Need some tips to refresh your writing practice?
Is that a resounding yes, I hear?
Let’s get started!
#1 Write as often as you can
If you write every day, that’s fantastic, but most of us don’t, and setting that goal can lead to discouragement and inertia when you slip up and miss a day …. or two …. or three. Life happens, appointments come up, people get sick and need your help, or the sunshine beckons.
If you want to develop a writing practice, rather than deciding to write for 3 hours every day right out of the gate, you might want to start with one hour/3 times a week or twice a week for 2 hours and build on this.
Once you’ve comfortably met this goal, you may find you are itching for more, and you can increase the time and frequency. But, remember to take baby steps—there’s a fine line between realistic and unrealistic, and you don’t want to feel defeated by taking a giant step before you are ready. Your motivation around writing will waver, but if your routine is consistent, it will carry you forward.
#2 Write in the same place every day
You have to see yourself as a writer, and to see yourself as a writer, you have to see yourself writing, and to see yourself writing, you need to have a place that supports you and your writing. If you have a place you like to write, whether in bed, at the kitchen table, in your office, at a cafe, I recommend embracing that space as the place you write. By doing this, you are programming your brain to know that it’s time to work when you arrive at this place.
If possible, writing at the same time every day will also support the message that it’s time to write.
Having a space you love and find inspiring will go a long way in making your writing time enjoyable and more productive.
Of course, the bottom line is to write whenever and wherever you can
#3 Visualize yourself writing
Again, we’re talking about seeing yourself as a writer and, most importantly, actually writing. Visualization is the practice of imagining what you want to achieve in the future as if it were true today. It involves using all five senses—sight, smell, touch, taste, and hearing. Visualizing gives your subconscious details about the goal you have in mind. When you visualize consistently, it reminds the brain, and your brain will begin to respond as if that outcome were true in the present moment. And soon it will be.
See yourself in your writing space, imagine how it feels as your hands fly over the keyboard or your pen glides across the page, and experience satisfaction when you meet your goal. Remember to employ all the senses in this visualization (just as you should in your writing).
Visualization is a powerful tool and, if done regularly, will enhance your chances of success. It is also a great practice to revisit whenever you feel blocked or are doubting yourself.
#4 Unplug from your screens
There’s no way to sugarcoat this directive—you must unplug when you sit down to write if you want to engage with the creative flow and produce quality work. Yes, silence your phone, or even better, leave it in another room. If your computer and phone are synched, you need to go into your settings and disconnect so your text and calls aren’t showing up on your screen while you write.
If it’s any consolation, I recommend listening to music (without lyrics) that you find inspiring. I like the Mozart Clarinet Concertos, and, after listening to them constantly while writing my novel, my brain is now conditioned to work whenever that music is playing.
It’s worth taking the time to set up an inspiring writing space.
#5 Set your writing goals
Having goals is critical. Without specific goals, you are simply hoping you’ll hit the mark at some point …. somehow …. someday.
Determine what a realistic goal might be. Realistic is the keyword here. Creating unrealistic goals that you can’t meet will undermine your confidence and create more stress.
Start small and build on your success.
You can read more about setting goals and sustaining your writing practice here.
#6 Read your writing out loud
This step might be one you are inclined to skip—don’t! It might feel silly at first, but you’ll get used to it. Trust me. It will improve your writing every time you do it, as it’s one of the best ways to identify issues.
Your brain is focused on making meaning out of your ideas when you are writing, and when you read over your work silently, your brain is still working on the meaning and easily misses typos.
When you read aloud, the brain slows down because we speak more slowly than we can read and can better identify typos, poor word choices, incomplete thoughts, awkward pacing, etc.
#7 Remember to breathe
When was the last time you thought about your breathing? It’s something your body does automatically, right? I always begin my workshops with a few rounds of deep breathing to center the body and mind and make sure everyone is present in the moment. It’s not uncommon for humans to hold their breath when concentrating, and I often remind my student to breathe as they’re writing.
Deepening the breath promotes oxygen flow to the brain, promoting awareness, focus, and motivation. If you are looking for inspiration, you need to breathe.
#8 Write now, edit later
No one has a good first draft, which is why they are often referred to as rough drafts because they are just that—rough. A first draft aims to get your story on the page in all its messy glory, and I often encourage both beginning and seasoned writers to write by hand. Okay, maybe you don’t want to write your entire first draft by hand (some well-known authors do), but I encourage you to give it a try when setting a scene or fleshing out an idea or character.
It’s often easier to capture those first thoughts with a moving pen that’s a direct physical extension of your heart and brain. Write quickly and freely and get those thoughts down on the page without interruption. There is much less temptation to go back and edit than there is on a keyboard.
Editing, in general, is much more successful when done in bulk rather than piecemeal as you go along. When you are ready to edit, make sure you’ve given your writing some time to breathe before going back over it (Stephen King suggests six weeks away from a piece of work before editing).
#9 Find support
Creating accountability is immensely helpful in meeting your writing goals, and writing with other people can provide this. You might:
- Join a writing group
- Find a writing partner
- Take a class
- Attend a workshop or writing retreat
- Work with a writing coach
If you can find a writing partner with similar goals, this is a great way to establish accountability. Make sure to find someone whose writing you admire and whom you trust to be both honest and kind—and who will hold you accountable to your goals.
Joining a writing group with a regular schedule for presenting work is an excellent place to find accountability.
Writing classes typically have hard deadlines on homework assignments and provide helpful feedback and valuable tools.
Getting away to a distraction-free writing retreat where all your needs are taken care of will provide you with support, accountability, and inspiration.
If you are serious about your goals and can afford to, hiring a personal writing coach is one of the best ways to nurture your practice and elevate your writing. You’ll receive undivided attention, guidance, support, and accountability.
#10 Read books on creative writing
I go through phases of reading books on writing, and it’s always time well spent. Reading books on writing can give you a fresh perspective, remind you why you love writing, and provide much-needed, perhaps long-forgotten, tools while providing a pleasant respite from your work. There are hundreds of books on writing, so I’ve pared it down to my top 5 favorites, which have stood the test of time. In no particular order:
- On Writing by Stephen King,
- Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg
- Bird By Bird by Annie Lamott
- Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craft by Janet Burroway
- Writing From The Heart by Nancy Aronie
#11 Be kind to yourself
This article promised ten tips, but I couldn’t finish without including this bonus tip.
Writing is a solitary endeavor, and you are the # 1 person who’s there to lend support, so be kind to yourself. Acknowledge your successes, however small, and speak to yourself with kindness and compassion, the way you would talk to a dear friend.
Accept that you have an inner critic but not what it tells you. If you need some tips on quieting your inner critic, you’ll find them here.
I’d love to hear from you. Please leave comments and questions in the comments box below.