Perhaps you fancy yourself a writer, but as much as the activity calls to you, you’re not fulfilling the first dictum of being a writer: writers write. What’s up with that?
We could dig deep into analyzing the causes of your avoidance, perhaps uncovering some limiting belief that is holding you back. But I’m reading this book by Mike Dooley called Leveraging the Universe. Dooley has a refreshing take on beliefs. Rather than rooting out beliefs that no longer serve you, he advocates simply installing new ones. It is a simple approach and it elegantly solves the most pernicious aspect of limiting beliefs: many of them reside in our subconscious.
Okay, but I’m getting off track here. You said you wanted to be a writer. So what belief do you need to install? Simple: I’m a writer. Next, according to Dooley, you’ll want to back that up with action. Writers write. So, how do we get you going on that? I have seven steps to help you create a reliable writing habit.
1) Leverage Habit Stacking
This technique borrows the momentum you have already created with one habit to develop a new habit. All you have to do is attach your new habit to the old one. What time of day would you like to be writing? Find some reliable habit that you do daily around that time. It might be having your morning beverage of choice, brushing your teeth, or your exercise routine. Resolve to add writing to the routine.
I’ve personally had great success by attaching writing to my regular morning routine, which I wrote about here.
2) Set a Word Count Goal
I find it helpful to set a word count goal. Whenever I’m having trouble writing anything, I always tell myself just give me 100 words. Almost always, the next thing I know, I’ve got 500 words because writing creates its own momentum. You just need to start. I like 500 words as a starting point for creating a daily habit. It’s a nice, satisfying number. About two pages.
3) Create a Ritual
There’s something primal about a ritual. I think we tap into a sacred space when we engage in ritual. It’s like we are connecting with the realm of all other writers (living and dead) and participating in an eternal act. So, to create a sense of ritual, think in terms of sameness. This might include:
4) Establishing a Space
It’s beneficial to always write in the same space. That way, when you enter into your writer’s space physically you can do so at a metaphorical level too. It puts your system on alert: time to write.
If you tend to work on your laptop around the house, what’s your most comfortable space where you get your best thinking done? If need to leave the house, what’s your favorite setting?
Attend to all the details. I do all my writing in my office and I like to have inspirational little touches that stoke my imagination: favorite cards, whimsical little figurines that have meaning for me, and a rabbit holding a magnifying glass that I picked up on a road trip.
5) Find Your Favorite Writing Implement
This might be a pen or it could be the writing environment that you create on your computer. For example, I like to do most of my writing in the font Palatino. But I often change the font up by project. Or, when starting a new draft of my novel, I’ll select a new font to reinforce the sense that I’m stepping into something new.
6) Create a Special Playlist
I love listening to music while I write and I’m lucky because it doesn’t have to be instrumental. I like to create a unique playlist for each project that I’m working on—sort of like a soundtrack for the project. I find that the rhythms of the music helps my creative process and pushes my momentum forward. iTunes and Spotify are great tools for creating a playlist.
Those last three tips were about creating your physical environment. Now for the most important tip:
7) Manage Your Mental Space
You will be most productive, and have the most fun with your writing, when you write while in the Flow. The Flow is where you will find your momentum and creativity. Your self-consciousness about your writing slips away and you’re just doing it. You’re cranking out the words with so much fun and satisfaction that you lose track of time.
You’ve experienced this before—probably with your writing. I’m betting it’s why you say you want to write because you know this place and its exquisiteness. But it may also be why you don’t write: because you’ve found this Flow to be elusive and it’s too painful to try writing when you’re not in the Flow.
Entering the Flow state has been described for centuries. In Homer’s time, it was known as invoking the Muse. The Muses are Greek goddesses of literature, science, and the arts. They provide inspiration for the practitioner and have spawned wonderful words such as the verb to muse, music, and museum. By invoking the Muse, you acknowledge the universe’s role in sparking your creativity. To be in a state of appreciation is to resonate with the highest emotional frequencies.
Homer offered a prayer to the Muse. How shall you invoke her? Add something to your ritual which calls forth her inspiration.
So, if you want to be a writer, first believe yourself to be one and then write! Let me know if you found any of these ideas helpful.