Developing a healthy writing habit is not easy, it takes discipline. Once you get into a groove, writing on a schedule will improve your skills and increase your writing portfolio. However, how does one develop this habit while working full-time and raising a family? I’ll hold your hand and we can explore some tactics together. You can do this.
Set goals – one long-term and several short-term goals.
Your first step in developing a writing habit is to set a goal. Like exercise, the motivation is stronger if you have something to aim for (like swimsuit season, a wedding, or a race). Therefore, think of a goal. Do you want to finish your novel or write a novella, or maybe just write a few short stories? Set a long-term goal for yourself and then start planning.
Your short-term goals will build towards the long-term goal. Start by breaking your writing project down into smaller pieces–a year, months, weeks, and then days. A journey starts with the first few steps, so let’s plot a course and do some math.
The average novel length is between 78,000-90,000 words. Let’s shoot for somewhere in the middle and set a goal of 80,000 words.
80,000 divided by 52 weeks roughly comes to 1,540 words per week.
1,540 words times four weeks comes to 6,160 words per month.
1,540 words divided by seven days comes to 220 words per day.
Make a schedule that works with your crazy life.
Now that we have those numbers, let’s make a decent short-term schedule for an individual who works full-time (in a job that’s not writing-related). Choose three days a week to write, on those days, write 515 words. Maybe you’ll choose to write before work, or at lunch, or once your work day is done. Maybe you’ll crank it out on the weekend. Whatever you choose, get those 515 words done on three days, each week.
I use the Project Targets feature in the Scrivener app when I write. You can find a great tutorial on how to set writing targets for yourself here. When writing, I find that I am more disciplined when I can visually see my progress. As my writing Session Target turns from red to yellow to green, I feel a sense of accomplishment and this is always a great motivator.
Find a sacred space–and defend it.
Everyone has different druthers when it comes to where they write. For me, I can’t write at a round table. Weird, I know. But, writer–know thyself. Some people can’t write in a coffee shop, I can. The noise and the pressure of people around me somehow shames me into working and not goofing off. Going to a place without wifi also helps when I have a writing goal. That way, I’m not tempted to wander down any internet rabbit holes.
Wherever you choose to write, make sure you mark that time as sacred. It should be off-limits for multi-tasking. No laundry while writing. No breaks to just get the bathroom spruced up. Put the time aside, and use the time wisely.
If you have trouble finding this time in your week, look for places you can piggy-back writing. This is contrary to the advice I just gave about sacred writing time. However, we live in an action-packed, high-stress world. If the only time you can write is during your child’s soccer practice, then so be it. Just make sure you put your headphones on and turn that Session Target goal from red to green. You can do this!
For another related article on using your writing time wisely, click here.