I was asked this weekend what type of stuff do I write and how often do I write. It was an open-ended question posted in a Facebook group for authors and acceptable answers were everything from Facebook posts to emails to training programs to a novel.
It really made me stop to think about how much writing I do every week:
- Article for the blog
- Introduction for the newsletter
- Emails to clients
- Facebook posts
- Business journal entries
- Emails to friends and family
- Working on my own book projects (at least three afternoons a week)
- Editing and writing for clients
- Copywriting for clients
- And of course: lists for EVERYTHING
(I really live by making lists so I count that as writing!)
But what really surprised the group was my consistency in writing my weekly article and sending out the weekly newsletter. I was quickly asked:
Kimberly, how long did it take you to create good habits for yourself that keep you on track?
It took all I had not to answer: about fifteen seconds.
See, it really DID take about fifteen seconds to develop my “habit” for my weekly article and weekly newsletter. But I know that isn’t the answer the group (or you) are looking for! Of the five tips I’m going to share, I really do think #1 is the most important!
Five Ways To Develop Consistency In Your Writing
1. Decide it matters
In August 2013 I DECIDED that I was going to post a weekly article and mail out a weekly newsletter. I’d played with posting regularly and, if I’m super honest, had never emailed my list consistently. I don’t even remember my thought process or why I decided that I would write weekly and email weekly.
And you know what, it doesn’t matter. What matters is I drew the line and said: From this moment forward I’ll be consistent. I won’t allow ANYTHING to get in my way.
But here you have to be brutally honest with yourself. If you wanted to write a business article weekly and you sit down to discover you have no Internet at the moment, what do you do?
Can’t get to the computer? Grab a pen and paper and write anyway. No pen? Get a crayon! No paper? Type a note on your smartphone.
2. Put tools in place to help you
It’s all well and good to decide that nothing is going to stop you only to realize you don’t have the tools needed to move forward. Sure you can still make forward progress BUT it’s easier and faster with tools in place to help you out.
There’s a fine line between lacking tools and making an excuse not to write.
3. Get an accountability partner
I started my very first email newsletter about ten years ago. Every Thursday, I’d walk into my office and my office manager would say “Its newsletter day! Are you ready?” At the time, publishing a newsletter wasn’t fun, easy, or something that made me happy. I’d end up dreading Thursday all week. But I couldn’t back out because I had somebody who would fuss at me until I got it done.
If you’re not writing for an immediate audience like a blog or newsletter, an accountability partner is key! You need somebody who asks you about the state of the project, how many new words you’ve written, and if you’ll meet the deadline. It’s not somebody to nag you but somebody to help you make sure you are sitting down and putting words on paper!
I still have an accountability partner for my projects. I recruit a friend or family member to check in with me weekly to make sure I’m still making forward progress. This really helps because it’s a delayed gratification to get my writing to the audience and sometimes books can take weeks or months to write before I start the publishing process and FINALLY get the words into the hands of readers.
4. Make the time
It’s not easy to write in little chunks of time. But it’s not easy to write for entire afternoons either!
I think of it like laundry: it only takes a few minutes to sort the clothes and pop them in the washer. Later, it takes a few seconds to stuff them in the drier. It takes longer to fold, hang and put away but it still only takes a little while. Or, you can just make a pile of clean laundry. After a while, it’s a huge pile that takes forever to put away. If you even can! Sometimes you have to wash it all again.
Booking small chunks of writing time into your calendar means:
- You have a set appointment to keep
- You can do ANYTHING for twenty minutes
- You’re always making forward progress on your projects
- You keep your writing muscles exercised
- You can maintain your level of excitement and interest
I’ve worked on my books this way for years. It works!
Sometimes larger blocks of time aren’t really the blessing they seem to be. I can’t stay focused or I get tired or when something interrupts, I only see the two hours I didn’t write instead of the half-hour I did.
5. Know your rhythms and schedules
There are a lot of “how to write” people out there that tell everybody to just get up an hour earlier and write then. For some people, that might work! For me, my brain doesn’t kick in for the first two hours I’m awake. It doesn’t matter if I’m up at 5:30 am or 8:00 am. I’ve got two hours before I can do ANY type of work.
I’m not a night person but I catch a second (creative) wind about 8:30. I can work until about 10:30 until I’m just brain dead and have to get some sleep.
My favorite time to write, when I’m most productive, is about 2 to 5 in the afternoon.
When I was working full-time and writing on the side, I didn’t have the mornings (or afternoons!) to work regardless of my energy level or creativity. And even though I COULD work in the evenings, too many nights back to back would wear me out. So I created a schedule of writing on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday evenings. Tuesday and Fridays are date nights. And the weekends could be hit or miss. I got a TON done blocking out those times to work.