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I like it when my students make connections. Connections are important. When we relate things to life, we learn.

An especially helpful connection (for both me and my students) is understanding writing as a muscle. Or (as the kids would say)—do you even lift, bro?

My answer is a firm no, not literally anyways. Figuratively, on the other hand, I’ve been writing quite a bit, emphasizing pace. I’ve always struggled writing lots of words in little amounts of time. When I sit down to write for an hour, but I only get 400 out of my 1,000-word goal, it’s upsetting. It’s frustrating.

I’ve realized that I can’t get bogged down on word count. I just need to work consistently. When I show up every day, I can build my pace. 1,000 words, without consistent effort, just won’t happen. On the other, if writing becomes a habit, word count will follow.

Routine

Your writing muscle requires consistency. Gym rats don’t just magically end up at the gym. Similarly, writers should plan their writing time. A long, long time ago I would write late into the night. I would look outside, see the dark, feel the quiet of the house, and act artsy and poetic. But that was before I had a kid. Now I have a kid. Kids are cute, but kids make grown people tired, which makes writing at night a non-option. The energy isn’t there, so I write most of my words in the morning.

Find what works for you, though. Find a time. Set it aside. Write.

Isolate

Your writing muscle requires focus, but we live in an age of distraction. Technology clamors for our attention. Our phones buzz with texts and our TVs blare with Top Chef. When you write, seek solitude. I usually sit at the dining room table, because I know that no one will bother me there. Whether I’m typing on my laptop or writing with pen and paper, I know I need to be alone—away from the distractions of my modern life.  Find your own personal fortress of solitude.

Grow Your Targets

Your writing muscle demands growth. After you’ve established a routine, determine a target word-count. 500 words a day may be a good number to start out, but you shouldn’t stay at 500. Stick with your routine and you’ll start to see natural growth over time. There isn’t a set number here that you need to write. It’s up to you. But you might want to build up slowly, gradually. If you rush it, you’ll get burnt out or you’ll feel deflated when you don’t hit your target.

Don’t Look Back

I heard this tip from The Self-Publishing Formula Podcast. A guest writer was talking about how they worked from 2,000 words to 6,000 per day. One of the suggestions he made was to simply write without looking back on what he wrote. He just writes, like an energizer bunny on speed. Edit later, he figures. Write now. I’ve tried this a handful of times, and it seems to work for me. My pace was rocking at about 750 per hour (fairly slow), but with this method I was able to hit 1,000 a few days in a row.

What methods do you use to improve writing?

2 thoughts on “Good Writing Habits

  1. This is a great post that I agree with completely. I write about 1,000 words a night. (Write, edit, proofread…I work on 1,000 words a night). It didn’t start there. I used to work for an hour a night. I’d push for that hour and things started flowing. These days, I can write pretty quickly, and it’s hardly ever something I’m forcing, but when I started, it was so hard. You have to work into a rhythm.

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