Tip 1: Announce your goal, creating accountability
How often did you make plans for tackling that writing project in the past? If you are anything like me, I am sure you have tried several times but have no full draft to show for it.
That is totally fine! But this time is different. This time you will announce your writing process and thereby feel accountable to those who are kind of enough to take an interest in your work.
And by the time the 30 days are up you have created a routine that you will (more likely) stick to beyond the initial 30 days.
A huge shoutout to Angela and Joanna who were quick to announce theirs!
Tip 2: Prepare in advance, this is an important part of the writing process
One of my favorite series of all times is The West Wing, created by Aaron Sorkin. I remember watching those first episodes together with my BFF Charlotte. She was in Berlin, I was at my parents’ place, desperately trying to finish writing my doctoral thesis. “One, two, three”, we would say and hit the play button at the very same time, hundreds of kilometers apart. Then we would watch and talk and eventually muster up the strength to get back to writing our theses. I nearly gave up, right before the finish line, but that is the topic of another story.
Long story short, I recently started watching a Masterclass with Aaron Sorkin, in which he reveals some of his writing habits. He talks about the lengthy process of doing research before he gets to write anything at all. Obviously, he is talking about a complex screenplay. Your writing project probably isn’t nearly as complex. But even for the non-fiction book I am currently writing, I have been spending the past months walking myself to content ideas chapter by chapter. (Mindful walking and writing: Getting fresh thoughts on paper)(Mindful walking and writing: Walk of thoughts)(Walk and write: Memories of the Via Francigena).
I feel ready to sit down in earnest and begin the book writing. TODAY.
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t mean to say you should not write until you have it all figure out. Far from it! You need to write continuously to generate ideas. I have written a lot in the past months to generate ideas but also to warm up my writing muscle (see Tip 3).
Tip 3: Explore your inner voice and keep at it
Aaon Sorkin shares another tip for creating a sound writing habit, which I fully subscribe to: You need to practice writing to get comfortable with your own voice. I actually practiced my English by watching The West Wing, over and over again. I even used this method for practicing my French. An uncountable number of moves later I still have the DVDs in my cellar…
You need to practice your writing to get comfortable with it. If you are lucky, you practice alongside other like-minded writers and read (some of) your texts aloud to one another. There is no better way to learn and to gain confidence (see Tip 8).
Still, it is a process and takes time. Aaron Sorkin compares writing to playing the violin. The more you do it the better you will get at it. This sounds quite obvious for the violin, but it holds true for writing as well. So, keep at it!
For me, blogging has turned out to be my way of finding my voice. Only 12 months before started blogging I wrote an essay about my voice as part of my writing coaching training. I re-read this essay this morning. It ends with:
I will share the full essay with you another time, but suffice to say that just over a year ago I had not found my voice (yet).
Tip 4: Find a time in your calendar that works for you
This tip sounds mundane, but it is just so important. Take a rigorous look at your daily activities. When do you have time for yourself, let alone to write? Through all my failed attempts to establish a writing routine I have learned for myself that I literally need to create that time in my calendar, and the only way I have found to make this happen is to get up earlier (note that I am a morning person, for others it may mean staying up a bit longer).
As of today, I am getting up at 5.30 am. This gives me half an hour for my mindful morning routine and to get warmed up by writing my morning pages. My writing time is between 6 and 6.25 am. Sounds very little, doesn’t it?
Tip 5: Use the pomodoro method and commit to at least one pomodoro of writing daily
Artificially restricting your writing time will make your more efficient. With so little time for your writing (25 minutes a day), who would run twice to the fridge and once to fetch more coffee?! You will not! You will stay focused and just write. After 25 minutes take a five-minute break. Then continue with your day or, if you are one lucky gal, start another “writing pomodoro”.
Tip 6: Don’t waste your precious writing time by staring at a blank page, have a writing prompt handy
Whereas 25 minutes a day are not much, the words will add up. But only if you make use of your 25 minutes for some actual writing, no matter what you will write. If you do feel stuck, take inspiration from a writing prompt, and spend 10-15 minutes on the prompt before moving into writing your story or book or ….
No worries, I have you covered here. I have prepared five days full of writing prompts that will ease you into the writing process by exploring such fun questions like What makes your stomach flutter?
Tip 7: Also, don’t waste your writing time with research
Research is important, very important indeed. But there is also high risk that you use research as an excuse for not writing. Mean tongues may call it procrastination. When it is time to write, write. Do your research, including brainstorming ideas, at other times, for example during the preparation phase (see Tip 2) or during a mindful walking session (see for example my suggestion for a walking-writing combo).
Tip 8: Seek out at least one fellow writing soul
Writing is a lonely business, most of the time. A lot goes on inside your head, and only a fraction will ever make it onto the page. And even less will eventually be read by other people than your mother (if she happens to read the language you are writing in).
My writing soulmate is Maria, who has a beautiful (writing) voice herself and always lifts me up when we speak and share ideas or drafts. Having such a writing buddy or being part of a writing community is both inspiring and, importantly, serves as a net to catch you when you feel that doubt and internal criticism is getting the better part of you.
Thank you, Maria for saying yes two years ago, when we hardly knew each other, but I knew that we are to be writing soulmates!
Tip 9: Start right NOW
OK, there is nothing more to say, nothing else to prepare, no more excuses. There is only an alarm to set for 5.30 in the morning and to take that pen into your hand. Enjoy the process and let’s keep ourselves accountable by sharing our progress. My aim is 25 minutes a day, or roughly 250 words (I downloaded a progress tracker which only lets me specify words rather than minutes). I will be sharing my progress on social media (Facebook) (Instagram) (LinkedIn).
Tip 10: Don’t let your inner censor stop you
Final words: Just write. Don’t overthink it. Don’t erase anything. Most importantly: don’t edit! Contrary to what we learned in school, we should treat the writing and the editing as two separate and consecutive processes. These 30 days are for writing only. The writing is for your eyes only. You will not share it with anyone (apart from your writing soulmate if you feel like it) and you can tell your inner critic to just shut up. Try it out! If nothing else, it will get the blood rushing through your body. And isn’t that what we need, at 5.30 in the morning?
Get your FREE 5-Day writing prompts to begin to explore your inner voice
You can already start now and experience the benefits of writing just 15 minutes a day! Try out this free writing prompt mini-series where you will receive beautifully crafted daily writing exercises for 5 days. At the end of the week and with just 15 minutes a day, you will have written 5 short texts for your diary and explored the power of writing. And you will have enjoyed getting to know yourself a bit better and figured out what makes your stomach flutter!