I have been writing my whole life but have struggled to make a habit out of it. Every now and then I would hit upon it, writing so much every day until I ran out of steam, or something distracted me, or I finished the project, stopped and couldn’t start again.
The end of 2013 forced me to look at my writing habits seriously and I began with new vigour. As of November 2013, I started to write 1000 words a day. 500 words of one project, 500 of the other. This proved too much. I began to heavily criticise myself when I couldn’t complete the task, my poor husband suffering the consequences of my guilt, and my miserable mood made me not want to continue writing.
So I prioritised. One of the projects needed to be finished, so I dropped the other one (my new novel). Every day throughout December I wrote at least 500 words. Every. Day. I tried giving myself a day off on a Sunday, but it made Monday hard. So no days off.
I’ve always tried to set myself deadlines. Well, it works so well at my office job, it only seems natural that I should be able to meet my own deadlines. Never, have I met my own writing deadline until just before Christmas. I finished the first draft of my writing project a whole one day early.
I set it aside over Christmas and had two weeks away from both projects. As 2014 dawned, I picked up the habit again. It was a little tiring at first, but I’m surprised how quickly I got back into it. Writing at least 500 words a day of my new novel and editing at least five pages a day of my main writing project.
I would also like to say that I found something magical on my printer. An option to print double sided, two pages crammed onto each page, which is still readable when the lines are spaced out. It’s perfect. I’m saving ink and paper, but am still able to print off my work so that I can scribble. A necessity for me when it comes to editing that first draft.
Other than the physical presence of the first draft, the growing word count of my new novel and my husband proclaiming that I’m ‘spending more time upstairs’, the real proof that this new habit is working came when I reached chapter five of my editing. The first few chapters were tiresome, poorly and lazily written, littered with edits, crossing outs and REWRITE written against huge chunks. And then it all stopped. Suddenly all I’m doing is crossing out a sentence here, adding a word there, and fixing the odd typo.
So when I started writing every day, my writing improved. That alone is enough reason to stick to my new habit, even if you don’t consider the fact that I’m now able to sit down and write 500 words in 15 minutes, and that I’m actually finishing projects ahead of my self set schedule.
That’s not to say that it’s easy. Some days are harder than others. Some days I sit at my laptop and search the internet, a bit of online shopping (oops) or scan Twitter, before I finally force myself back to my manuscript. I’m also dreading going back to those first few chapters of my editing project. All that rewriting! But feeling the piece come together, breathing life into it and making it whole, is well worth it.
Writing is a compulsion, so it seems strange that writers should have to develop a habit of it. But life gets in the way all too easily, not to mention other people’s views of writing. I’m very lucky that my family and friends are endlessly supportive of my writing. My husband will push me up the stairs to my laptop if I need it. It’s difficult to fit writing in, to find the time or the energy after a hard day working in an office, staring at a screen.
As with all writing, everyone is different. The answer is to find what works for you and to stick to it. Trial and error, as I have proven, works very well. So, if you haven’t found your writing pattern and fallen into a happy habit yet, list your aims, figure out how many words you can write and how often, and set yourself realistic deadlines.
Trust me, it’s well worth it.
I have big plans for the writing project that I’m currently editing and hope to bring news of it to this blog soon. Stay tuned!