Deep breath: November is finally over. You’ve survived, hopefully with a first draft of your next book in hand. The next step (other than revision, of course,) is to figure out how to maintain that creative magic throughout the year. Enter Nina Amir, certified high-performance coach and author of several Writer’s Digest guide books. Below is an excerpt from her new guide on creating and maintaining a writing habit.
How to Maintain Momentum and Feed Your Habit
By: Nina Amir
Once you have developed a writing habit, you face a new challenge: how to maintain your writing momentum and feed your daily writing habit. It doesn’t take much to break that chain of Xs on your calendar that mark the number of days you wrote consistently.
A lot of writers take the Write Nonfiction in November Challenge or participate in National Novel Writing Month, and, during that 30-day period, manage to write consistently every day. When the writing event is over, they stop writing daily.
The same might be true if you push yourself for several months to write every day, and then, for some reason, you don’t write for a few days. Maybe you get sick or things get super busy at your day job. Suddenly, it becomes much easier to find an excuse not to write . . . again and again and again. Before you know it, you no longer have a writing habit.
It is possible for you to produce the same results all year that you achieved in a month or two or three. By so doing, you turn your year into a prolonged writing marathon—without losing energy, stamina or productivity as the months go on. And you keep your daily writing habit going strong.
How to Maintain Your Writing Momentum
To maintain your writing momentum all year long, do the following:
- Write at least five times per week without fail. If you stop writing on a consistent basis for more than a few days, like over the weekend, you will not maintain your writing habit.
- Continue setting intentions for what you want to accomplish each day, week, and month. Know your writing goals for any given time period. Intentions are powerful. They have energy. Plus, they give you focus and clarity, which keep you inspired and motivated to write daily.
- Give yourself deadlines for each writing project you take on. Without deadlines, you are less likely to feel compelled to sit down and write every day. Deadlines force you to break tasks into doable pieces—one day of writing, then another day of writing, and so on. Completing small chunks regularly—maybe a chapter a week, or a blog post each day—makes you feel good about making progress toward your final goal. Plus, deadlines—even if they are mini ones (like 30 minutes of writing) add the urgency and pressure we sometimes need to get us focused and productive.
- Become accountable to yourself or someone else, if necessary. Make sure you let someone know that it’s your goal to write daily—or five days per week—on an ongoing basis. Have them check on your progress. Be honest . . . even if you are your own accountability partner.
- Implement a system of rewards and punishments. Old-fashioned . . . yes. Effective . . . more often than not. Your reward for writing each day might be something as simple as getting to watch your favorite television show that evening. Your punishment for not writing daily—not getting to watch it. Some writers, like Jonathan Maberry, pay themselves each time they complete their word-count quota for the day; Maberry puts a dollar in a jar, and pegs the money for a vacation. Maybe your money gets earmarked for a trip to your favorite clothing store or coffee shop or to purchase a ticket to a movie.
- Work on more than one writing project at a time—or know what’s up next. It’s possible to get bored with a project or to feel uninspired for a few days and, therefore, not want to write. To keep writing, have a second writing project. Maybe you work on an eBook as well as your blog. When you don’t feel like working on the eBook manuscript, you turn to blog posts. Or maybe you write a query letter or an essay. If you are lucky enough to have a magazine assignment, you might break your time daily into working on that article and working on your latest book project. With more than one project at the ready, you are more likely to write consistently. If that doesn’t work, keep your next writing project in mind. Dangle it like a carrot so you feel enticed to finish the work at hand and move onto whatever is next on the writing production schedule.
- Take care of you—as Vivian (Julia Roberts) says to her friend, Kit, in Pretty Woman. Take care of your body and mind so you become a high-performing writer and finish a year-long marathon (or longer). Writing and publishing take a long time. Becoming a successful author isn’t a meet-your-goal-fast endeavor. You need to be ready for the lengthy event—mentally and physically.