Today, Mo Issah is my guest writer. He shares on subject that is important, I believe, to all writers. He’s instructive with his suggestions and they have worked for him. I know you will learn so much from this article.
Creativity and writing will always play a significant role in my life. I need to write to survive the constant battles between my mind and soul. However, as most creatives know, it’s not easy to create a consistent practice free of distractions. I’ve developed the following seven steps that have helped me immensely with my writing habit:
- Get your creative work out first thing in the morning
For me, the mornings are magical and quiet, making it easier to focus on what’s hardest to do with a full tank of energy.
Stephen Covey’s famous large glass jar metaphor comes to mind. When filling the jar, always start with the big rocks, then add the smaller pebbles, grains, sand and finally water, in that order. Do it in a different sequence, and the jar will be half-empty.
The big rocks always come first.
On weekdays, I rise at 5 am, do my morning rituals, and then start writing by 6 am. On Saturdays, I usually wake a little later and start my writing by 9 am. On Sundays, I try not to write anymore. Instead, spend the mornings reading.
- Have a specific goal in mind
We all know that for goals to work, they must be SMART. (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound.)
I will write for 60-75 minutes every morning, allowing a few minutes midway through my writing to stretch. This writing also includes my three-page journalling at the start, which then turbo boosts my creativity.
I aim for 500-750 words per day. This means I can get one or two articles and some words on the current chapter of the book that I’m writing.
If I keep honest with my practice, I’d be on target for 52 articles a year and one book a year.
- Create a writing environment
I meditate for twenty minutes as soon as I’m up. I then make myself a double espresso coffee and sit my butt on the same chair facing a large empty desk overlooking the garden.
I then open the window to the sounds of the early morning chirping and twittering from the birds outside. Or, I put on noise-cancelling headphones and listen to neoclassical music. (It’s usually the same playlist I listen to repeatedly until months later I finally get bored of it and find a new one.)
- No distractions
To produce quality work, we need focus. But, unfortunately, the deluge of information and non-stop interruptions we face in our current world means that focus has become a herculean feat of will.
Our brain has a limited amount of energy that it can use for focus. And as we use its resources for other less menial tasks, we get mentally tired. So how can you bring out what comes from deep in your psyche when you are stopped by something or another every few minutes?
Whenever I’m planning to write, whether an hour or four, I cut internet and email and put my phone in another room. I also lock my door so no one is allowed to enter.
- Prep for the next day’s writing and avoid procrastination.
After my day’s writing is done, I often leave a short note of what I’ll be writing the next day. It could be a sentence or a few bullet points.
The point is that the next day, I look at my screen and know what I will write about and won’t end up procrastinating and looking for distractions.
Hemingway said it best when he said: “The best way is always to stop when you are going good and when you know what will happen next. If you do that every day when you are writing a novel, you will never be stuck. That is the most valuable thing I can tell you, so try to remember it.”
- Write to publish
From the outset, set an intention that your article, essay or book will be published. Then go through the process of a first draft, rewriting and finally either posting the blog or submitting the manuscript.
We learn and grow by action and accountability. If there is no pressure to publish, then we remain nothing but amateurs.
True, there is a lot of rubbish being published everywhere on the internet, but at least the writers are putting themselves out there. They are in the ‘arena,’ allowing themselves to be mercilessly criticised. At least, if their work is not good enough, they have the chance to learn from it.
- Reward yourself after writing
Writing is not easy. Completing your ‘big rock’ task is no mean feat and needs to be celebrated. It need not be opening a champagne bottle or going on a shopping spree. Instead, something small, like dancing to a favourite song or allowing yourself ten minutes of free roaming on Instagram.
For me, I am allowing myself to bask in the glory of my inner contentment while listening to my favourite song of the week (This week, it’s an old favourite; Travis’s Sing).
I’ve been consistent with my writing practice for over a month now, and I can already see its positive effect on me. I’m more alive and feel purposeful in most of the things that I do. Not just the writing.
However, everyone’s practice may look different. Some may drink tea instead of coffee, do Yoga before starting their writing. For example, a writer I know loves going to a cafe daily to write and be amidst people and the noise there.
Whether you write, draw, paint, dance or program, we all need to devise our consistent creative practice that feels comfortable, focused and consistent.
Now, what does your creative/writing practice look like?
As always, I would like to hear from you about what you have read. Until next time, it can only get better. We can only get better.