To become a great writer, you have to produce a lot of words. Like any skill, the more you practice, the better you’ll become. It sounds so simple and yet for many of us, writing feels like a sacred act only to be pursued when inspiration hits.
We gathered advice from a few of our favorite writers on how they transitioned from erratic creative output to writing and publishing on a regular basis.
1. Design forcing mechanisms that require you to show up.
“From a very practical standpoint, the newsletter has been such an amazing forcing mechanism for me in terms of being consistent. I also know people who have a writing buddy, where they have a weekly Zoom call together for one hour and have to show to each other what they wrote about.”
She’s also a big fan of blocking time each day (the same time if possible!) to get into a regular flow.
“You really need to create the space for it. I love time blocking. I block an hour and a half, from Monday to Friday for writing. It’s the first thing I do in the morning. I make myself a cup of tea, and I sit down and I write, instead of waiting and deciding last-minute to write and life happens. Life is so messy and so uncertain. By blocking this time, you are saying ‘Whatever happens, whatever life throws at me, I'm going to write.’”
2. Use constraints to simplify the process.
To avoid the dread of a blank page, Josh Spector, founder of For the Interested and This is How I Do It, recommends designing a consistent format that can serve as a reliable template for your thoughts.
“I strongly recommend picking a format. It just makes it easier. And a lot of people over-complicate it by kind of free-forming it. This is fine when you're trying to figure it out in the beginning, but it's just easier to know how you're going to do it. In terms of how I actually put it together and write my newsletter, it's the same format every time. Once I came up with that format, I know that it’s going to be a headline, quote, excerpt, and a three-sentence paragraph summary. Once you see it, you can't unsee it.”
3. Set an alarm clock and walk away.
Khe Hy, ex-Wall Streeter and author of Rad Reads, insists on time budgeting. By committing to only write for a specific amount of time, you lower the stakes and escape the over-analysis paralysis trap.
“I think it’s quite helpful to give yourself time budgets, especially if you're going to ship quickly. For my Saturday posts, which are normally 800 words, I don't let myself start it until Saturday morning. So I wake up at 6 AM and I try to send it by 8 AM. I basically have two hours to send it. Otherwise you just get in this rigamarole with editing and re-editing and re-tweaking.”
4. Make realistic deadlines and don’t look back.
Taylor Pearson, CEO of The Mutiny Fund and author of The End of Jobs: Money, Meaning and Freedom without the 9-5, believes deadlines are critical for meeting your writing goals.
“I think committing to some sort of sustainable publishing schedule makes a big difference. With my newsletter, sometimes it's just a really short 300 word thing, and sometimes it's a 1,500 word thing, but having that deadline in place is a really helpful constraint. So my recommendation is to pursue whatever feels like a sustainable publishing schedule for you, whether it’s once a day, it's once a week, or once a month.”
Pearson also makes the case for producing and publishing regularly, which will inevitably yield quality writing:
“There’s a famous Napoleon line: ‘quantity has a quality all its own.’ That’s one of the earliest pieces of advice I received when I started blogging. Step one is to write a million words on the internet. By the time you get done with that step, you’ll know step two. I think that’s pretty great advice. You just need to get a ton of volume.”
There’s no one-size-fits-all for building a consistent writing habit, but there is a common truth: the more you write, the better a writer you will become. Like building any habit, the key is figuring out what works for you. Whether it’s sticking to a consistent format, setting an alarm clock, or creating deadlines for yourself, one of the best investments you can make in your growth is finding the things that turn your writing hobby into a writing ritual.