You made a commitment to be a writer last week in How to Take the Plunge and Be a Writer (Part 1). That’s great.
The question now is: What do you need to do specifically to reach your dream of being a writer?
In other words, how can you be a writer every day?
Here’s what you need to do or keep in mind every day in order to help you grow and learn as a writer.
1. Believe in yourself by labeling yourself as a writer.
Say it. Out loud. Write it. I am a writer. I am a writer. Now, as Jeff Goins likes to say, start acting like one. It’s as easy and as difficult as that.
Here are some things you can and should do to gain creative confidence.
2. Make time to write.
What is a normal day in your life like? Either use free time or sacrifice something in order to have time to write. This can be sleep (no less than seven hours, though), television time (you’ll survive without it), computer time (Twitter will still be there when you get back), etc.
If you really want to be a writer, you will most likely have to cut back or completely eliminate some activities. For me, this meant knitting and crocheting. And about 85% of my T.V. time. But I don’t mind because I’m working towards my life dream.
You need to write twenty minutes a day, four days a week. Minimum. More would be better. You can do one block of time, say an hour or two, or break it up into smaller, more manageable pieces, say three or four twenty minute slots. You can do it. You really can.
Here’s a good article on how to work on your writing at any time of the day:
3. Write consistently.
Now that you’ve designated a large chunk of time or smaller chunks of time to writing, create a routine and stick to it.
The key here is habit.
It’s like having dinner every night at seven o’clock. When, for some reason, you skip it or have it late one night, your body still asks for it at the usual time, and you suffer.
Same thing with writing. If you make it a habit, you’ll fall into a routine that will lead you to progress. That will end in finished projects and submissions. And acceptances. Or if you’re going indie, in being self-published. If you skip that routine, your writing dream will suffer.
So don’t skip your sessions. Cut back if you feel overwhelmed, but always stick to your routine. This is a major sign that you take your writing seriously.
Don’t get distracted or preoccupied during this precious time. Here are some tips for staying productive.
4. Set goals.
This should include short term and long term ones.
An important part of any dream is setting realistic but challenging goals. You need to make daily and weekly goals at least. Longer goals work for some but not all.
The important thing is to set a goal that will result in real progress towards finishing a project or being published. But be sure to make it attainable and measurable. I learned that the hard way when I set crazy-difficult goals for myself this year knowing I would be recovering from having a baby and learning the ropes of being a mother.
Start off small and see what you can do. Don’t be afraid to adjust your goals as necessary. Depending on your schedule, I think at least one book or several short stories a year is very reasonable.
Here’s one writer’s take on goals and why you shouldn’t set any. Maybe this will work for you. Maybe it won’t.
5. Have at least one writing buddy.
Having friends who are writers is not only fun and encouraging but also a way to hold yourself accountable.
There are planty of places to find other people who write. You may already know some people. If you’re like me, and you don’t, social media is a great place to find other people who are writers.
Twitter is probably my favorite. There’s all kinds of writing stuff going on there, from word wars and sprints to the sharing of helpful writing links to updates and encouragement.
You can start finding people by following some big names such as Nathan Bransford, Jeff Goins, Joanna Penn, and Elizabeth S. Craig. Go to your favorite writing blogs, and chances are, they’re on Twitter.
From there, interact with their followers, people who live normal lives like you. I’ve made some great friends on Twitter. Here are a few.
Once you’ve found some writing buddies, build relationships. Ask them about their writing. Tell them about your writing goals. Hold each other accountable. Challenge each other through word sprints. Keep each other updated on your progress. Encourage each other. Just remember to spend more time writing than on social media.
6. Reach your goals. Finish projects.
It’s one thing to set goals and another to actually reach them. You do that by being consistent (see #1).
A good idea is also keeping a writing log. That way, you can look and see how much time you are spending writing and how much progress you are actually making. A writing log can encourage you when you see that you are getting closer and closer to finishing your draft or revision. Or it can help you adjust your goals when you’ve set the bar too high. Best of all, it can be a kick in the pants when you see you haven’t written in days.
A simple yet effective writing log can be created in Excel or with good old pencil and paper. Include the date, time you spent writing, what you’re working on, what stage you’re at, how many words you wrote, and your total word count if applicable. Another insightful thing to include is your words per hour. This will help you see if you’re getting faster at writing as you make a habit of it. It can also reveal patterns in your writing habits. Maybe you’ll notice you’re way more productive when you write somewhere that’s not your house or at night.
When you finish a project, give yourself a big reward. You will have deserved it.
Here are some awesome yet simple tips on how to write a book.
Some more great tips on getting some writing done.
9. Remember: this is now or never. Don’t let life pass you by. Don’t have regrets.
Check out this inspirational video about a guy who finally declared himself a writer.
Which of these steps have you mastered? Which ones are you having trouble with?