Writing Habit

Developing the Writing Habit

The hardest part about writing is that first word, but there are ways to make that step easier. Eliminating physical and psychological barriers will help.

Writers write. Good intentions don’t count. The good news is that writers don’t have any magic power that enables them to write. They simply find ways to overcome the barriers between intent and action, and there are ways for anyone to take care of that. The problem is basic physics: an object at rest tends to stay at rest. The trick is to minimize the inertia, which in this case means making the transition from not writing to actively writing as easy as possible.

Simplify the Physical Aspects

The more steps there are between you and that first word, the harder it is to get started. Getting the computer ready, or finding your pen and notebook are barriers that make putting off writing easier. To counter that, make a point of turning on your computer and opening your writing program, or make sure there’s an open notebook with a pen clipped on it near where you will be sitting during the day, multiple notebooks in multiple locations is even better.

If jotting down an idea simply means bringing the program to the front or reaching arm’s length to grab the notebook, the odds that it will happen go up significantly. Apply the concept to whatever your writing situation is. Minimize the physical complications.

Simplify the Psychological Aspects

Most writers are concerned with quality, and that’s a good idea as an eventual goal. As a place to start, it’s murder. Writing well requires revision. Get used to it, and accept it as a natural, even fun, act. Since you’ll have to revise anyway, forget about the quality of the first draft or first scribble. Most of it, maybe all of it, is going to get trashed anyway.

Be willing to write garbage if that’s what it takes to get words on paper. You can’t revise what doesn’t exist. Maybe the whole thing is garbage, or maybe it picks up near the end. Either way, you have something to work with now or later, and even more important is the fact that you’re in motion. You have momentum to use.

Since writing this way is going to produce errors anyway, write quickly, minimal thought. Put your time, thought and energy into the revision once you have something on paper (or screen). Start by writing the way a little kid plays, with joy and reckless abandon.

Perhaps the biggest psychological block comes from worries about grammar, all the technical details in writing. Yes, spelling and punctuation are important when the writing is ready for other readers, but until then they simply don’t matter (as long as you can read your own writing). When you’re concentrating on getting something written and developing the habit of writing, it doesn’t matter if you write sideways, backwards or misspell every single word. Since most of this writing will get revised or set aside as practice pieces, you don’t even have to worry about the time needed to correct those errors. To get started, concentrate on freedom, fun, and speed.

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