It’s not hard to know what you have to do in order to be a consistent writer.
You sit down and write.
Sounds so simple, yet sometimes it’s anything but.
Here’s the method I advise all of the writers I work with to use:
- Plan your writing sessions on a weekly basis, using both Long and Short sessions depending on your schedule. Release the pressure to write every day.
- Create a writing ritual so pleasurable that your brain learns to love it and it becomes the thing you escape to, rather than the thing you try to avoid.
- Calm your natural creative anxiety by doing some deep breathing, visualizations or simple creative play exercises for a few minutes before you start writing.
- Eliminate the distractions in your environment so you can truly focus.
- Write in timed sessions so that you’re taking a break after every 25, or 45 minutes of writing.
- Take the long view and prioritize your creative experience over goals that are outside of your control.
This is my 6-step recipe for creating a writing life you love, and one you’ll be able to sustain over the long term. I know it works — both from my own experience and that of my students.
I began writing this blog in January of 2018, so we’re coming up on three years now. And I’ve written multiple times on topics all related to this basic recipe for writerly joy. If you’ve followed me for any length of time, you’ve heard some version of the above already.
And I think that this recipe is truly something that most writers know in their gut as well. It’s probably not news to you that you shouldn’t scroll through social media while trying to write.
We love to read about the writing routines of other writers, especially writers more experienced than we are or writers we admire — it’s a kind of mini-industry, from the The Paris Review interviews to books about how famous writers first got started.
I’ve been doing more interviews with writers lately and this is the one question that is guaranteed to come up during audience question time: “What’s your writing process?”
It’s as if we believe that some day some writer will let slip the secret formula. But the answers are always a version of: I sit down and I write.
And that’s always so unsatisfying to emerging writers. Surely there’s more to it, surely there’s some magic key that unlocks the kingdom.
Nope. Just sit down and write.
We know we have to do this, and when we’re still and quiet with ourselves we also know how to do it. Yet we don’t do the thing we know we need to do, and why is that?
Basically, it’s your brain. Your brain loves to do what it’s always done, so if you’ve been mostly avoiding your writing, then your brain wants to keep doing more of that.
You have to make a conscious effort to re-train yourself (i.e. your brain) to want to do the writing again. (You can do this using the 6-step method I outlined above, promise!)
But it’s not a one-and-done kind of thing. The pathways laid down in your brain through a process called myelination are created through repetition and reinforcement. So you have to keep doing it, and keep coming back to try again, and again, and again.
This is all so much easier to do in community!
It’s one of the reasons I believe so strongly that every writer needs a writing community. Through community, we gain accountability, as well as inspiration and support for when we slide off track.
When we build community, we’re there for each other and for ourselves as well. We’re seen and understood for the creative beings we are — this is a priceless gift.
I see this all the time in The Writer’s Flow Studio. As part of the Studio, we have regular accompanied writing sessions where we meet at the appointed time to write. First we do some grounding exercises (deep breathing, visualization or even some play in the form of adult coloring or a Zen Tangle) and then we write for 45 minutes. We’re all working on our own projects, but we’re doing it together.
And it’s easier. Even if you don’t write any other times that week, for a couple of times you’re meeting up with other writers and writing in community.
It’s a bit like having a personal trainer — you might be tempted to skip out on that run, but it’s much less likely when you know there’s someone waiting for you. Before you know it, you’re making progress in spite of yourself.
Community is the secret ingredient in any successful writer’s life. We’re always seeking other writers to connect with…maybe so that we don’t feel quite so alone in an activity that’s done in isolation and full of creative risks.
We can absolutely do that by listening to interviews, or reading books about other writers and their writing lives.
In the end though, we want to create our own rewarding writing life as well.
If this recipe makes sense to you, consider joining us in The Writer’s Flow Studio, my monthly membership programme. It will open up again next week, from November 15th-20th. Join the Waiting List for the programme right here to receive an exclusive offer when the doors open.