All writers, graduate students, and professors know that theyre supposed to write on a daily basis, or at least as frequently as possible. Despite this knowledge, most find it difficult to maintain a regular writing habit. Im frequently asked for tips on how to make yourself write, even when you dont feel like it (which for many, is most of the time!) What is the One Way Thats Guaranteed to Work? Theres no one correct method. And what works for you now may not work at some other time. So Ive listed a bunch of ideas below. Just pick what feels right for you, tweak it if necessary, and see what works! How to Write Right Now 1. Start with right now. Dont beat yourself up about what you didnt do yesterday. Dont think about how much you have to do by Friday or next month. Just do what you need to do at this very moment. 2. Change your writing format. If youre used to typing, try longhand.
This can be very freeing. Or print out your previous writing, and cut and paste it onto index cards in order to organize your thinking. 3. Remove yourself from all normal temptations, such as email and telephones. You can combine this with the previous tip. I notice that I get a lot done when Im on a plane or in a waiting room. I have a notebook with me, and I start jotting down my thoughts, and sometimes Im more prolific than when Im in front of my laptop! 4. Use a timer. When you turn it on, you know that you cant do anything else but write. No email, no Internet, no phone. The upside is that you know that when the timer goes off, you can stop writing, and do more enjoyable activities. Try setting the timer for short periods of time and then taking a break; say 30 minutes on and 10 minutes off.
You can use the timer to time your breaks, also. 5. Sign up for my newsletter and receive the Academic Writers Block Wizard. Pull it out and use it when youre stuck! How to Set Up a Regular Writing Habit 1. Always write first thing in the morning, before showering or reading the paper (caffeine optional.) If youre not a morning person, pick another regular time. 2. At the end of each writing session, make a note as to what you will start with next time. 3. Have a special place where you always write. Set it up with everything you need, and if possible, dont use this space for other purposes. 4. Focus on the amount of time spent writing (or trying to write!) Dont focus on number or words, paragraphs or pages produced. What counts is the regular habit of thinking. Some days will be fruitful and others wont.
It all counts as long as you put the time in. 5. Track your progress. This might take the form of an ongoing chart that shows how much youve written daily, a journal, or a graph. One creative client of mine has developed a nice technique. Whenever she sits down to write, she lights a candle. This is a signal that she is not allowed to do anything but work on her writing. A nice touch is that shes saved all the matches that shes used to light these writing candles. The matches show her how much work shes actually put into writing. 6. Put writing time into your calendar or daytimer as if it were an appointment. When others ask if youre busy then, you can honestly say, Yes. 7. Keep a running list of points that you want to cover in your work. It doesnt have to be an elaborate outline. Then when youre stuck, you can go to your list. It feels good to check each item off as you cover it. 8. Find a writing buddy. Agree that you will each write at the same time each day. You can make this a more firm agreement by calling, writing, or instant messaging each other before or after you work. Try one or more of these techniques Im sure one will be helpful. Just remember that the most important step is sitting down to write! Gina J Hiatt, Ph.D.