This is an excerpt from the recently released Writing Advice for Teens: Creating Stories.
One of the hardest aspects of writing, as with any other habit, is committing to writing every day, even if just for fifteen minutes.
Developing a writing routine is kind of like brushing your teeth. Once you’ve gotten in the habit, it’s relatively painless to do every day. On the other hand, if you skip a day or two, it’s easier to stop.
Writing every day helps you get past this problem. I spend at least 15-30 minutes writing every day, even when I’m at my busiest.
When creating your writing routine, start with the following guidelines:
- Close the door. This shuts out the world and allows you to focus on your writing.
- Turn off all distractions. If you can’t work in complete silence, consider using a white noise maker like a fan, songs written in a language you don’t understand, or instrumental music. This leaves the language processing portions of your brain free to focus on your writing.
- Disconnect from the Internet. This removes the temptation to check social networks or email.
- Clear your desk or table of any non-writing essentials. This removes the temptation to fiddle with knickknacks instead of writing.
- If using a computer, shut down all applications except for your word processor. Again, this allows you to focus. It’s even better if you use the full-screen option provided by most word processors.
- Write at the same time every day. Similar to brushing your teeth every morning and night, writing at the same time and place will help you turn this practice into a routine.
Each writer will ultimately create his or her own routine. Some like to write on the bus or train during a commute. Others like to work at the library, or over their lunch hour. Whatever you choose, just do it consistently. There are no wrong answers here, but these guidelines seem to work for most people.
Another part of my writing routine includes working on different emotions and styles. If I want to write something cheerful, I first read several cheerful stories, listen to cheerful music, or watch a funny movie. That helps get me in the right state of mind to write something happy. This also works for other moods and styles (scary movies to write horror, etc.).
It’s better to set a small goal and beat it than to set a big goal and miss it. For example, if you set a goal of 200 words a day and end up writing 300, you will feel pretty good. If you set a goal of 400 words a day and only write 300, you’ll feel bad about missing your goal. If you’re consistently hitting 300 words a day, then it’s fine to raise your goal.
The important part is to get started. Today.
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