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  • S.M. Ryan

Creating a System to Support My Writing Habit

I've created a writing system that supports my daily writing habit so I'm always making the most of my writing time.


Building a writing habit helps us to be more consistent with our writing, develop our skills as writers, and overall it's meant to help us reach our goals.


Most importantly -- at least in my opinion - is that having a healthy writing habit enables us to sit down and do the work on the days when it's hardest to write and inspiration and motivation fail to show up and offer support.


Over this last year that shall not be named, I built up a daily writing habit that had me getting my ass into my desk chair every day but I admit that some days I wasn't in the headspace to write even though I wanted to and I'd find myself clicking through all the things I was working on waiting for something to speak to my writing energy enough to get the words out.


This is a system that worked but it also meant that my allocated writing time stretched from thirty minutes to over two hours because I'd spend most of the time I should have been actively writing, trying to find my focus instead.


As someone who has set a lot of writing goals for the year that I'm excited to cross off of the list, I knew I had to take everything I learned in building my daily writing habit and create a system to support the habit so I wouldn't be losing time every time I sat down to write and it'd enable me to cross more things off of my goal list a lot faster.


I had my daily writing habit down - for the most part- and now I'm focused on building on that foundation so I can continue to improve as a writer.


The biggest part of my self-support system is simply having a series of small triggers -- or steps really -- in place that help me to get into the writing frame of mind for whatever it is I'm working on that day and maximize my writing time.


When I started building my writing habit, I allowed myself to still indulge my writing wild side by simply working on whatever project spoke to me that day for my allotted time and let that be the mark of my writing success for the day -- I got some words in and that was all that mattered.


That's not to say this isn't enough to build a habit off of, it is, but I wanted more.


As I set more writing goals, I realized that floating from project to project without any sort of plan or deadline meant that I wasn't going to get any single project finished in a decent amount of time and it wasn't sustainable if I wanted to share my work in different ways and more frequently.


Step 1 - Pre-plan the sessions

It took a little bit of time and some reflecting for me to see where and why I was losing time during my writing sessions - simply put I wasn't as focused as I thought I was.


Yes, some days it was as simple as sitting down, opening up Scrivener or MS Word and going for it but some days I spent the time I should have been writing, just flipping through my various projects and noting what needed to be done or added or edited, or whatever.


The point is, I wasn't actually writing -- I was working around my writing.


So to keep from losing time during my daily writing sessions trying to figure out what I felt like working on that day, I started taking one day out of my week to pre-plan what projects I would focus on throughout the rest of the week and set my goal for each writing session ahead of time.


Using my weekly planning page, I'd lay out my deadlines for each project and work backward based on what I know I can produce within a writing session and what I knew had to be done to hit that deadline.


Pre-planning eliminated my bad habit of wandering through my projects and sprinkling a little progress here and there and instead helps me focus my writing energy on one thing at a time so I'm crossing my goals off of my list more often.


Step 2 - Getting into the right writing frame of mind

Spending time to pre-plan what I'm going to work on helps me to mentally focus on the task I know I have to tackle.


Any writer working on more than one type of writing project knows that there is a different frame of mind you enter when you are writing different things.


Writing fiction requires a different mindset than non-fiction and writing blog posts requires a different mind frame than responding to emails and so on.


You get where I'm headed.


Having my writing sessions pre-planned lets me know what I should be reviewing and focusing on when I'm going into my writing sessions.


For writing blog posts like this one, I might review my notebook where I brainstormed this post by handwriting first and read some similar articles and blog posts on the same topic so I can more clearly determine what I'm going to write and how I want to go about it.


Thinking about the fiction projects I want to get back to while trying to write a blog post is not the right writing frame of mind I can enter with and be successful.


Step 3 -- Clear the path

Knowing what I have to work on for each writing session helps me to eliminate distractions from my workspace because I already know what I do and don't need on hand to get the job done and there's no room to leave anything extra within reach that can distract me.


In writing this blog post, I know I only really need my pre-planning and brainstorming notebook that has my post partly outlined which helps guide me through the process and I can remove my author platform planner and weekly planning page from my sight so I'm not tempted to "take a quick note" on every other little thing that comes to mind.


In clearing the mental path to focus, I set a short timer - usually 10 minutes - and list out all the distracting thoughts which is usually just a list of things I'm thinking about doing instead of writing so that I know I won't forget to do them and it's okay that I focus in on my work for the day without fear of forgetting the other task I want to get done.


Step 4 - Micro Goals

While I pre-plan what my goal of the days' writing session is, I also set small goals within my writing session that I don't allow myself to move because I know I work best when I set a hard deadline for myself.


Sometimes my smaller deadlines look like "finish the first draft of blog post within two writing sprints," and "Revise and edit the post for publishing by the end of the third writing sprint".


Other times I bribe myself with the micro deadlines like not allowing myself another coffee or a work break until I've written to a certain scene or answered a certain number of emails.


My micro-goals are determined by what I have planned to write for the day but these micro-goals mostly ensure that I am making the most of my writing time and not stretching out a task I know can be done within an hour or two into an all-day event.


This 4 step writing system is how I'm building on and strengthening the writing habit I've developed so that I can continue to grow and push myself as a writer.


What do you think of this system? Would you use any of these steps in your writing session? Do you have a tip for writers looking to build on the foundation of their habits? Let me know in the comments below, I'd love to talk about it.

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