Last week I talked about how to get over performance anxiety that kills your writing habit before it can even get started. Now it's time to start that habit.
All habits take time before they become routine, writing is no different. Here's the thing though, no matter how much we WANT to make something a habit we always seem to get distracted and suddenly it's been days, or even weeks, since we last followed through. Then the feelings of frustration and defeat set in. Take heart, Distracted Writer, you are most definitely not alone. These are the techniques I use to keep myself on track - give them a try for yourself or build on them with your own strategies.
Set Realistic GoalsI know I covered this already in the previous post but it's so important that it bears repeating. The worst thing for us is to set up a regime that is too rigid. If it's not something you can look forward to you'll be avoiding in no time. Keep it light and low pressure, especially when you're first getting (re)started. Writing every day is ideal but not always possible. Shoot for 25 minutes a day. It's something you can easily squeeze into the busiest of schedules while still letting you feel like you're accomplishing something. Or write for an hour or two a couple of times a week.
Writing is WritingThis ties back to Keep It Fun from the previous post. We all have that big project we're trying to finish and it's important to keep at it but if you find yourself avoiding writing over it than it's time to either save that part for another time in favor of forging ahead or just set it aside. You're not a failure, failing is when you stop writing all together. Take a break to write something you can easily finish in a short amount of time. Try a one-shot writing prompt, write a short story, free write, journal, or play around with some fanfiction. The key is to sticking with a regular writing routine but that's not something you can strong-arm yourself into doing. Practice is the only way to get better but it doesn't matter if you're practicing with something serious or silly, as long as you're writing you're getting somewhere.
Be PreparedEvery writer has a preferred method of writing and a favorite place to write. And some writers have rituals. Reduce wasting valuable writing time tracking down your tools or clearing off your writing space by having it all ready and waiting for you when it's go time.
I know, I know. Having ADHD means we're not the best at planning ahead or keeping our spaces tidy. Just keep it simple. Every little bit helps. Charge up your laptop the night before. Put your notebook and favorite pen together in the same place. Have your lucky charm close by where you plan to write. If you're going to go somewhere to write pack a bag the night before with all the things you need for a good writing session. This does two things. It keeps you from wasting time looking for everything when it's time to write and it keeps the momentum going. Knowing that you took the time the day before to plan to write makes you more apt to follow through with that promise.
Use RemindersIt's easy to let writing slide when life gets busy and your mind is being tugged in too many directions. Being easily distracted by the shiny and new can be used in your favor. Take brightly colored post-it's and leave yourself a reminder to write. Put your writing time in your calendar with a bright flashy color that stands out amid the rest of your schedule. Set a reminder on your phone to go off a few minutes before writing time. Give yourself an extra reminder to remind you to transition from your current task to your writing time.
Treat Yo SelfRewards are a must for those of us who have a hard time staying on target. Even the non-ADHD brain craves positive reinforcement. Give yourself praise every time you keep to your writing commitment with some kind of a treat - you'll have to work out what is small enough to not undermine your budget and/or health but still big enough to motivate you.
I use a habit tracker I create every month in my journal because it gives me a sense of accomplishment. I love seeing how many days I can fill in in a row to keep my streak going. I use to use little pieces of chocolate but I'm not good at rationing that kind of thing for myself (read: I ate it all in three days).
Whatever you use it's important to acknowledge your success, no matter how little or how badly you feel you wrote. I've said this before and I'll keep saying it forever, every word you write is a word closer to your goal of becoming a better writer. Even if it's not the right word, it's practice and habit and something to build off of. Celebrate your dedication with a pat on your back, mini dance party, or enlist a supportive friend to congratulate you every time you stick to your writing schedule.
Compete With YourselfWhen you have a little extra free time, try to beat your word count from the day before or try to write a few minutes longer than you did last time. Most of us enjoy a little competition so use that to trick your busy mind into staying on task. You'll keep yourself motivated and won't demoralize you the way competing against another person will if you fall behind.
Don't get discouraged when you break your habit. It takes time for something to become an automatic routine. Using willpower alone isn't enough and there's no shame in that. Tap whatever tips, tricks, and resources you can to reach your goals.
Good luck and keep writing!
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