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How do I develop a daily writing habit?

When I create bespoke writing schedules for my authors, it never fails to take them by surprise that they could write a non-fiction book in as little as four months. They can't believe that they could have time to write a book alongside running their business.

So what’s the secret to getting a book written in months rather than years?

Dedication, passion for your subject, confidence and perseverance are all key when writing non-fiction, but one of the simplest yet most important things is building a good writing routine.

Authors who join me for a Book Planning Day benefit from a bespoke writing routine that works for them, but here are a few general tips that will keep you on track:

Understand the value of ‘compound writing’

The concept of compound interest—that the interest you earn on your money accumulates exponentially if you reinvest it—applies to writing too. It’s what I call the ‘snowball effect’ of a regular writing habit. It works like this: you write 500 words every day for two weeks. You now have 7000 words. But you also have momentum. The 500 words you’ve got used to writing becomes easier, and then you find you’re able to write 750 words each day. The 7000 words you started with becomes 17,500 by the end of the month, and by the end of the next month it’s more like 40,000 words. Writing makes writing easier. The more you do it, the quicker you get.

Don’t take days off

Routine is everything, so making your writing habit about when you’ll write rather than if is an important step. You know you have to brush your teeth every day, right? It’s just a case of when you do it before you leave the house. Make writing like brushing your teeth. Setting yourself time before the day has begun is helpful. Don’t tell yourself you need to do some writing today—just ask yourself when you’re going to do it.

Get to know your amygdala

One of the tricks to building a writing routine is just that: a trick. It’s about fooling your change-resistant brain into accepting a new habit. When we do something new, our amygdala (the part of the brain responsible for alerting us to danger) senses things are about to change. In the wild, change is usually bad, so we resist the new habit. To get past the amygdala, we need to trick our brains into thinking nothing’s different. This is all a roundabout way of telling you to start small. Setting yourself impossible challenges you know you won’t achieve doesn’t work in this instance, so make your routine something you know you can do. In the beginning that might be to write the headings for a chapter. However small it is, you’ll be able to build it up once your brain is used to its new habit.

Do it anywhere—and everywhere

My 10-year-old daughter’s top writing tip is to always have a pen and paper with you, because you “never know when you might get an idea”. She’s right—but for us digital adults it’s even easier, as we always have a method of taking notes right there in our pockets. Use your phone to jot down ideas when you have them. You can even use a dictate app like Rev to record them in audio. Whatever you do, take your writing with you on the road. Some people get their best ideas in the car.

Don’t worry about quality

Stopping to edit is one of the worst things you can do when trying to build a writing routine. If you’re tempted to overanalyze, consider using an app like Blurt that hides what you’ve written. You’ll be able to focus on writing instead of editing, and you won’t lose confidence because you don’t like what you’ve done so far. For the really adventurous there’s also The Most Dangerous Writing App. It deletes your words if you stop typing for five seconds. Now that’s scary.

Find an accountability partner

If you work best with someone to guide you, find a willing partner who’ll hold you to account. Some of my coaching authors say the best investment was just knowing they had to send me some writing each week. Deadlines focus the mind, so having someone expecting your work at regular intervals will help you to keep going. If you can’t afford a coach, why not use your social media account or blog to stay accountable? If you commit to publishing an article each week, you won’t want to fail publicly.

Building a writing routine is key if you want to write a book quickly. But even if you’ve got all the time in the world, never underestimate the importance of momentum. If you’d like someone to keep you accountable and give expert, constructive feedback on your work, just get in touch here.

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