How to Develop a Writing Habit in 4 Simple Steps

Dickie Bush

Ultimate Guide Table of Contents

Want to learn how to develop a writing habit? It's a lot easier than you may think. Writing daily is important if you're trying to start a writing career. Building and sustaining that momentum will have a huge impact on your ability to consistently create great content day in, day out.

And for building your own writing habit, we can look to one of my very favorite books.

Atomic Habits by James Clear changed my life.

If you haven’t read it, Atomic Habits is “an easy and proven way to build good habits and break bad ones.” To date, the book has sold more than 2,000,000 copies and had a transformational impact on the world.

In the book, Clear lays out a powerful framework for building long-lasting habits: The 4 Laws of Behavior Change.

I have found this framework to be incredibly helpful for writers.

Here’s how you can leverage these principles to finally build a Daily Writing Habit, overcome Writer’s Block, and start sharing your ideas out into the world.

How Do We Build Any Habit - Including a Daily Writing Habit?

Learning how to develop a writing habit is no different from building any other habit. And frankly, anyone can do this - it doesn’t take any sort of special talent. 

Habits are made up of a four-part feedback loop:

  1. Cue
  2. Craving
  3. Response
  4. Reward

To build any habit, you need to intentionally design each part of this feedback loop. That’s where the 4 Laws of Behavior Change come in:

  1. Make it obvious
  2. Make it attractive
  3. Make it easy
  4. Make it satisfying

Each one of these laws will help you go through the habit feedback loop effortlessly.

The Habit Loop

How to Develop a Daily Writing Habit in 4 Simple Steps

Ready to learn how to develop a daily writing habit in just 4 simple steps?

Not so fast.

Before you start to build a daily writing habit, it’s important to understand the real goal.

Your goal isn’t to start writing. Your goal is to become a writer.

Why the subtle difference?

Because true behavior change is identity change.

We don’t stick to habits that aren’t aligned with our identity. Luckily, habits that do align with your identity are easy to stick to. Every action you take is a vote for the type of person you want to become.

So to become a writer, we have to consistently cast “writer votes.”

Now, let’s apply the 4 Laws of Behavior Change to our goal.

Step 1: Make it obvious

Time and location are the most important habit cues.

The most effective way to leverage them is to find your Sacred Hours. These are the hours where you are most likely to be focused and energized, but the least likely to be disturbed by the outside world. For example, my Sacred Hours are 5–7 AM.

But just having a regular place and time of day to write consistently isn’t enough.

Writing is an activity that requires lots of concentration. So you also want to intentionally design your writing environment to maximize focus. Here are some good things to have handy:

Step 2: Make it attractive

Habits with clearly defined benefits are easy to stick to.

So when first starting to get on a writing streak, have a list of the benefits you hope to unlock once you start writing consistently. And review them every time you sit down to write. Whether that’s building an audience, learning faster, or thinking more clearly, this exercise will help you keep the momentum going.

We also repeat habits that align with the social norms and behaviors of the people we hang out with.

So if you want to start writing consistently, surround yourself with other successful writers. Find a community that gives you accountability, respect, praise, and feedback on your writing. And stick around — being part of a community of like-minded friends will make the whole process even more rewarding!

Step 3: Make it easy

Many writers who are just starting out think their first post has to change the world.

This kicks off “The Doom Loop”: procrastination disguised as planning.

How do you overcome this?

Start smaller.

Start with writing one tweet per day. Repeat this for a week. Then, up it to a few tweets per day.

After a few weeks, you’ll stop overthinking and overcome your fear of publishing.

From there, you can start to expand your ideas. Now your writing flywheel starts to spin. You can go from writing tweets to writing short, Atomic Essays:

  • One single idea
  • Under 250 words
  • That fits into a single iPhone screenshot

Don't set yourself a crazy daily word count goal of 10k words your first day - that's simply unattainable, and you'll find it hard to get into a daily writing process this way.

Instead, make it easy to keep publishing until you’ve built unmatched consistency. Then, you can ramp up your writing process and increase your daily word count over time.

Step 4: Make it satisfying

Humans are dopamine chasers.

You want to find as many ways as possible to be “rewarded” every time you sit down to write. The easiest way to do this? Print out a giant calendar and make a big red X over each day you write and publish.

So I Wrote Every Day For A Month… - Derek Ralston

In the beginning, this will give you positive reinforcement and help you gain momentum.

Another great way to do this is to find an accountability partner. Team up with someone also trying to build a daily writing habit. Share your struggles, cheer each other on, and build a rock-solid relationship. When one of you falls off the ship, the other person can throw down a ladder to get back on.

Wrapping Up Our Guide on How to Develop a Writing Habit

There you have it - how to develop a writing habit in four simple steps. As you can see, it’s actually a lot more simple than you may have thought. Notice we said simple - not easy. As with any habit, it takes a complete identity change to really make it stick. Fortunately, you have all the tools necessary - you just need to put them to work now.

The key to building a daily writing habit is to design each stage of your habit feedback loop intentionally.

Here’s a quick checklist you can use as you build your own writing routine to make sure you’re successfully applying the 4 Laws of Behavior Change to each of these stages:

  1. Remind yourself what your real goal is: becoming a writer. True behavior change is identity change. If you want to stick to your habit in the long run, make sure it’s aligned with your identity.
  2. Make it obvious when and where you will write. Make these constraints clear from the beginning and stick to them even when you don’t feel like writing. Also, look for all the potential distractions you could face while writing and remove them beforehand.
  3. Make it so attractive that you don’t want to miss a day. Revisit the benefits you expect your writing routine will unlock for you every day. And find a community of successful writers where writing consistently is the norm.
  4. Make it so easy that it’s impossible for you to fail. Avoid planning too much and just start small. Set a set of creative constraints you can easily stick to (like writing one tweet per day), and gradually increase the difficulty as you get more and more momentum.
  5. Make it so satisfying that you can’t not write. Find ways to give yourself extra dopamine hits every time you write: put a big X on your calendar, get yourself a small treat, or let your accountability buddy know when you’re done. These small reinforcements will compound over time and make building your writing routine inevitable.

Follow these tips and you'll be a prolific writer in no time.

But -what about those days you just don't feel like you have it? You can fall back on the tips we provided in our complete guide on how to overcome writer's block. We also have an article to help you figure out how to make time for writing amidst your other responsibilities.

And, if you want to learn how to start writing online to make money, we've got some other great resources to help you out. Read our articles on Quora monetization or how to start writing on Medium. You can also consider learning how to make money as a Ghostwriter, too.

The possibilities are endless - so what are you waiting for?

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