently so you can get into a long-term groove and create a mountain of paper that is your story.