How To Start A Writing Practice (that will last) 

Maybe you’re not someone who’s been writing since you could hold a pencil in your chubby little hand or who has 100 journals in your closet. But maybe you are someone with something to say and an urge to write that just won’t go away—if only you knew how to start. 


It’s never too late to start writing. I didn’t start writing seriously until I went to graduate school in my early 40s. I know plenty of women who published their debut books in their 50s and 60s (myself included). I have a friend who received a six-figure advance from a major publishing house for her debut novel when she was in her 70s, has just sold her second novel at age 81, and is hard at work on her third novel.


If you are in your 20s or 30s, you’re way ahead of the game!


Just imagine—if you start today, six months or a year from now, you can have an impressive stack of pages on your desk. 


Now, imagine this—if you don’t start writing today, there definitely won’t be a stack of pages on your desk six months or a year from now.


Don’t overthink it, just start.


How to get your writing practice started. 

First of all, it’s called a writing practice for a reason—the more you do it, the better you’ll get. Think of it as a habit; the more often you do it, the more you will want to do it. Yes, you may encounter resistance at first, but this will pass in time, and the suggestions in this blog post will help you persist.


Writing every day is ideal; if you can do that, it will serve you well, but many of us find it challenging to achieve or sustain a daily writing practice. We all have busy lives, and it’s essential to be realistic about how much time you can consistently devote to your writing. Consistency is critical, so decide on a goal that you can maintain—whether it’s 2 or 3 mornings a week or every Sunday afternoon. 


You will feel much better about achieving a smaller goal than failing to meet a more ambitious one, and it’s easier to build on small successes than grand failures.  


Once you’ve decided on how much time you can realistically devote to your writing practice, commit it to your calendar and give it the same respect you’d give any important appointment on your schedule.


Whatever writing schedule you set for yourself, make it a habit to think about your writing on your days off.


Keeping a journal is a great way to start a writing practice.


A journal is a great way to get started and can become essential to your writing toolbox. Don’t get hung up on what type of journal to use. It might be a dog-eared notebook that’s been kicking around for years (waiting for you to write in it) or an elegant leather-bound journal. How often you use it is far more important than what it looks like. 


I love looking at beautiful journals in stationery stores, especially in Italy, where they use gorgeous handmade papers. Still, I never buy them because I know I won’t write in them and risk marring their beauty. I’ve always favored full-sized, spiral-bound, lined notebooks from the drugstore, preferably with a stiff cover. 


Your journal is for your eyes only, a safe place to explore your feelings and play around with your writing ideas. 


I highly recommend writing by hand over typing. I believe the head/hand/heart connection to the page helps capture those first thoughts and emotions.


Journaling also has surprising emotional and physical health benefits


Another form of journaling is called Morning Pages, a technique developed by Julia Cameron, the author of The Artist’s Way. 

“Morning Pages are three pages of longhand, stream-of-consciousness writing done first thing in the morning. They are not high art. They are not even “writing.” They are about anything and everything that crosses your mind– and they are for your eyes only. Morning Pages provoke, clarify, comfort, cajole, prioritize, and synchronize the day at hand. Do not over-think Morning Pages: just put three pages of anything on the page…and then do three more pages tomorrow.”


Create a writing space that inspires you to sit down and write.


To see yourself as a writer, you have to see yourself writing, and to see yourself writing, you have to have a place that supports you and your writing.


You might not have an entire room/studio/office, but even just a comfy chair, porch swing, or window seat can support your writing practice if that’s the intention you assign it. I know a woman who wrote many of her early drafts standing at the ironing board because it was the only place her toddlers wouldn’t bother her.


Wherever you go to write, having an inspirational space will make your time spent writing more fun, and you’ll see the benefits in the quality and quantity of what you produce. If you are comfortable, you’ll get into the flow more easily.


I recommend writing in the same place every day as it conditions the brain to know that it’s time to write when you arrive there.


Writing at the same time every day also has a similar effect on the brain.


Taking a writing class can help you establish your writing practice.


Writing classes are the perfect place to get you started, hone your skills, and receive feedback on your work. Most classes will have hard deadlines on homework assignments, providing much-needed accountability.


Writing is a solitary endeavor, and the company of other writers will go a long way in supporting your practice and providing inspiration. 


If you can attend in person, adult education classes at a high school or local community college are great places to find writing classes. There are also many offerings for online classes these days. One of my favorite organizations in Boston is Grub Street 

, where they offer a wide range of writing classes led by top-notch instructors.


Be curious about your process.


“I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious.” 

Albert Einstein


I think we could argue that Einstein did have some “special talent.” Still, he wouldn’t have solved the mysteries of the universe without his unrelenting curiosity. 


Creating a writing practice is the process of finding out what works for you in your life. You might try a writing schedule and find that it doesn’t work for you, and rather than getting discouraged … get curious (rather than critical) about what’s not working and why.


Curiosity gives you permission not to have all the answers, perhaps not even an inkling of what you’re looking for, and it’s guaranteed to take you to unexpected places where you’ll find solutions you might never have thought of. 


If nothing else, there are physical and psychological benefits to embracing curiosity


 Make your writing practice fun.


Here’s a suggestion that’s fun and keeps you connected to your writing practice while you are out and about in the world. It’s called gathering stolen language.


No, I’m not suggesting plagiarism. What I’m suggesting is more akin to eavesdropping. Not exactly listening in on private conversations, but being open to interesting phrases you hear as you go about your day. You can use an expression you hear to jumpstart a story, spice up your dialogue, or simply as a writing prompt. Carry a small notepad and pen that will fit in a pocket or purse, and open your ears to the possibilities that abound.


Here’s one I heard recently while I was in a pet store: A young woman to her male companion: “You can get a rat if I can have an iPhone.” Who are these characters? What’s happening in their story?


Use writing prompts to jumpstart your writing practice.


Whether you are writing a memoir, short story, essay, or novel. A good writing prompt will fire up your imagination and get your words flowing. Prompts are also handy for anyone exploring ideas or trying to get to the heart of an idea.


There are thousands of writing prompts available online and in books. While I’ve used complex and multi-layered prompts over the years, I always come back to short prompts—because they work. They get me going, push me in new directions, and inspire my imagination.


Short writing prompts are perfect for getting you started in your writing practice and are fun and easy.

These prompts can inspire dialogue, scenes, characters, and storylines regardless of genre.


Now that you’ve started your writing practice, what’s next? 


Once you have a solid writing practice in place, attending a writing retreat can be one of the best gifts you will ever give yourself.


There’s nothing like getting away from your daily life and having all your needs taken care of to deepen your writing practice, jumpstart a stalled practice, and get your creative energy flowing.


If you are unable to travel or would benefit from one-on-one attention, consider working with a writing coach. It’s one of the best investments you will make in your writing life. Imagine having someone in your corner to support, guide, encourage, and hold you accountable for your goals.

Start your writing practice today.

Be brave. See yourself as a Writer. 


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2 Responses

  1. All great ideas, thank you. A class, whether online or in person gives me a deadline which I need. If not taking a class, I tend to get distracted by laundry and chores.

  2. I’m glad you found this helpful, it’s so easy to get distracted. Thanks for leaving a comment.

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I’m Kathryn Kay, the founder of A Writer Within. I offer support and inspiration to women writers through one-on-one coaching, editing services, and week-long retreats in Tuscany. My focus is on getting writers into the creative flow, beyond their internal critic, and their very best stories onto the page. If you have a writer within, let’s set her free!

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