Ask yourself: How badly do you want this?
How long have you wanted to be a writer? Ever since you learned to read and became enamored of the written word? Since high school? Since last year or last month? Was it a sudden epiphany or a slow dawning? Remember that moment because there’s passion and power in it.
More importantly, why do you want this? Take a moment. Some of us are drawn to writing because it offers a sort of immortality. Our stories will outlast us. Others hope to touch the hearts and minds of others, to offer hope or inspiration where and when it’s needed most. Open a blank Word document or a grab a sheet of paper. Reflect on the moment you knew you wanted the writing life. Reflect on why, right now at this moment, you want to be a writer.
Life will throw obstacles in your path: A busy life, an illness, relationship ups and downs, an ever-shifting market, a lack of time or money or resources. If writing is your dream, cling to it. If you need the inspiration, print this quote out and tape it to your wall:
“In the deepest hour of the night, confess to yourself that you would die if you were forbidden to write. And look deep into your heart where it spreads its roots, the answer, and ask yourself, must I write?” ― Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet
What’s standing in your way?
Be honest. Is it you? Sometimes we create our own obstacles. They may be negative thinking patterns; they may be poor sleep or work routines. The truth is that bad habits get in the way of creating a healthy, disciplined writing routine. Even the best writers can fall into them.
Start with an honest self-assessment. Don’t beat yourself up, but don’t sugarcoat anything either. Are you an over-thinker? An over-sleeper? An over-tweeter? A Facebook addict or a television binge-watcher? All of the above? You don’t have to fix everything. You don’t have to be a perfect person to be a good writer or to produce art consistently. In fact, I would argue that a perfect person would write some really boring books.
Identify the habit that is the biggest block to your writing routine. Mine, for example, is over-sleeping. There. I said it. Did it hurt to rip that Band-Aid off in front of all of you? Maybe a little, because being an over-sleeper makes me feel a bit lazy, to be honest. Is it helpful to admit it? You bet—because now it’s out there and I’m accountable.
If you can brainstorm a way for your characters to MacGyver their way out of any outlandish situation you throw at them, chances are that you can brainstorm ways to mitigate your bad habits. I, for example, will never be a morning person. My houseguests who rise at dawn are on their own for breakfast; I can’t function at that hour (unless that’s how late I stayed up the night before). But I don’t have to wake at sunrise; I just have to be out of my pajamas and in front of my computer at a reasonable hour. And that, with the right amount of caffeine, is completely feasible.
You’ve identified the habit that most interferes with your writing routine. Now, identify a handful of solutions. Feel free to ask your fellow writers for solutions or to do some research. Your solutions might be simple or off-the-wall. Find something that will work for you. I’m starting with creating a better bedtime ritual: Going to bed at 10 p.m. and reading until 11 instead of firing up an episode of “Murder, She Wrote” at midnight. I’m also going to put the alarm on the other side of the room instead of next to the bed. We’ll see how it works.
Now, I’m ready to hear from you. What bad habit most gets in the way of your writing routine? What solutions can you identify? How will addressing this issue help your writing? How badly do you want this?