Everyone knows to be a great writer we really should be practicing our craft daily. Because whatever you focus your time and efforts on is where your energy flows.
When you practice something daily, the side effect is that you will get better at it, whatever it is you choose to do.
This is what is so wonderful about writing. Because even if you don’t think your writing is any good, knowing you turn up at the page every day to practise already makes you a better writer.
So how can you create a habit to turn up to write every day?
‘Showing up is 80 percent of life.’ Sometimes it’s easier to hide home in bed. I’ve done both. – Woody Allen
The Myth of Willpower
I have tried in vain for many years to use will power as the secret sauce to get me to the desk every morning. It was never reliable, but when it did work I noticed my mood and emotions had a lot to do with whether I would sit at my desk.
What I have learnt over the years is that you cannot wait till you feel motivated to do the writing. You cannot rely on will power alone. Sure, it may get you out of the starting blocks, but you need something else to sustain you till the end.
You have to cheat the system and make yourself want to feel motivated. And the only way to do this is to take solid concrete action every day even when you don’t feel like it, especially when you don’t feel it.
You need to replace feelings and emotions with no-nonsense discipline and action.
The trouble with following your feelings is that they tend to jump around all over the place and are a little unpredictable. Fear is usually the biggest hindrance to our writing (it also masquerades as self-doubt). And there is only one way to beat fear; through solid action.
The Miracle Morning for Writers
I recently came across the Miracle Morning for Writers by Hal Elrod and SJ Scott which I highly recommend. This book is all about putting in place routines and habits to help you start and stay on track with your writing career.
Because the truth is that, like with any job, you have to clock in and put in the work. Just like when you have to go into the office when you don’t feel like it; you also have to write when you don’t feel like it.
The difference between amateur and pro writers is that the pros treat writing as a job. They approach it with creativity but with discipline and cold hard action. They act like professionals.
So how do you create your own miracle morning writing habit?
The Miracle Morning for writers is essentially a set of habits you create and follow, that help you to cultivate the discipline required to sit and write every day.
The concepts are based heavily on the original Miracle Morning book (the author has developed a series on this title).
The essence of the book is to create a writing habit before your normal day starts. Using this habit you can also change other areas of your life. I have been performing my own Miracle Morning routine for a fortnight now and have seen improvements in my productivity (although I’m still struggling with waking up at 5am!).
So in a nutshell here are the 6 key habits:
The author, Elrod has created a system called Life S.A.V.E.R.S. You essentially perform six activities each morning. You can spend as little as one minute per task if you are really short on time. The main thing here to remember is that you need to cultivate the habit of performing the task, so don’t worry too much about not spending too much time on the tasks. Just get into the habit of doing something each day.
S is for Silence
This is essentially meditation. Elrod suggests you do this first thing in the morning. Start with just one minute. This allows your mind to rest and for clarity to settle in. Starting your day with a period of silence allows your stress levels to decrease and helps you begin the day with calm and clarity that you need in order to focus on whats most important.
I have been meditating daily for about two years now and find its a form of self-therapy. It gives your brain and mind ‘time out’ from all the noise and cluttered thoughts bouncing in our heads daily. When you allow silence to fill your mind, you can calm down racing thoughts. Things become clearer.
A is for Affirmations
This is a set of sentences that you create and read out aloud each morning. The purpose of this is to re-programme your subconscious mind to focus on your key goals. I have affirmations for my life purpose, writing, health, financial and spirituality. Keep your affirmations in the present tense and not past tense to make them more effective. For example one of my affirmations is:
I commit to writing a minimum of 1000 words a day everyday between 8am- 11am, no matter what.
Rather than saying: ‘I will one day be a successful writer’.
Make your affirmations specific with timelines and clear goals.
V is for Visualisation
This is meant to be quiet time where you can reflect on your affirmations and ‘see’ yourself taking the action you need to take to make your goals a reality.
I’ve always doubted if visualisation works. I have tried vision boards but don’t feel that cutting out a picture of the 10 bedroom double fronted mansion-house in the countryside is going to materialise just like that.
Instead, Elrod says you need to visualise the process of getting to the goal rather than focusing on just the end goal.
This is because when you can ‘see ‘ yourself doing an action, your brain is unable to distinguish whether that action is imagined or if its real. This happens thanks to motor neurones in your brain which mimic actions so that your brain thinks it’s happening to you.
These motor neurones interpret imaginary as equivalent to a real-life action.
When we can visualise an act, our brain then tells us to ‘perform’ the act. This creates a new neural pathway in the brain, and when repeated enough times, primes our body to act in the way we imagined. All of this occurs without actually performing the physical activity, yet it achieves a similar result.
This is why sports athletes use visualisation to such great success. When they visualise themselves crossing the finish line, the brain cannot tell if its been imagined or if it really happened.
When you create a vivid image in your mind, the image becomes more real. You can hear your fans cheering, you can feel the heat of the sun on your skin. You hear the loud boom of the starting gun going off and you feel your legs explode with power as they catapult you over the finish line.
When you can see and rehearse this mental image, when the real thing happens, your brain will already know what it needs to. And it does this from a calm and relaxed state of mind because you have been priming your brain for this moment.
Try it Yourself Now:
Visualise yourself waking up with energy and walking to your desk. You sit at your desk and start pounding out words on your laptop. Visualise how you will feel when you finish a successful writing session. See yourself ticking off your word count goals as you get closer to the deadline. Visualise yourself speaking to cover designers and discussing your ideas. See yourself researching the ideal editor as you begin the editing process.
This visualisation is all about visualising who you need to be and what you need to do to get to where you need to be. Use this time to think about the person you need to become. And as we all know, who you are is noting more than a collection of your daily habits.
E is for Exercise
This probably goes without saying but incorporating some form of exercise is really important for your overall well-being, as well as for writers whose lifestyle can be sedentary (especially if you sit and type as opposed to stand and dictate).
Although Elrod says you should exercise first thing in the morning, I prefer to hit the gym at lunchtime. I find this is the best time for me to exercise as my energy level is better. In the morning I get really hungry and can’t wait 2 hours from waking to eat (as I will only eat post workout). So find a rhythm that fits you.
But be warned, the further you tend to push exercise out in the day, the easier it can be to not exercise. This is why I exercise before lunch. Any later and I know something else will come up in my diary. Or I will find an excuse to not go to the gym.
It of course pays to remain flexible with your schedule. On days where I know I cannot exercise at lunchtime, I then make a concession and work out in the morning.
R is for Reading
Elrod suggests you read 10 pages of inspirational text to put you in a positive frame of mind. This can be a self-development book or even holy Scriptures. If you can’t read 10 pages then just do 1 page. I love reading and this is my favourite part of my morning routine.
S is for Scribing
When you wake up you should journal. This is a similar concept to Julie Cameron’s ‘Morning Pages’. The theory behind this is that your subconscious mind can block your progress because your energy and efforts are all being consumed by the subconscious.
By writing our your thoughts first thing in the morning, you allow any potentially negative thoughts to come out onto the page each morning. This will free up your energy and allow you to think more clearly. I personally journal for 15 minutes every morning. Sometimes its 20 minutes if I feel there is a lot in my head I need to clear out.