Most of us, most of the time, operate based on our habits. Many of the things we do each day are things we do because we've done them that way for so long we don't even think about it.
Want to listen? There's an audio version below
We put our brains on autopilot, we do the task, and we move on. Sometimes we don't even know why. But if we operate on habits, how do we make positive habits that will help us reach our goals?
And, more specifically, how do we develop a writing habit?
During one of my mastermind calls a few weeks ago, the topic of developing a writing habit came up. One of my clients mentioned they knew they needed to write, they just were out of practice, and they needed to get back in the habit.
So, since the 30-Day Writing Challenge is coming up soon, I thought this would be the perfect time to write about how to develop a writing habit.
In full disclosure, I do not have a day of the week where I sit down and write. But I should. Real pros show up and put in the work whether they feel like it or not, and I'm a professional writer. However, I'm also a professional business coach and a business owner, so writing sometimes takes a back seat.
Why You Should Develop a Writing Habit
You can skip this section if you like, but before I share HOW you can develop a writing habit, let me talk about WHY you should.
Writing makes you a better speaker and communicator. Writing helps you develop cohesive thoughts, tell more complete stories, and helps you articulate what's on your mind in a clearer way.
So, for mental reasons alone, you should develop a writing habit so you can get your thoughts out of your head.
Blogging, as opposed to recording audio for podcasts or video for social media, also improves the SEO of your site. Every business needs a blog, and publishing content frequently and consistently will improve your site's index-ability and drive more traffic to your brand.
In short, writing blog posts clarifies thinking, improves SEO, and attracts visitors.
Perfect. Let's move on.
How to Develop a Writing Habit
Most habits are formed when you repeat a task several times. Some studies show it takes 7 repetitions to make a habit; other studies show it takes 30 days.
Either way, habits are formed through repetition.
Here are some of the things I've done over the past several years that have helped me develop a writing habit and publish over 500 posts.
Keep a List of Ideas and Topics
I used to keep a list of topics in Evernote, though I think I'm going to switch to Microsoft OneNote. Whatever tool you choose to use, it could be a paper notebook, sticky notes, or just a notepad file on your computer, keep a list of ideas and topics you could write about.
Start recording topics that interest you and questions that keep coming up in conversation. Each person to talk to will likely lead to another topic you could blog about.
After you've been looking for topics for a few days, you'll find inspiration everywhere.
In charge of content marketing for your company? Join the #writingchallenge!
Set Time Aside for Writing
Successful people manage their calendars as if their life depended on it. Because they do.
If you're going to develop a writing habit, you'll need to set time aside to write. You'll need to prioritize that time so it doesn't get pushed until “tomorrow,” or removed from your schedule altogether.
Take charge of your calendar and make it your first employee. Own it, demand that it keep you accountable, and make sure you put things on your calendar that you want to get done.
If you're like me, “it” doesn't happen if “it's” not on the calendar. So, set time aside for writing.
Identify Your Ideal Avatar and Reader
Writing will be much more fun if you know who you're writing to. Can you imagine writing a letter to someone you knew nothing about?
Ya, it'd be pretty tough.
To help you identify your ideal avatar, I've created a free downloadable and printable resource for you. You can click here to open a new tab and grab the avatar worksheet.
Every time you create a new product or service in your business, you should use the Avatar worksheet I linked above. Every time you write a new blog post, you should know exactly who you're writing to, even if that person is fictional and only an amalgamation of several characteristics.
If you identify your ideal avatar and reader, writing will be much more fun and easier to do because you know who you're writing to. And, when you know who you're writing to, it'll be much easier to build a habit around writing.
Create a Content Template
A content template is like a recipe for your writing. Every time you sit down to write a blog post, have a template you follow.
Here's content template:
- Personal Story
- Summary (sometimes)
Every time I sit down to write, after I pick a topic from my list, I determine how I want to draw the reader in, what personal story I can attach, and the lesson I want to teach. Then I summarize my thoughts and find a visually appealing image that might convince people to click the post when they see it on social media.
By having a content template to follow, I have one less thing I need to figure out when I begin writing. One less thing to figure out is one less reason NOT to write.
You can use my system or develop your own, but having a content template will help you develop your writing habit.
Find What Interests You
Can you imagine writing technical documentation all day?
UGH! That sounds awful! (sorry if that's your job)
I think one of the reasons I hated writing while I was in school was because I never was tasked with writing something that interested me.
However, when I started writing my novel in 2008 and Exit Strategy in 2015, my fingers flew across the keyboard. When I had a topic that interested me, you couldn't have kept me from writing.
Find a subject in which you're interested and dive in. If you're having fun, it'll be much easier to develop a writing habit you can keep up with.
Make Writing Convenient
If you wanted to start a habit of working out, you probably shouldn't sign up at the gym across town. You'll never go because it's not convenient.
If you want to start a habit of eating healthy, you should probably get rid of all of the junk food in your house, because if you don't, you'll eat what's convenient.
If you want to start a habit of reading more, you should carry a book with you everywhere you go or buy an Amazon Kindle so it's easy to carry around a bunch of books. If you've got a book handy, you're much more likely to read it and less likely to play on your phone while you… do other things.
(You know what I mean)
So, if you want to develop a writing habit, you should make writing convenient. Use Evernote or OneNote to keep track of ideas on your phone. Carry a sketchbook or notepad (here's a link to the ones I use) where you can outline ideas. When you're waiting in line (or sitting you-know-where), spend time thinking about the habit you're wanting to build, and you'll build it.
If you want to enter the writing challenge I'm hosting in August, click here.
Developing habits is hard, but necessary. Good habits can set you up for a bright future, or, they can make sure you don't accomplish anything in life. To develop a writing habit, find something you're interested in, schedule time to work on it, and remove the obstacles in front of you.