National Writing Day was amazing wasn’t it? You might have come away from one of the many events put on across the UK with a head full of ideas – feeling really inspired. You might have even written something for the first time in ages – and now, you’re more determined than ever to get those words out of your head and onto the page.
We believe that ideas, inspiration and imagination are all dead important if you want to write. But just as important is boring old persistence (and a bit of perspiration) if you want to get that project written.
With this in mind, we’ve compiled our very best 10 top tips – backed by science – to help you keep writing after National Writing Day. Good luck!
1. Set yourself a mini goal
If you know you want to write a series of blogs or get that short story written, the first thing to do is set yourself a goal. Commit yourself to writing for just five minutes a day. Don’t worry about the amount of time you can give to writing at this point – concentrate on making the commitment to write. Just give whatever you can and don’t start the negative spiral of guilt and inaction that can come with overwhelming yourself with too much work. Here’s why we believe tiny goals and steps work.
2. Get yourself an ‘when – then’ plan
Once you’ve identified what you want to write regularly, the best way to build a habit is to glue it to another behaviour you do every day – this makes it more normal and means it’s not such a big deal. We’ve written about if/when-then planning before. For example, if you take the kids to school every morning, make writing the thing you do for 15 minutes when you get home. If you always have a break from work at midday make writing the thing you do on that break. Just look for small, ordinary actions you do each day: when you do them – then you do writing.
3. Slowly increase the habit to a realistic level
Let’s say your goal is to write five minutes every day after eating your lunch. For the first week you just do your five minutes each day. At the end of that week you’ve written for 25 minutes. You now need to increase the time, perhaps adding another minute each day, so by the end of the second week you’re writing for 10 minutes each day, by the third 15 minutes. You might like to grow your daily five minutes into a three-hour a day writing habit, but you need to stay realistic – if you make the goal too large you’ll get overwhelmed.
4. Log your writing to track your progress
As with all changes in behaviour it really helps if you log your progress. Just the simple act of noting down how frequently you’re working towards your goal makes a big difference in how productive you are and how motivated you feel. Also, when you log your writing progress you can look back over your week and over your month and spot patterns in your behaviour – you can tell what works for you and what doesn’t. And feel super chuffed about your progress – more on that later.
5. Schedule your writing time
A major mistake novice writers make is that they spend way too much time and energy ‘finding the time to write’ and not enough time actually writing. This frequently means that people never get off the starting blocks because writing becomes too much of an effort and too much of an inconvenience. So, use this ‘traffic light’ method of goal setting to identify the no-go writing times, the possible writing times and the full steam ahead writing slots.
6. Just write anything – now!
Psychologists have found that one of the best ways to hoodwink your inner critic is to use an unblocking technique like freewriting. There’s a version called morning pages. Freewriting involves getting words onto the page without editing and without looking back. Just the process of starting to write and exercising your creative muscle is a proven way to take the blocks out of the way and get the ideas to flow. Here’s some more tips to help you get your writing project started.
7. Take another challenge
One way to inject a little fun into a flagging writing project is to turn it into more of a game or a challenge. For example, using the Pomodoro technique, writers splurge words in intensive 20-minute blasts followed by a five-minute break, perfect for eating cake (or doing star jumps if you’re that way inclined). Other writers prefer entering ‘extreme writing’ challenges like NaNoWriMo, NaPoWriMo and 29 Plays Later.
8. Write with others, write for others
Other people are great at holding you to account with your writing deadline, providing a much needed sounding board and giving you fresh ideas. So, try joining your local writing group, form a group of your own or just buddy up with another writer at a similar level to you – collaborative writing can be a great way help you receive feedback and stick to your deadlines.
9. Reward yourself each time you write…
It’s important that you reward yourself and give yourself mini ‘power ups’ for the progress you make at every stage of your writing process. If you’ve written for five minutes a day for a whole week – that’s amazing! In many cases the reward comes in having achieved your goal but never forget to give yourself a pat on the back too. It’s only by rewarding yourself that you’ll have the motivation to continue – and increase the time you spend writing.
10. …and NEVER, EVER beat yourself up for missing a day
This is the golden rule. If you sink back into guilt by thinking ‘if I can’t even write for five minutes a day then what hope do I have?’ then you’ve let your inner critic win. Never beat yourself up for trying to meet your daily writing goal. Sometimes life just gets in the way, accept it and move forward – there’s always another five minutes tomorrow.