If there’s one thing that cranking out three books for Apress taught me, it is the absolutely paramount importance of three words: Write. Every. Day. If you don’t, it will hurt. A lot. I still remember the pain of being halfway through writing my second book, having taken two weeks off, and struggling to get back to the mental state where the words would flow again. Here’s what happens:
Writing starts in your mind, regardless of what kind of writing you’re doing. Your mood, ideas you want to write about, random images that those ideas trigger (like that cool Japanese-style house on the beach in Poipu, HI you stayed in all those years ago) are all intangible structures that only exist in your head and are powered by your attention and focus.
If the delay between writing sessions is too long, the same thing happens to that mental structure as what happens when you leave your laptop unplugged too long. It crashes and wipes what you had in memory. Not good.
If that mental structure is rebooted, the first thing you have to do is rebuild it. Maybe you can from what you’ve written so far, your notes, your memory of the memory of what it was (after all, how your memory works is very complex). And maybe you can’t. In all likelihood, if you do get it back it will be different to some degree, large or small — and ultimately your readers will notice.
So losing the mental model that you’re turning into words on your screen is a certifiable Bad Thing. (And don’t get me started on what it’s like to try and catch up if you’ve got a publication-related deadline looming and you’re trying to binge write your way out of that hole.)
So how do you build a habit of daily writing?
- Start by recognizing the importance of the daily habit, and the pain you avoid by having that habit. [Done!]
- Next, find a tool that makes it as easy as possible to get back to what you’re writing on a regular basis. May I suggest TheRightMargin?
- Keep in mind, it’s not about how much you write. Even a single sentence or paragraph will “refresh” that mental structure. But it is about writing that little bit sometime, somewhere, somehow between when you last awoke and when you’ll next go to sleep. think of it as consciously refreshing your working memory so you don’t forget what you are doing and how you are doing it.
- One last “protip” – regardless of how much or little plan to write in general, write that daily habit paragraph just before you go to sleep. Your subconscious is your silent partner when it comes to writing — giving it something to chew on just before it cranks up is a very good idea.
You never know how your long-form written work is going to turn out, which parts are going to flow like water and which parts are going to be like getting water from a stone. But by having as your writing mantra ‘Write Every Day’, you give yourself the best shot of writing your best. And isn’t that what you want to do?