Today’s question comes from Janie K. from Twitter.
How do I stick to a discipline and routine when it comes to writing? Aside from willpower and strictness with myself and having worked it around my schedule, I still fail to follow it
Writers hate to admit it, but we all have something we’d rather be doing than writing. Until you’ve made it and actually started to earn an income by writing, writing is a pipe dream. A dream, an aspiration, a fancy. It might work out, but it might not. The key being: you don’t know.
For most people it’s that undercurrent of uncertainty that leads to procrastination, decreased motivation, and later to abandoning writing altogether.
How can you know it’s real? What if it isn’t?
I’ll spare you the motivational speech, there are plenty of those you can find online. Besides, you’ve stuck with writing for a while, worked it around your schedule, and you’ve put in the work, and now you’re trying to find out how to write more. Your long-term motivation is fine and as real as they come. It sounds like it’s the short-term one that’s giving you trouble. How to write more here and now, instead of promising yourself to find time to write tomorrow?
You mentioned you already have a routine, so my proposal shouldn’t come across as too strange. Have you considered redesigning your environment to make it easier for you to write than to procrastinate? Little habits that keep on piling like:
- Leave your word editor open, so it’s the first thing you see when you use your computer.
- I don’t know your poison, but if you’re determined, you can take out the batteries from your remote so there’s a cost to procrastination. Unplugging game consoles, and logging out of Netflix works too.
- Take five minutes before bedtime to think what you’re going to write tomorrow. Scribble some notes on a paper pad.
- Steer clear of distractions. Turn off all notification, keep away from your phone, log out of social media, turn off your browser, etc. So that nothing, trully nothing interrupts your focused work.
- Rest when your body tells you to. You’re not a machine; rest is crucial for creative work. (And social media is not rest.)
- Quit while it’s going strong. Mid-sentence. So you’re excited to return to work instead of dreading it.
- Do the opposite when you’re stuck. Stick it out until you find something to be excited about.
I could go on, but you get my point. Achieving the long-term gets easier when you design your day around habits. Habits take effort to set up, but they are the best remedy to friction that I know of.
Thanks for reading! If you enjoyed this article, please share it with someone who may enjoy it too.
For anyone struggling with routine, habit building and environmental cues, like Sebastian suggests, are gold. Make cues or if/then statements that will trigger your writing mind. One I use is: If I light a candle, then I will start writing. To make sure the candles only trigger my writing mode, I only use them in that context. Nowhere else. Two other recommendations I would add are the Freedom app (or any similar alternative) which you can use to completely block the internet, or just certain websites, and even distracting applications on your computer. If you have a predetermined writing time… Read more »