Finding the Way to Write Every Day

Yes, I know it takes discipline. But what is the regimen that helps cultivate the necessary discipline?

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been trying to “write every day.” Easy to say, but not so easy to do. Miss one day, then another, and yet another, and all of the sudden it’s Sunday and I might as well just sleep in and then go out to brunch and give in to the whole day-of-rest mentality, because what’s another day of no writing? The demoralization factor has now kicked in, making it even harder to stick with what has essentially become just the intention of writing. Forget about any actual words down on paper.

This “what’s another day?” mentality has a way of extending itself indefinitely. I’m way short on word count, maxed out on feeling like shit.

Obviously, it takes discipline to write every day. I know this. We all know this. The mystery I am trying to solve is what is the regimen that I should put in place that will firmly establish and strengthen the discipline it takes to write every day?

The tactics, those are endless:

  • Use an old computer that is not connected to the internet and can only be used for writing.
  • Wake up early and take advantage of the quiet household and the rested mind.
  • Write during the lunch hour.
  • Write for 30 minutes after the workday is over, not leaving your desk until you’ve put in that solid 30 minutes of writing.
  • Stay up late, and have a session of writing be the last thing you do each night.
  • Join a writers group, thereby forcing you to deliver something to your fellow group members on a cycle.
  • Take classes that enforce deadlines.
  • Take advantage of spare moments, or 12 minutes, as it were.

I’ve tried all of those, and they work — as tactics — but they lack a regimen that helps cultivate the necessary discipline to write every day.

The good news is, I have found a regimen that has been cultivating my discipline: Writing 500 words a day, no matter what.

This allows me to leverage any of the above tactics to find the TIME to write in a focused and meaningful way, and the word count gives me a very specific GOAL to meet every day. Hence, I am writing every day.

This was actually inspired by some writing advice from Peter Heller, author of one of my favorite books, The Dog Stars. He shared the advice in a video that was part of a “Writers on Writing” series I put together when I was working at the Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. The video is worth watching — Heller took his lead from Graham Greene’s writing process, and explains how the word count limit helps cultivate momentum in his writing efforts — reach your specified word count, stop wherever you are, and then be excited to jump back in the next day. Don’t always put yourself in a position to be facing the blank page of a new chapter.

Next up, finding a solid method to weave together these 500 word exercises into a narrative that makes sense.

NOTE: This essay is just over 500 words (505, to be exact) — the regimen in action!