Are you struggling to maintain your daily writing and blogging habit? I’m not surprised, given the current state of the world.
Everyone is dealing with the constant onslaught of disturbing news updates. The world seems unpredictable and unsafe. When the COVID-19 pandemic started, self-isolation and social-distancing mandates from the government likely shattered your regular routine, but they may still be affecting you. And then there are the riots, political races, and more…
It’s no wonder your natural writing rhythm has been disrupted, and that’s playing havoc with your productivity. Your writing habit, like mine, has likely disappeared.
I felt unsettled during the first few days of my self-imposed isolation, and I procrastinated instead of writing. I knew I needed to find tools and techniques to establish and maintain a daily writing habit if I wanted to manifest stability and continue to publish blogs consistently.
If you’re disappointed or frustrated by your lack of writing output, don’t be too hard on yourself. It’s perfectly normal to feel distracted when the world continues to change beyond all recognition, and uncertainty has become a normal emotional state.
And take heart. Despite everything going on, you can level up your writing productivity and get back to blogging consistently. Here are some tools that will help you do just that.
Tools for a Daily Writing Habit
I’m obsessed with Scrivener as a writing tool and use it for 80% of my writing. Although this tool allows you to set session and project word count and timeline targets, these weren’t providing me with enough motivation to create a writing habit.
So, I signed up to 750 Words at the end of February. Even though the accountability provided is passive, it has been enough to consistently write daily writing, so writing has once again become a habit.
Since the site, 750 Words, knows providing writers with a platform to write Morning Pages isn’t enough to create a habit, it also offers multiple levels of positive reinforcement. These help you create and maintain your writing habit.
For instance, I get an X every day I achieve my 750 word-count target and a blank box if I miss it. I get badges for progress and achievements. When I hit my daily word-count target or write without getting distracted, I’m congratulated with a “well done.”
Sign a digital Challenge Contract to participate in 750 Word’s monthly writing challenges. If you write every day, your name is included on their Wall of Awesomeness; miss a day, and it’s added to their Wall of Shame. (Yes, positive punishment is a valid reinforcer!) They also award points based on how much you write.
During my first month with 750 Words, I forgot to write one day. I’m kicking myself for ruining my winning streak and missing out on an X in the box. But that gap spurred me on rather than discouraged me.
750 Words offers a month free trial; after that, it’s $5 per month. When my trial subscription ran out, I became a member to participate in the next month’s challenge.
If you’re prone to editing your work and fixing spelling mistakes and grammar as you type, avoid online tools like Hemingway, Grammarly, or (my favorite) ProWritingAid. All of these are useful tools for improving your writing, but they’re not the right tool to use if you want to develop a daily writing habit. Instead, give Ilys a test run.
Ilys presents you with a black screen and only displays one letter at a time when you type. It’s initially disconcerting to write this way, but it stops you from editing as you type. You set a word count target before you begin your session. As soon as you reach your target, your content becomes available for editing.
Ilys is currently waiving the $9 per month fee; it’s free to use until the end of 2020.
Techniques for a Daily Writing Habit
Morning Pages are stream-of-consciousness writing, also known as freewriting, and provide an opportunity to write about anything playing on your mind. It helps you process any concerns or anxiety you’re feeling, especially those that might distract you from writing productively.
I started on 750 Words by freewriting and wrote whatever popped into my mind. With this daily assignment, it doesn’t matter if your writing goes off in a different direction or on multiple tangents. The key is to get words out of your mind and onto the page or screen. This approach helps process your thoughts and ideas and is useful for putting a stop to obsessing about a specific idea or train of thought. The process of writing about that thought, idea, or worry, releases it.
But after two weeks, I wanted to write more intentionally and began freewriting chapter outlines from my in-progress memoir. This is a deviation from the concept of Morning Pages, but my priority was to create a daily writing habit.
My recommendation is not to over-think the morning Morning Pages process. Sit down and write. Don’t edit, don’t censor—just write what you want to write.
I love seeing my daily word count progress and the cumulative word count grow via 750 Words. On average, my sessions take 15-18 minutes to reach my daily freewriting target.
Some days I stop when I’ve passed my daily word count target. On other days, the inspiration grabs me, and I just keep writing.
One day I used my phone to dictate my Morning Pages. It took me 12 minutes to reach 750 words, a valuable reminder about the efficiency of your voice vs. your fingers.
I write even when I don’t feel inspired to write, and those days often turn out to be the most productive. The floodgates open, and the words come tumbling out. The most I wrote in a single session was two-thousand words, which took me just under an hour with no distractions.
I use these Morning Pages as the writing equivalent of a workout at the gym. They loosen up my writing muscles and motivate me to continue writing throughout the day on other projects.
By anchoring this new habit at the beginning of the day, I’ve overcome procrastination and developed, as well as maintained, a daily writing habit.
Taking Back Control
You can’t change what’s going on externally, but you can change your reaction to it. When you take back control of your life by creating and maintaining a new daily habit, it reduces stress levels and provides an outlet for your creativity.
William Arthur Ward summed it up best:
The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails. It is the set of the sails, not the direction of the wind that determines which way we will go. We cannot direct the wind, but we can adjust the sails.
Be a realist—adjust your sails.
How have you maintained your writing habit and take back control in these uncertain times? Let me know by leaving a comment below. And share this article to inspire others to make the same positive change.
About the Author
Jay Artale abandoned her corporate career to become a digital nomad and full-time writer. She’s an avid blogger and a nonfiction author helping travel writers and travel bloggers achieve their self-publishing goals. Join her at Birds of a Feather Press where she shares tips, advice, and inspiration to writers with an independent spirit.
Photo courtesy of lightfieldstudios