Twice a day I brush my teeth. Once a day I cook a meal. Every night I sleep for seven hours. Every morning I eat breakfast, empty the dishwasher, and dress for the day. These are a few examples of habits ingrained in my daily routine. I can’t imagine a day without doing them and most of the time I do them without even thinking about it.
As a writer and author, I also have made an effort to create a daily habit of writing, whether I need to write a recipe, cookbook chapter, blog post, or newsletter. I know firsthand how difficult it can feel to write when we don’t feel inspired, but regular writing habits drive projects to completion.
When I struggle to take time to write I remind myself that whether I write or not, time will pass. So, I have a choice – do I want to let the minutes of my day pass away without progress on my writing projects? The answer is typically no. No, I don’t want the day to pass without progress. In order to make progress on my writing projects, I have five techniques I employ to create my daily habit of writing.
1. Schedule time to write
When I look up from my computer three months from now I want to have made progress on my new cookbook, regular blog posts, paid writing work, and my weekly eZines. In order to do so I schedule at least 30 minutes every day to write. I haven’t figured out any other way to make progress and I’ve learned that in order to be a successful and published author I have to do this every day. And here’s the real secret – most writers feel better about themselves, and their work, when schedule time to write whether they feel like it or not.
2. Pick your most creative time
When I have a writing deadline, I work every morning on my project. The morning is my most creative and prolific time of day. I like to sit either at my desktop computer or use my iPad (with a keyboard) at the kitchen table. I like my environment to be quiet. I like to light a candle and open a door or window if the weather permits. I block out distractions from email, text messages, and the strange attraction of Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and other social media. I’ve realized these sites for me are a window to procrastination.
3. Write an imperfect first draft
Every writing project has a beginning and for me the beginning is rarely organized or publishable. In creating this “imperfect first draft” I set aside any hopes of creating something someone might want to read and I just focus on getting my thoughts out on the page. I’ll outline if I need to, but then I have to start filling in the blanks. This calls for perseverance knowing this draft will go through rounds of revising, rewriting, and editing. Once I’ve written the first draft I stop and begin again the next day to turn the first draft into something that meets the needs of my audience.
4. Create routines for other important work
Because I often write recipes, I also entrench recipe development in my routines and habits. Part of my daily schedule allows time in my kitchen to cook. In addition I make it a habit to take notes when I cook and when I read magazines and cookbooks, browse food blogs and social media, or eat at a new cafe or bakery. I pay attention to the concepts, ingredients, and recipes which delight and inspire me. I consider my audience and makes notes about what they might like. I then make time to cook, everyday, and bring ingredients and flavors to life.
5. Study the habits and rituals of successful writers
I’m fascinated with the habits and routines of prolific writers. If you’d like to explore more about these routines and rituals, first, write your first draft. Then, in your free time, check out this infographic The Daily Routines of the World’s Most Famous Creative People based on the book Daily Rituals: How Artists Work by Mason Currey. In his book, Currey describes how over 100 artists shaped their days and their habits to get their creative work done. Most of them don’t work all day, every day, on their craft. They have a routine they follow. Then they did other things with their time. This is a huge benefit of daily attention to writing. Once it’s done you can move on to something else you enjoy and still feel satisfied about the time and attention you devoted to your writing project.
So here’s the challenge – tonight and every time you brush your teeth – think about your daily habit of writing. Did you give it the time and attention it deserves today?
Cookbook author and culinary dietitian Maggie Green coaches aspiring cookbook authors in the process of writing cookbooks, cookbook proposals, and building their author platform. Download her checklist “Am I Ready to Write A Cookbook?”.