31 Mar

7 Tips For Building a Writing Habit

Posted in DIY MFA, Process, Writing

One of the fundamental concepts behind DIY MFA is that the program starts with you.  All the creativity, effort and success comes from and goes back to you.  Sure, I can show you some options or suggest some places to start, but ultimately, you are the driving force behind your DIY MFA.  All I’m doing is helping you get started; the rest is up to you.

And that can be kind of scary.

After all, it’s easy to follow instructions and work within an established framework, but do-it-yourself isn’t like that.  It can be terrifying to forge your own path, and sometimes structure can be comforting, even for us free-spirited creative types. 

So what do we do when there is no structure?  We develop a writing habit.  And how exactly do we develop and nurture this habit?  Here are some easy tips.

1) Take baby steps.  Try not to push yourself too hard at first because if you do, you’ll be more likely to face burnout later on.  The goal is for your writing habit to be sustainable in the long run, so don’t go for a huge overhaul.  Instead try to make a handful of small, significant changes that will make a big impact on your writing down the road.

2) Give yourself permission to make mistakes.  Building a habit is like being a constant newbie at something.  After all, as soon as you get comfortable, you take another baby step toward your goal.  This means resting on your laurels is never an option, which is why it’s so important to allow yourself the freedom to make mistakes.  Remember that mistakes are inevitable; you might as well learn how to bounce back.

3) It’s OK to have fun.  Many of us have had the idea that writing is “work” rammed into our heads.  This is why when we start having fun with writing it’s hard to believe we’re actually working.  But we are; we’re just having fun at it.  It’s OK for writing to be fun and just because it feels more like play than work doesn’t make it any less worthy.

4) Real writers write when it’s hard.  Writing when it’s easy is, well… easy, but when it stops being fun, you still need to write.  The thing that separates true writers from the wannabes is what happens when the writing becomes tough.  Wannabes quit when it stops being fun, true writers work through the pain.
5) When you fall off the horse, dust yourself off and try again.  Don’t waste precious energy beating yourself up for missing a few days of writing.  Just tell yourself “it’s a new day” and start fresh.

6) Find out what’s causing writer’s block.  If have a string of bad writing days, take a few moments to reevaluate and figure out why that might be happening.  Maybe you’ve been over-stressed or over-tired.  Maybe you’ve got a lot on your plate right now.  Think about how you can adjust your writing habit to account for the hurdles you’re facing.  Once you’ve come up with a plan, let go of the past and move forward toward your goals.

7) Take the day off, now and then.  And when you do, don’t spend the whole time feeling guilty because you’re not writing.  If you need a day off, make a conscious decision not to write, then go about your life.

In the end, it’s all about being a more mindful writer.  Don’t let the past and future moments dictate whether you’re able to write in the present.  Learn from past experiences or mistakes but don’t let them haunt you.  When you’re writing, write.  When you’re not writing, live your life.


Comments on this post

  1. Jenny Torres Sanchez says:

    Fantastic advice, Gabi! Thanks for posting. I especially love tip#4 to write when it's hard. So much of a well crafted story happens after the initial fun, after the great idea. But persistence does pay off!

    1. Jake Henegan says:

      I've always had trouble actually keeping a writing habit. I normally start off well and then it filters off into nothingness, so I think #1 is most applicable.
      Thanks for the tips, maybe it'll help me keep in my habit this time around.

      1. J.C. Martin says:

        Great advice. #7 is new to me…my first writing days off is planned for the summer when I'm on honeymoon…although I'm still planning on sneaking some writing time in! 😉

        1. Kerryn Angell says:

          I would add EXPERIMENT. Not just within writing but with your personal writing structure as well. This year has become all about finding out how I work best to keep a clear commitment so I can write when it gets hard but also take time off so I can stay fresh and excited about writing.

          The taking time off thing has been a recent lightbulb moment. I wrote a minimum of 100-150 words every day for 40-odd days straight. Now I think I would rather write 500 words for 4-5 days out of the week. Not only will I not feel the demand of writing when life takes over a day but it will be more productive.

          Most of all I find that approaching writing as an experiment doesn't leave room for getting it wrong or failing. When you don't know what the outcome will be then you only take what you learn from it and the fact that you've learnt something is guaranteed success.

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