Writing a book is a high-ranking bucket list goal for many people. One of the reasons that this goal tends to stay on our bucket lists for far too long is that we're out of practice in the art of writing. Like any other large-scale goal, the key to success is to slowly chip away at it over time, page by painstaking page.

In order to eventually arrive at a completed book, establishing a daily writing habit is a must. Even if you don't know what you'll write about, adopting the habit of writing daily will prepare you to take on the challenge when inspiration strikes.

There are well-documented benefits of a daily writing habit that extend well beyond the goal of writing a book. So whether you're hoping to knock out Chapter One or to just gain some clarity around your ideas, taking some time each day to put pen to paper is a step in the right direction. Here's how to make it happen.

Start Small

If you're not already writing on a regular basis, launching a lofty goal to write five thousand words per day won't be attainable. And if you sit down on day three, knowing you won't meet your goal, you're more likely to give up on it entirely.

Start by setting a maximum time limit for yourself for one month, but don't give yourself a minimum. For example, say that you'll write for no more than 20 minutes per day in the first month of your daily writing habit. This thinking is based on the popular "No More Zero-Days" philosophy, which says that when you've set a goal for yourself, you should do at least one action each day to achieve it, no matter how small. A series of small actions adds up. If all you're able to do is write one sentence, you've achieved a "non-zero" day and are less likely to fall into the cycle of negative thinking that may lead to giving up.

The maximum time limit is in place to help manage that fact that you will have good days and bad days. You will certainly be more prolific on some days and fight the urge to throw your computer against the wall on others. But by establishing a writing maximum, you avoid putting off writing in hopes of doubling down on an (unpredictable) "good day" and are more likely to put in the work on "bad days." Over time, if you find that your maximum leaves you continually feeling like you have more to say, gradually increase it.

Understand Your Motivations

Many motivational articles give universal advice, such as "share your writing goals with someone to be held accountable." While some things motivate a large number of people, nothing motivates everyone in the same way. So for any goals you set for yourself, it's important to understand what drives you.

McClelland's Theory of Needs is a simple concept that can help you break down your specific motivators and understand how best to reach your goal. The theory breaks personalities into three buckets: those who need Achievement, Power, or Affiliation.

The Achievement group loves to cross items off their to-do lists and is driven by reaching goals, so a manageable word count goal (that can be reached in the maximum time frame) may be the best motivator. Those in the Power bucket thrive on competition, so inviting a colleague to join the challenge with them may be helpful--the looming threat of a lower word count at the end of the month may drive productivity. And those who need Affiliation care deeply about their personal relationships and collaborative efforts, so asking someone to read their work and provide feedback at the end of the month may help hold them accountable through a desire to please the other person.

If one of these tactics doesn't work, try switching it up the next month until you've developed a system that works for you.

Don't Leave a Writing Session with Closure

Whether you're working on a book, article or blog post, the common inclination is to finish writing when you reach a logical stopping point, like a chapter end. However, for novices, fight your better instincts and leave each writing session slightly unfinished.

By doing so, you are avoiding the scenario in which you sit at your computer, cursor blinking, with nothing to write about. In other words, you're setting yourself up for your next writing session by giving yourself a clear path forward. Over time, you will train yourself to envision where you will pick up your next writing session before setting down your pen each day.

Some days are bound to be harder than others when establishing a writing habit, but if you continue to chip away at it and avoid zero-days at all costs, the hard days will come less often. Once you're in the habit, you'll be amazed at the results of your work. You may even be able to finally cross that book off your bucket list.

Published on: Sep 1, 2017
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