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Tips on Getting into the Writing Habit

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Dina, Jun 14, 2019.

  1. Dina

    Dina Dreamer

    When I was younger, I could belt out 1000 words in an hour, easy. My focus was better; I could write whenever, wherever, for hours at a time. I distinctly remember writing in the bathroom of a cruise ship at 2 in the morning because the lights were out in my cabin. It's been maybe two years since I wrote like that, and I've been going on and off all through that time. It's not for lack of motivation, but rather it's difficult for me to sit down and get through the first mindless 20 minutes of staring at the computer screen. Does anyone have tips for getting back into the habit?
  2. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

    I've got this thread over in the Writer's Work forum. It's also an old article on the home page.


    In a nutshell, the first thing to do is focus on developing the regular habit of sitting down and getting to work. As that part gets easier, you shift that brainpower to focus a little more on what you're writing, how well you write, and how quickly you write, piece by piece, not all at once. Start with developing your writing process and get yourself on a good footing before you start stressing about the work.
    FifthView and TheKillerBs like this.
  3. Helen

    Helen Inkling

    It's not mindless if you have a little bit of an outline, or know what scenes you want to write.

    You form the habit by successfully writing a little every day.
  4. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

    Do you really, honestly stare at the screen for twenty minutes? Not doing anything else? Let's assume that's true.

    Do something different. Start with pen and paper, making notes. If you must use a computer, try writing anything, including how you're feeling at the time, what you had for breakfast, the weather--anything at all. You're trying to break that twenty minute barrier. Or try talking out loud. Recording is optional. Anything to get words flowing.

    One rule: you cannot do anything else. No reading email, no leafing through books, no house work, no walking the dog. You'll stay there until you produce something, even if it's garbage. No, you may not repeatedly type all work and no play make Jack a dull boy.

    Again, the trick is to trick yourself. Break the habit; form a new one. And whenever you *do* get some real writing done, give yourself a reward. Gaming, ice cream, a movie. Anything at all, so long as the reward is there.

    And let us know if any of this helps! After all, we're just making it up. ;-)
  5. FifthView

    FifthView Vala

    I wonder if the various distractions of our modern world have led to an impatience for receiving stimulation. Having a powerful computer at our fingertips (a phone, if not a tablet), 1000s of television shows and movies to stream with one click, a library of video games, may have taught us to expect quick stimulation of our creative imaginations. Pulling everything from our own minds seems cumbersome, tedious, and very well may not be as dependable as being able to click through various links and buttons.

    You might try doing what I'm currently doing. I write scenes in my head when I'm otherwise idle. Just as I'm lying down to sleep is a good time for this, but sometimes I do this when I'm outdoors and not doing much else. (I admit: I'm a smoker. So when I'm outside pacing, smoking a cigarette, I run through a scene in my head.) For me, this doesn't mean just seeing the scene, but actually writing out paragraphs, bits of dialogue, in my head. This week, I've actually had to resist sitting at the computer and starting on the first chapter—I'm not quite ready, there are things I still need to figure out about the characters and their world. But having some of that stuff "pre-written" in my head makes me feel that I know where I'm wanting to go when I do begin writing.

    And that's probably a large part of the spoiled effort of sitting at a computer and staring at the screen: an uncertainty about what to write.

    Another issue might be a lack of confidence in your writing ability. I don't have much advice about this, other than trying not to worry about it. Your first draft is going to be horribly written almost no matter what you do. Besides, that first draft isn't the finished draft; you'll have months, years if need be, to revise your writing after you put first words to page.

    On the whole though, I think Devor's advice is good advice. Discovering your own process might be the best first step. Yours might not be like mine.
  6. K.S. Crooks

    K.S. Crooks Maester

    I've been on a break for a while myself and plan to start again when I finish the book I'm reading. I will use the time I've recently spent reading in the morning to once again write. I like to do so for the first 60-90 minutes when I wake. Everyone in my house will still be asleep and my brain my even have an idea or two from when I slept. I don't like to do a minimum word count per session as it makes writing feel like a job instead of it being a hobby. At the end of the time if I feel I'm able to say more then I do so or at least make quick notes to help me continue the next morning.
  7. A. E. Lowan

    A. E. Lowan Forum Mom Leadership

    First off, don't worry about your wordcount. That way lies recriminations and too much ice cream. Do today's work today. Devor is absolutely right about finding your own process. Process changes as we develop as writers, and what worked when we were younger may not work today.

    I'm autistic, so my process looks the same pretty much every day because I live my life inside of patterns. I get my coffee, take my pills, check my email, and then, most importantly, reread everything I did the day before, editing and revising as I go. This puts me firmly back into a productive headspace, and back into the headspace of my characters. If I'm writing in a different POV from the day before, sometimes I'll go back further to revisit the POV, again because I need to be in the character's headspace. I try hard to not worry about wordcount. Some days I'll pump out a few thousand words. Some days it's a few hundred. I tend to be a slower writer. The important thing is consistency.
    Chessie2 likes this.
  8. Chessie2

    Chessie2 Staff Article Team

    Consistency, yes. Building a writing habit is entirely about how much time you put your butt in the chair. Try to write a little something each day or on a schedule that works for you. I would recommend not focusing on word count at first--it's more important to just get a feel for what writing regularly is like. Then, as you spend more time doing it and growing in your craft, word count can become a thing to focus/work on. I started really creating a writing habit back in 2012 and today, with several titles published, I still don't entirely focus on word count. For me it's more about quality these days.
    A. E. Lowan likes this.
  9. Dina

    Dina Dreamer

    Thanks for all the advice. I think I will wake up an hour earlier and write then. I've never been productive in the morning. How convenient that I have a novel that needs finishing and no set time to complete it...
  10. Darkfantasy

    Darkfantasy Inkling

    I haven't really come up with this struggle yet and I can still write for hours whenever I have them free. However, I have never been able to just sit at a computer screen and begin typing - nothing happens. I find it easier to think my next scene through when I'm being active. So, during my planning phase my house is super clean and tidy. I play out the scene in my head, then when I'm happy I go and write it.
  11. For me the trick was always to sit at my computer and interact with my WIP in some way every single day, even if I didn’t actually write much or at all. After a few months it just becomes automatic and the inertia is easy to break.

    For a while I had a goal of writing 1,000 words a day, but I realized that was keeping me from logging on my computer on days when I was tired or otherwise had little hope of writing much. So I changed my guideline to some interaction daily, no matter how little.

    It does work, but I’ll warn you that if you make a habit before bed every night, when you finish or quit a project you won’t be able to sleep because you’ve programmed yourself so that writing signals bedtime. That’s the situation I’m in right now and it’s Not Fun.
  12. EponasSong

    EponasSong Scribe

    There are so many different habits. Some (like me) write a certain chunk a day. Some do larger chunks on certain days of the week (Like only on the weekends for example). Some will even do a whole book in a matter of weeks or a month and spend the rest of the year not writing. And some have no sort of habit at all and somehow get the book done. It's all about figuring out what works for you and stick to it. All that matters is that the book gets done and done the best it can be.
  13. Danskin

    Danskin Scribe

    Just coming to this thread. I appreciate what you are saying, though I do usually find it quite easy to get started very rapidly and put out a high word count, and I think the things that help are as follows:

    - I always have an idea of what I want to write before I sit down. I'm not actually that much of a planner/plotter (I have a general outline, not scene by scene in advance), but I do think up scenes in my head when I am in the shower, lying in bed at night etc. So when I get to the keyboard, I just write down what I have already thought of.
    - I write in short bursts with a defined end point, for example 1-hour train journey. If I were to sit for 20-30 mins I'd be losing my time, and that deadline helps me get going faster.
    - I set daily word count targets using Scrivener. This is very motivating.
    - I also use the Scrivener app on my phone. This allows me to knock out a couple hundred words in down time e.g. when waiting for a work meeting to start.
    - Ultimately, I am not that hard on myself. I have a job and a family. If I get 2k words done per day, that is good going – and adds up to a short novel in 25 days. So even though I could in principle write 10-12k in a day (and I have), I don't expect that of myself. And I think it makes for a better, richer story in the long run if I don't try to write it all in a week or whatever.

    I hope some of that helps, good luck :)

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