Writing every day is *the* most powerful personal habit you can develop. We (Dickie & Cole) can point every good thing that has happened in our life over the last few years back to the simple habit of writing every day. And now it’s our mission to help 1 million people start writing as well (so they can experience the type of transformation we’ve had).
So in today’s deep dive, we’ll walk you step-by-step through everything you need to build a daily writing habit (even if you’ve tried everything).
But first, there are 2 important points to cover.
First, a daily writing habit is not a result – it’s a byproduct.
Writing every day doesn’t just “happen.”
In fact, a writing habit isn’t even a single habit. It’s a collection of even smaller habits that, when combined, make writing every day effortless. So instead of focusing on “building a writing habit,” we are going to start smaller and focus on the tiny habits that make your writing habit inevitable.
Second, why should you write in the first place?
If you’re reading this, you might not think you’re a writer (or that your job doesn’t require writing).
But the truth is, writing is the foundation for every form of knowledge and creative work:
It all starts writing.
So here are 7 dead-simple steps to build a daily writing habit:
1. Find time to write
Let’s start with a harsh truth.
It will never be the perfect time to start writing.
The truth is, people don't "find" the time to write. Just like you don't try to "find time" to see your significant other, and you don't try to "find time" to go to the gym, or see your old friend from college with they are in town, or see your parents on Christmas. When something matters to you, you MAKE the time. And then you organize the rest of your day around the thing you decided to make the time to do.
So, that's what you need to do, first and foremost, to build a sustainable daily writing habit.
To write every day, you need to CREATE time in advance.
We call these your "Sacred Hours": the time of day that is set aside to write.
Sacred hours are blocked off chunks of time that are, you guessed it, sacred.
- No distractions.
- Fully off the grid.
- Defended ruthlessly.
Just you and your work for at least an hour.
To find your sacred hours, there are two questions to answer:
- What time of day am I most productive?
- What time of day can I be least responsive?
This will be different for everyone in every circumstance.
Then, once your sacred hours are chosen, send yourself a calendar invite.
Treat this hour as a meeting with yourself (that you can't cancel!). Defend this hour ruthlessly. And let no one intrude on your sacred hours.
2. Build a daily walking habit
We spent over 1,000 hours studying the writing routines of the world’s best authors and copywriters.
And without fail, every single one of them mentioned taking long walks on a daily basis. In fact, they said almost 95% of their writing happens during their walks.
The last 5% (when they actually sit down to type) comes at the very end.
And by then, they knew exactly what they were going to say.
So give it a try – grab a small notebook and pen, leave your phone behind, and take a walk outside for 20 minutes.
Let your mind wander and capture ideas as they pop up – you’ll be amazed (and you’ll want to start doing it every day).
3. Create an idea capture system
To write every day, you need to have always have a log of ideas.
If we’ve learned everything over the last few years, it’s the importance of writing down ideas the second inspiration strikes. Relying on your memory to keep your best ideas top of mind is a recipe for disaster. And by getting them out of your head, you free up more mental bandwidth to come up with even more ideas (and on and on your creative flywheel spins).
So, you should set up inboxes to capture ideas anywhere you come up with them:
- By your bed, keep a stack of post-it notes
- On your walks, grab a Fieldnotes notebook and small pen
- On your phone, download a quick capture app like Drafts
- In the shower (yes, in the shower, where all good ideas start!), get a waterproof whiteboard.
Give your mind the confidence to come up with ideas in any place at any time and watch the ideas start to overflow.
4. Create an idea generation system
With your idea capture system set up, it’s time to start generating ideas.
Hint: after reading that post, your biggest problem will go from having nothing to write about to having too many things to write about (which is a great problem to have).
5. Set your creative constraints
The biggest mistake beginner writer’s make?
Lack of constraint.
They set a goal to “start writing” – and this leads to an overwhelming number of decisions, which sets the foundation for giving up writing entirely.
But we all know that's a recipe for failure. Instead, you need to start writing with a handful of constraints in mind so you don’t experience the feeling of having “too many options,” and instead can focus on writing every day.
Here are the constraints we recommend:
- Time: Set a limit to write every day for 30 minutes to start, then build up to 60 minutes.
- Topic: This is 100% up to you – but make sure it’s something you can write about sustainably.
- Length: Long form, short form, threads, tweets, blog posts, whatever it is, set a length constraint to narrow your focus on a single type of content.
- Platform: Choose 1 social platform and focus all of your attention on it (or, use Typeshare to publish to all social platforms with just 1 click)
- Environment: This is about writing in the same place, at the same time, every day. Whether it’s at your desk, coffee shop, office, wherever, pick a place and show up there every day ready to write
The recommended constraints are tight for a reason. They stop you from overthinking, over editing, and falling out of practice.
6. Unlock the power of the evening brain dump
We (Dickie & Cole) have both written every single day for more than 500 days in a row.
But here’s a secret... our morning writing sessions always start the night before with a simple 3-minute habit:
- Write down 1 idea that’s top of mind to write about
- Brain dump 10 bullet points on that idea without judgement
- Close your journal and go to bed
Just like that, tomorrow’s writing process has begun.
And this exercise works for 3 reasons:
- Brain dumping eliminates friction. Waking up to a brain-dumped list of bullets means you never stare at a blank page in the morning – which means it's easy to get started. You can gain momentum quickly, dropping straight into flow.
- Brain dumping allows your subconscious to work overnight. Maybe it's a bit "woo woo," but we always wake up with a better grasp of the idea we went to bed thinking about. Our brains make connections overnight, leading to unique insights we never would have thought of while awake.
- Brain dumping clears your head before bed. Often times, we'll brain dump on more than just the idea we want to write about the next day. We take anything that's on our mind and dump it onto the page – which leads to relaxed & restful sleep
Of all the parts of this deep dive, this might be the most-useful hack.
Give it a try and watch your creativity thrive.
7. Design your creative environment for focus
Between you and your best writing stands a never-ending stream of distractions:
- Shiny objects
- Buzzfeed clickbait
To overcome them, you need to carefully craft your creative environment.
Here are 3 things we recommend:
- Cold-turkey app blocker. Install this bad boy to finally defeat the internet’s distractions.
- Noise-cancelling headphones. These headphones + this writing playlist = endless flow state.
- Write with your phone in another room. Lastly, take your phone, put it on airplane mode and put it another room while you write.
Just like that, you’ve eliminated the internet, notifications & pings, and the outside world so you can focus on getting words on the page.
8. Start transcribing your voice (to demolish writer’s block)
Every writer’s worst nightmare: the blinking cursor on a blank page.
Even on our best days, sometimes the words aren’t flowing.
So on those days, you need a way to get words on the page. And our go-to hack for this is to use a voice transcription service like otter.ai – because no one’s ever had talker’s block before!
Here’s how to use it:
- Go for a walk
- Talk through your idea
- Let Otter transcribe it
Then, come back and use the transcription as your outline.
Boom! No more blank page.
9. Track your streak
Last but not least, remember: we humans are simple dopamine chasers.
We do things we enjoy. And we enjoy things that give us some kind of reward. So, every time you complete a writing session, you need to reward yourself.
The easiest way to do this?
- Print out a big calendar.
- Every day you write, mark a big red X over it (and try to make it all the way to 30 days!)
Boom! Just like that, you have everything you need to build a daily writing habit.
Here’s a quick recap:
- Make time to write
- Start walking every day
- Create your idea capture system
- Build an idea generation system
- Set your creative constraints
- End your day with an evening brain dump
- Craft your creative environment
- Start transcribing your voice
- Last but not least, track your daily streak
I hope these were helpful as you continue your digital writing journey!
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