9 Steps to Creating Your Writing Habit: Productivity in the New Year

     As my work at Oregon Writers Colony comes to an end, and the new year begins, I find myself needing to reestablish priorities. I’ve enjoyed every aspect of working with OWC, giving all my creative energies. And while I was never one of those new year’s resolutions setters, preferring to set and meet goals continually, I’ve let some important things (like writing) slide this year. The timing’s right for a rocket-powered refocus. I’ll leave the discussion of parenting and physical fitness for a family magazine and a fat loss blog, focusing on ideas I’ve researched on establishing a writing practice. I hope you find a spark here that gets you writing daily because it’s the increments of practice and habit that have been shown to deliver long-term gains.
1. Determine a reasonable daily writing goal and write it down. If you can’t commit to writing the goal down, you aren’t committed to forming the habit. Take the word “try” out of any goal. Be specific about what you “will” do. When? Where? What? How?2.  Tell others about your goals. Tell friends, family, coworkers, the glider monkeys at the zoo, tell anyone you might feel accountable to.

3. Do it daily, at the same time, when you’re unlikely to be interrupted or sidetracked. Remember, we’re focusing on forming a habit.

4. Create a trigger (or stimulus) that cues your habit. If you walk by a donut shop every morning, see the confections, and indulge, you know what a trigger is. Seeing the donuts is your trigger to eat. How about making the steeping of a cup of tea each evening your trigger for writing? If that doesn’t work, how about making that donut your trigger and sit in the shop each morning to write? You get the idea. Make your trigger an act you’ll perform everyday.

5. Put rocket-powered focus on your goals for one month. Yep. This is where the science is. Routine equals habit. Focus equals clarity. Too many goals diffuse your efforts. Your goal this month is to write. 

6. Establish and write down your motivations. Why write? What will keep you motivated when you don’t feel like writing? Refer to this list when commitment feels lagging. Read about others successful writers and get inspired but don’t be like me and let the reading subvert the writing. Maybe your motivation is a pre-established reward; a writing workshop, a massage, more donuts.

7. Log your progress and be accountable. You don’t have to create a full spreadsheet for this. Maybe you scratch a fat red “W” in Sharpie on your calendar when you complete your task and then share it with a friend. Maybe you join an online forum or go all-out writer and post it on your blog. Accountability is your new friend.

8. No exceptions. Have you ever been addicted to something? Know the idea of “just one drink” or “one cigarette won’t matter”? Not writing is the habit you’re kicking. Skip today and you’ll likely skip tomorrow. To form your new habit, it needs to happen each time the trigger cues you. If you end up missing a day, analyze the reason or excuse and create a solution to prevent relapse. Yes, your progress may be slowed, but you’ll still get there.

9. Find some way to make it fun. If it ain’t fun, discipline will eventually die and you’ll choke motivation. Turn up the music you loved in high school. Sit at the window with the most sun and sip your favorite tea. Pull a chair up to the monkey house. Whatever gets you writing.

     Whether it’s exercising, making a date with family members, or writing daily, it’s the intention and commitment to what really matters that will pay off when you evaluate the past year on the next New Year’s Eve. I wish you the best in your writing practice and improved productivity. And let me know what works for you.  rachelle_ramirez@hotmail.com


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