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For "Would-Be" Writers: How to Make Writing a Habit

Updated on August 15, 2014
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Dr. Middlebrook is a fiction/non-fiction writing coach, author (pen name Beax Rivers), virtual trainer, and former university professor.

As a writer, I know how hard it is not only to cultivate the discipline it takes to put pen to paper (or finger to word processor!), but also to find the time you need every day to write. If you've decided, finally, to write the book you've always wanted to write, you're probably finding that it can be hard adding writing to all the thing you do while managing your day. It might be next to impossible, as far as you can see, to give your all to a new writing project that only you may think is important, and that may actually be important only to you. But one thing is for sure: If you are going to write a book, no matter what kind of book it is, you will need to develop a writing habit.

There are probably many things and people you have to juggle, especially if you have a job and/or family obligations competing for your time. And I know it is going to be hard to find the time you need, especially in the beginning, to develop a writing habit. It's not easy, and believe me, I know it's not. But I’ve discovered that one of the most important things you can do when embarking upon a new writing project is to make sure you spend at least some time, every day, writing. You don't have to have a whole lot of time, at first, when you're trying to develop a writing habit. You may not even have devote big chunks of time that you can devote to your project in the beginning. Then again, you may have more time to write some days than you will have on other days. Work with the time you have. At this stage, it is much more important for you to develop a writing habit that you feed every day, no matter how much time you have to feed it, than it is to have a set amount of time every day devoted to writing your book. Don't feel defeated that you can't devote one, two, or three hours a day to your writing. In the beginning, just be sure to devote some time to it, every day.

Many experts will say that you should try to spend an hour or two each day writing. They will often recommend a ritualistic routine to provide you with the time and the regimen you need to write a book. And while I agree with this advice, in theory, in the practical work-a-day world, I know it can be next to impossible to keep such “dreamlike” reality going on in your own “reality” for more than a few days. That’s why I recommend that you write when you can, for as much time as you can, every day. If you have only thirty minutes on Monday to devote to writing, then spend thirty minutes writing. If you have an hour on Tuesday while your spouse and kids are out of the house, then on that day, spend an hour completely absorbed in writing. My point is, I believe it’s better to spend thirty minutes or an hour of quality time getting written something you’ve been itching to write about all day, than to become frustrated because you can’t regularly find two or three hours of time for writing. If you’re like me, the stress and the frustration will only make you come to dread the very idea of having to find time to write, and you’ll soon abandon your dream of writing.

I believe in a more “home grown” approach, if you will, to writing your book. What I mean is, only you know how your home operates. Only you know your schedule, your responsibilities and how you prefer to handle them, your family or work obligations, and so on, and so on. So that means only you are the expert at coming up with how and when you might be able to insert writing your book into your day. I try my best to incorporate time management best practices, to make time for my many writing projects. By doing this, I am usually able to carve out quite a bit of quiet time within the chaos that often is my day. I enjoy working this way, so now I’m going to share with you a few of my time management favorites. I hope that you’ll find these helpful:

1. Prioritize where possible. On the weekend, take a few moments to think about the week ahead. Make a list, first, of the things you must do. Next, write down the things you want to do, and finally, the things you’ll do if you have the time. Once the week begins, spend the bulk of your time and energy on those things that are “musts,” and get as many of the other things done as possible, if they are really important to you.

2. Chop, chop. Whenever possible, chop big tasks into a series of smaller tasks, and then work at the smaller tasks in intervals, until the big task is nothing but a memory.

3. Set time limits. Give yourself a set amount of time—for example, 10 or 15 minutes, to perform tasks you hate. For example, I hate vacuuming. I set my oven timer, and then I only vacuum for 10 minutes at a time. If more vacuuming is needed, after spending time doing something else … anything else, I will devote another 10 minutes to vacuuming. Get it? Give yourself time limits and stick to them, for those must-do tasks that you absolutely hate.

4. Never waste a waiting moment. Any time you find yourself somewhere waiting on something, if possible, use that time to write or to plan what you want to write. I keep a notepad with me at all times so that I can jot down ideas that might come to mind while I’m waiting for something else.

5. Phone Fasting. The telephone can be the biggest time waster of all, so learn to see your phone as a tool to be used only for those “must have” conversations. Don’t allow other people to determine what you will do with your time. If it’s important or necessary to talk to someone by phone or email, then by all means, do. But if the call is one that is really more “nothing” than “something,” then either let the rings go to Voice Mail, or learn how to kindly and gently shut the conversation down quickly.

The thing I find most fascinating about beginning the process of writing something is that the more you work on it, the easier it becomes and the more you enjoy it. When that happens, you’ll search for and you'll find more ways you can arrange/rearrange your day to make the time you need for your writing project. And it doesn’t really matter what you’re writing. It might be a work of fiction, or it could be the first chapter of your autobiography. As you discover ways to carve out time for your writing, the easier it will become to find the time to write, and the easier it will become to get the words out and on paper.

This process works, no matter what type of writing project you're working on. If you’re more inclined to write poetry or a mystery novel than you are to compile your family’s history, then this is still the Hub for you. Why? Because the tips for managing your day to include writing will work for any writer. The operative word is w-r-i-t-e!

Be sure to stay tuned to my Hub pages as I will spend more time, in the future, talking and offering more tips about writing and about self-publishing what you write. No matter what you want to write and publish. My Hubs will always encourage and inspire you and writers of all skill levels to find time to think and plan with regard to what you think you want to write. I will always encourage "would-be" writers to find time, every day, for writing--whether you have only several minutes or several hours you can devote to this craft you say you want to love. That way, not only will you be making time every day for writing, you will also be working on becoming a stronger writer. And, the stronger you become as a writer, the more likely it becomes that you will stick with your writing project until it is completed.

Be on the lookout for other Hubs I've written on topics related to the craft, and the love, of writing.

© 2012 Sallie B Middlebrook PhD

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    • drmiddlebrook profile image
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      Sallie B Middlebrook PhD 3 years ago from Texas, USA

      Thank you chakravarthyds for your visit and comments. It is always "uplifting" for me, as a writer, to know that something I've written has helped or has touched a good note with someone, somewhere. The bottom line is, if writing is something you love, you will find a way to do it. No matter what else I have on my plate to do everyday, I'm always looking for that "space" in my day, when I can write.

    • chakravarthyds profile image

      Chakravarthy D S 3 years ago from India

      Great post,

      The five tips that you mentioned are really good, especially "never waste a waiting moment'. Since people get bored while waiting, you can jot down some important points for your next blog post.

      You can also write down the outline or the basic structure .

      Thanks for the post.

    • drmiddlebrook profile image
      Author

      Sallie B Middlebrook PhD 5 years ago from Texas, USA

      Thank you so much M. T. Dremer. I see you live in the same "real world" that I live in. There's just not always a big block of time waiting for me to use as I please, every day, so I learned to "catch as catch can!" And you're right, it works! Thanks for reading!

    • M. T. Dremer profile image

      M. T. Dremer 5 years ago from United States

      Cell phones and the internet are definitely huge time wasters. I cut out facebook for a week and got infinitely more work done because of it. I used to think that I also needed a giant block of time (2-3 hours) to get anything productive done, but when I forced myself to write for those short 10-15min periods, I discovered that some of my best ideas came out of those little bursts of work. Great hub, voted up!

    • drmiddlebrook profile image
      Author

      Sallie B Middlebrook PhD 5 years ago from Texas, USA

      Thanks for those comments MelChi. That was one of my first Hubs, ever. I went back to it today and added pics, made a few revisions, to spruce it up in case your post gets others interested in reading it. Thanks so much!

    • MelChi profile image

      Melanie Chisnall 5 years ago from Cape Town, South Africa

      This is amazing advice! I've decided to write during my lunch hour at work and so far it's been working really well. Thanks for the tips :)

    • drmiddlebrook profile image
      Author

      Sallie B Middlebrook PhD 5 years ago from Texas, USA

      Great to hear from you, ytsenoh. Your phone habits sound a lot like mine. I learned a long time ago to curb my enthusiasm when it comes to the phone, because it is next to impossible to do anything else while you're talking on the phone. I'm a multi-tasker, so I had to find a way to put the phone in its place. And you're right, once writing becomes a priority, you find the time/make the time, to write.

    • ytsenoh profile image

      Cathy 5 years ago from Louisiana, Idaho, Kauai, Nebraska, South Dakota, Missouri

      Thanks for this hub. Writing is a priority daily for me, so there are no distractions. I never talk on the phone...that was replaced by e-mail and texting, both of which I do when necessary. Phone calls have even been replaced to a degree at the office. Once you make writing a priority, you work around how to get the other things done like laundry.