I have been working on building the habit of daily writing. My goal is to sit down every day to make a brief entry in my journal, write and publish a blog post (6 days a week, however brief), and work on my novel. Every day, no exceptions.
In order to help me build, protect and strengthen this daily writing habit, I turned to Gretchen Rubin’s book, Better than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives. How can apply her Strategies to this habit?
In the order she presents them in her book, here goes (it’s a LONG list!):
- The Strategy of Monitoring: I’ll track my time and word count every day (I found an app called “Writing Journal” to help me.)
- The Strategy of Foundations: I’ll make sure my foundations (sleep, move, eat/drink right, and unclutter) are strong. More on how I’m tackling each of these critical four habit areas in a future blog post.
- The Strategy of Scheduling: I will protect the 10:30 to 12:30 window every day for writing, and treat it like a job. If something unavoidable gets in the way of this writing window, I will re-schedule a 2 hour block at another time that day.
- The Strategy of Accountability: I will set out a plan for the week in my “process journal” every Sunday, and have my “manager” (me) assess my progress at the end of each week in the journal. I may also use the blog to report on my weekly stats to add further accountability.
- The Strategy of First Steps: I’ll establish a beginning ritual to help me transition into writing. The ritual will be: open the computer and shut down my email, jot down a brief plan for the day’s writing in my journal, start my writing music mix, and start my writing tracker app. When 10:30 rolls around, focus on the ritual, not on the writing.
- The Strategy of a Clean Slate: I’ll use the fresh start of a new school year to establish this new routine.
- The Strategy of the Lightning Bolt: It’s hard to invoke this one on purpose, but I’ll try to keep the chances of a Lightning Bolt high by reading inspiring books about creativity and writing. (Big Magic, by Elizabeth Gilbert is on my list for this Fall.)
- The Strategies of Desire, Ease, and Excuses: There are 9 sub strategies in this category, so rather than go through each one, I’ll pick out just one that seems particularly handy: I’ll use Safeguards by establishing an “if/then” rule: If I feel tempted to stop writing to look something up online or write an email, (my most common pitfall), I will make a note of it in a notebook that I keep on my desk while I’m writing, and come back to it later.
- The Strategy of Clarity: I will establish the clarity of value that my daily writing is a prioirty, and one that cannot be sacrificed to conflicting values. (“And,” not “or”.) And that the action I expect from myself is a daily journal entry, a 6-days per week published blog post, and progress on my novel revision.
- The Strategy of Identity: I will start to think of myself as “a writer” and refer to myself this way when people ask what I do.
- The Strategy of Other People: I will cultivate a community of writers around me, both in person and online. Currently I have a weekly walking date with a writer friend, and a weekly email routine with another pair of writers where we check in with each other and offer support and encouragement. I’ll be on the lookout for additional writers and artists to bring into my community.
Whew! After all that Strategizing, this habit better stick!