How to start a sustainable writing practice that will keep you creating

December 2, 2020

The biggest difference between writers and non-writers is that writers turn up to do the work. When you’re starting out as a writer, it’s really important to set up a regular creative writing practice. You don’t get to the end of a novel without turning up regularly to write.

But when you’re starting out, it’s hard to get into good habits. Distractions like your smartphone and constant busyness can get in the way.

Here are some sustainable writing habits that I’ve developed through the years that will help you maintain your own practice.

Commit to a word count and a time

The first thing in developing a sustainable writing practice is to commit both to a word count and to a writing time. Starting a novel for the first time can be intimidating, but if you can commit to writing 500 words a day over a one-hour period, you will slowly build up that word count.

Often, we don’t prioritize writing in our lives. That’s a big problem you’re trying to develop a creative writing habit. You need to prioritize writing and carve out a time in your calendar where you say, ‘This is the time I write’.

Although I don’t write every day, I usually have a set time on Tuesdays and Wednesdays where I know that’s my writing time.

Writing challenge: pick a time of day and commit to writing 500 words every day for 21 days. Let me know how you go in the comments below.

Get an accountability partner

When you’re starting out, it’s really helpful to have an accountability partner, another writer who might be trying to reach similar goals or is at a similar stage in the writing journey to you.

One of the great things you can do with your writing accountability partner is to write in sprints. Make a commitment to meet them regularly online or in person and do some writing.

Writing challenge: contact a friend who is also interested in writing. Ask them if they’d like to be your accountability partner, and if so, organise a regular catch up to write.

Remove distractions

Business woman texting on smartphone

One of the most important things you can do for your writing practice is to remove distractions. And one of the biggest distractions we all have in our pockets these days is our smartphones.

Turn off your phone, put it in the anti-distraction mode, place it in another room and then do your writing. This will stop you from scrolling through social media instead of doing your writing.

Writing challenge: turn off your phone for an hour a day to write. It’s harder than you think.

Prep the night before

If you’re going to get up early in the morning to write before work or other commitments, make sure you prep the night before. Lay out all your clothes ready to go and have your bag packed. That will give you a lot more time in the morning to get your writing done.

Stop making excuses

One of the hardest things when you’re developing a creative writing practice is to recognise when you’re making excuses. So if you’re saying, oh, no, but I need to go clean the house now, or I need a special pen for this, or I can’t do it now because I’m too tired, recognise this behaviour.

Sure, there’s a time to refresh yourself. If you’re exhausted, I don’t recommend pushing yourself. But you know when you’re making excuses, so be aware of procrastination, because there will always be resistance that comes up to forming a new habit.

Writing challenge: whenever you make excuses or procrastinate about writing, write a list of those excuses, and make a time to do them later.

Give yourself a good reason to write

Think about why you’re writing. Is it something you’ve always wanted? Are you writing for somebody else? It’s really important that you have a motivation to write and that will keep you going through this commitment to write.

Writing challenge: write your reason on a post-it note, and stick it near your computer or where you can see it, as a reminder of why you write.

Forming a sustainable writing practice is a personal journey that can be solidified by actively committing to your practice. If you’ve tried any of these activities, or have a great writing tip, why not share your experience in the comments below?  

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