How to Become A Daily Writer
There’s this common bit of wisdom that haunts a lot of writers. We’re supposed to become daily writers in order to improve our craft a little bit every day. When you write daily, not only do you give yourself hundreds of ‘at bats’ to improve your best work, but you also develop the habit of writing fast.
A large part of growing any business we start, is the ability to share our best work with others. When we share our writing we give a little piece of ourselves. We prove we can help people before they pay us.
In a world of distraction, where the main currency is attention, we’ve got to keep new content in front of our audience, so they don’t forget about us.
If you don’t want your audience to forget about you, it’s going to require a lot of content. This means you need to write a lot of content. For some creators, even reading these words might feel painful. But there’s a way to alleviate the pain and become a lot more prolific, simultaneously.
It’s time to become a daily writer.
When you develop the permanent habit of daily writing, not only will you become a better writer (if you write deliberately), you’ll also get a lot faster, and you’ll produce more content than anyone else in your niche.
The writing process begins way before you sit at the desk. Most of our best creative moments come when we’re in motion, not sitting still.
Our brains are wired to access the subconscious (the workhorse of the brain) while we’re in motion, in the shower, or doing exercise. It’s like our best thinking has to be jostled out of us.
Whatever the reason, if you want to be a better and faster writer, you’ve got to recognize the a-ha moments that come to you on a daily basis. It’s the a-ha moments that create great content.
We never approach the writing desk without a great idea.
The idea is the seed for the rest of the daily writing process. There’s no approaching the blank page. Therefore, you’ve got to recognize the a-ha moments before doing anything else.
A Capture Strategy
If we start with an a-ha moment we need a way to capture these. There will be thousands of times in your life when you’re given the gift of a great idea. These are your a-ha moments. They seem to appear from nothing.
Ideas love speed. Ideas are physical things. They have mass. They are made of electricity and brain matter. If you don’t capture these great ideas, they’ll go to someone who will use them.
Therefore, you need a capture strategy. I carry a pocket notebook with me at all times. I even keep it in my pajama pocket while I’m walking around my house. I’ve got a digital recorder in my car, a waterproof notepad in the shower, and scraps of paper everywhere.
I never judge an idea as I capture one.
The judgement and the curation comes in the editing stage. 95% of the work comes in the editing. Most of your a-ha moments will be terrible ideas, but if you don’t capture them all, for later judgement, you’ll never have the food you’ll need for daily writing.
Keep these a-ha ideas in a place you can access easily.
A Deliberate Writing Space
If you want to be a daily writer you’ve got to have a deliberate space. It doesn’t matter where that space is. Your writing space can be on a train or in a car. Your writing space doesn’t have to be a desk.
The space doesn’t matter.
It’s the mental trickery we play on ourselves. When we show-up at work we know we have to work. There’s a psychological effect of parking in the lot, slinging your bag over your shoulder, and working through your morning office routine.
Build the same method for your writing.
We teach the brain that when we’re in our writing space it’s time to get to work. You can even create multiple locations. For example, maybe you rotate coffee shops. Doesn’t matter where. If you want to write a lot, you need to tell yourself, “this is where I do my best work.”
A Deliberate Purpose
Writing is a blue-collar vocation. This is something I violently defend. If you take writing as an artsy process you’ll fail before you start. Mastery comes with a deliberate purpose. A mechanic doesn’t open the hood of your car and say, “I wonder what I’ll fix today.”
Yet, so many would-be writers sit at their desk, scratch their heads, and say, “what should I write today?”
If you want to be a daily, prolific writer, you’ve got to sit with purpose. The purpose starts with your notes of all those a-ha moments. You need to begin the session with a kernel of an idea. The rest of the work comes in the curation and the editing.
Never start a writing session without a purpose for that session.
A Deliberate Time or Quantity
Your writing session needs walls. The mind needs boundaries, otherwise the writing opportunities will get so big you’ll be paralyzed to start. Instead, we need limits.
Give your writing session a deliberate time-limit or a word count.
Whether you write for an hour and stop, or you don’t stop until you hit 500 words, we need limits. You become a daily writer by knowing when to start and when to stop.
We start by giving ourselves a tiny goal to hit in the beginning. I like to tell people to give themselves a goal of one word per day. If you write the one word you hit the daily goal. No one writes just one word. If you can build the daily one-word habit (tack it to an existing habit, like making your morning coffee) you can build a daily, 500-word habit.
The Art is in The Edits
Never judge anything at the moment you write it. All first drafts are garbage. First drafts are just doodles on scrap paper. Mindless scribblings to get the general sketch of what’s to come.
The art is in the curation and editing.
The editing starts the next day. Re-read what you wrote the day before and make it a little bit better. Your readers want you to respect their time. We honor the reader’s time by curating our best work. We take the time to grind through all the bad ideas and the extra junk.
The end product is the gift to the reader.
The end product comes in the re-work and deleting. Take out the parts that don’t work. Be ruthless. There’s nothing sacred in writing. If you start to believe something you wrote is sacred, you’re done right there. At that moment you’re finished. You need the power to constantly get a little better. That comes from editing.
10X The Beginning 3X The Middle
There are two main places you’ll lose a reader: The beginning and end. The beginning of a piece of writing must grab your reader by the collar and never let go. You owe it to the reader to grab her attention right away.
The end is the second-most important place to rework your reading.
The end of a piece is the ultimate feeling you leave with your reader. It doesn’t matter how good of a piece you wrote. 99% of the piece could be perfect. If you don’t leave the reader with a fantastic ending, that’s the opinion she’ll keep with her when she walks-away from your writing.
Therefore, spend the most of your editing time on the beginning and end of your writing.
I like to re-edit those two places repeatedly, every time I sit to write. Of course the purpose of the writing makes a difference on how many times you edit. For example a social post might not get an edit at all. But if you’re publishing something permanent, you need to 10X your beginning and ending.
There’s more wiggle-room in the middle. The middle is more-forgiving as long as you propel the writing forward.
Reward The Daily Win
If you want to build the daily writing habit you need to reward the win once you hit your session for the day. Part of this reward is some kind of tracking device.
Whether you keep a daily tracker in your phone, or some big Seinfeld calendar on your kitchen wall, you need to track your wins.
Show yourself how many days in a row you can write. If you miss one, it’s OK. One is like a missing tooth on the calendar. Two missing days in a row is bad. Three… you’re done. Three equals three months.
As you build the daily habit there’s more room to take days off. Days off are deliberate. But while you’re in the early stages of a daily writing habit, don’t miss a single day for at least 60 days. 120 consecutive days is even better.
Anyone who wants to can become a daily writer. But you have to really want it. That’s the starting place. Give yourself tiny goals at first. Make the muscle stronger before you try and hit some huge word count goals for your daily practice.
August Birch is an author, email expert, and entrepreneur from Michigan, USA. As a self-appointed guardian of writers and creators, August teaches indies how to make more work that sells and sell more work once it’s made. When he’s not writing or teaching, August carries a pocket knife and shaves his head with a safety razor.