Writing is hard… Coal mining is harder. Do you think miners stand around all day talking about how hard it is to mine coal? They simply dig. – Cheryl Strayed
We are a few days from drawing curtains on the year 2017. As a writer, how has it been for you? What were your plans at the start of the year about writing? Have you achieved them all?
Writing goals may differ from person to person but some goals cut across for all writers. One of such is to be able to write as frequently and regularly as possible. Was this one of your goals for 2017? If so, we are at that time of the year where you do an introspection and assess your writing year and find out the things you have achieved and the areas for improvement going forward.
In a recent interaction on Faceboolk, my friend Stevie Nii-Adu Mensah who is the author of a children’s book entitled “It’s Cold Oooo” wrote that “…a page a day minimum has been my motto for the length of 2017. Haven’t missed a single day.”
I was impressed by his discipline and so were many other people on the thread. I also found out later that Shaunta Grimes from Ninja Writers has been writing for ten minutes a day for thirteen years. Was I impressed?
You can also be like my friend Nii and Shaunta. How? Let me tell you.
The goal is to have a daily writing habit. You already have the habit of brushing your teeth and taking your bath at least once in a day. You can add writing something a day to the list. Here are tips to help you write daily so writing becomes a habit – a habit you don’t have to think about anymore: you just do it. Every day.
First, set a small daily goal. I have already told you Shaunta Grimes sets a ten-minute daily writing goal. Often, she writes much longer, but her minimum is ten minutes. The emphasis of your goal should not be how much time you write but that you are creating the time to write. It could be a minute or five hours; the time to start is what is most important. Also, do not preoccupy yourself with what to write. If it is one sentence or a phrase you get out while you have the time, it is enough. Look forward to the next day and continue what writers do. It gets better with time.
Where are your writing tools? Do you use a notepad and a pen or you sit by your computer to write? How close these are to you can aid in keeping this habit of writing every day. Leo Babauta, the founder of Zen Habits says concerning developing a running habit, “if your shoes are right next to the door, you don’t have to run around the house looking for them before you leave for a jog”.
When I return from work every day, I set my PC up on my desk or keep it on my bed, turned on. It is easier to wake up and move right to it and type a few words than having to now go and remove it from my bag and set it up. The notepad on my phone also comes in handy when I am in a place my PC is not easily accessible.
The point? As much as possible, reduce the barriers that prevent you from writing. If your writing tools are not within reach, you may never start writing.
My next two points are about suggestions I have read, that you may have also read, but I completely disagree with.
Some people advise that you write at the same time every day and in the same place. It does not work. Write whenever you can and at whatever time you can. You can scribble down thoughts or even complete sentences with an actual writing instrument; you don’t have to have a computer to write. Write when you are waiting at the doctor’s office. Write when you on a bus to work – anywhere, wherever.
“Stop scrolling through Facebook and write, even for only ten minutes”. You have heard that before, haven’t you? I say, if you spend so much time on social media, you might as well you it to your advantage in keeping a writing daily habit. How about you commit yourself to doing some writing on the platforms every day? You don’t have to let people know it’s your writing practice. Just do it.
Do your best not to break the chain. Get an accountability partner. Or, write an X on your calendar for every day you write. Keep your calendar where you can see it to remind yourself to not break the chain of X’s.
Keeping this habit is not as easy as I may be making it sound. Writing is not a joke and it’s not for lazy people. This is where my opening quote from Cheryl Strayed comes in. You don’t have to look up to read it. Here it is again.
“Writing is hard. . . Coal mining is harder. Do you think miners stand around all day talking about how hard it is to mine for coal? They do not. They simply dig.”
Dig into your writing. You are a writer and you have a job to do. Write.
Your writing life in 2018 will get better if you commit yourself to the habit of writing. You can write in your journal; you can write a story to submit to several platforms that will be willing to publish them. Don’t slack. You can do this!
And hey! Don’t wait till January 1 to start building this habit of daily writing. Start now! Time no dey!