You dream of being a writer. Maybe you even feel there is a book within you.
Each New Year, you resolve to do it. To start writing regularly. To begin working on a book or a blog.
But what happens?
You get too busy.
You don’t have the energy.
You can’t find the time.
Your health or the health of a dear one falters.
You doubt whether you have what it takes.
But deep within lies your dream, waiting for you, year after year.
You can’t erase this dream of becoming a writer. Because this dream is the message you are destined to share with the world.
But how to do it? How to make this dream a reality?
How to start and not give up?
There is only one way to do it. You need to write. Every day.
It’s a challenge. However, there is a simple way to overcome this challenge without using willpower or needing a dose of discipline.
You need to establish a tiny habit of daily writing.
According to behavioral scientist, BJ Fogg, there are two ways to change behavior in the long-term: either change your environment or take baby steps.
Most people who want to create a new habit choose a big goal and experience a burst of enthusiasm…which is then eventually followed by failure when momentum stalls and motivation wanes. I bet you know all about this.
However, with the strategy of tiny habits, you’ll be able to develop a new daily writing habit with ease without having to use willpower or discipline to achieve your goal.
The Secret of Tiny Habits
Fogg says a “tiny habit” is a behavior that:
- You do at least once a day.
- Takes you less than 30 seconds to do.
- Requires little effort.
Let’s take a look at what a tiny writing habit could be. Remember, your habit needs to be ridiculously small and easy to accomplish, so you only need a minimum of activation energy (the energy to start a habit). The smaller the habit, the less energy you need to establish it.
A Tiny Daily Writing Habit
A simple way to set writing goals is to determine a word count.
Let’s think of a daily word count that is hard to miss. What about building a daily habit of writing just 20 words, which is about two sentences?
Wait! Only two sentences?
It sounds too easy, doesn’t it? And you may wonder if it’s enough. How could two sentences each day possibly lead to completing an article or a book?
Let go of your big dreams for now, and remember that you are establishing a new writing habit.
This habit is going to nurture your dream. Once your new tiny writing habit is established, it will grow of its own accord. And, after the first few weeks, you’ll be raring to write more than just twenty words.
Are YOU prepared to commit to writing just two sentences each day?
But what to write about?
In her book, The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron suggests starting the day with morning pages. This means writing three pages of whatever comes into your mind in a journal. We can take this idea for our twenty-word tiny habit. Write twenty words (or two sentences) from your stream of consciousness into a journal each morning.
How to Make Tiny Habits Work
According to Fogg, three steps make tiny habits easy to establish:
- Schedule your new tiny habit after an existing, daily habit.
- Eliminate friction to make your tiny habit easy to perform.
- Celebrate each time you activate your tiny habit.
Let’s take a look at each of these three steps in detail.
1. Schedule your new tiny habit after an existing, daily habit.
This helps you to anchor the new habit in your routine. The current habit then becomes a trigger event for the new tiny habit.
In my experience, writing in the early morning is a great way to start your day! The trick is to include writing in your regular sequence of events.
Think of an action you routinely do every morning. You get out of bed and go to the bathroom. What then? Do you have a shower? Try taking a few minutes to write after going to the bathroom and before having a shower.
2. Eliminate friction to make your tiny habit easy to perform.
It’s essential to make it very easy to activate the new tiny habit. The problem we all suffer from is decision fatigue.
Creating a habit saves us from having to make new decisions each time we contemplate starting to write. Every action needs a decision to trigger it. Even small actions, like finding your journal, finding a pen or your digital notebook, or clearing a desk or table, need a decision. And these decisions create friction.
To eliminate friction, prepare your tiny writing habit the evening before by laying out your journal and pen (or your digital notebook) where you want to write. In this way, you won’t need to make any further decisions in the morning, except for sitting down and writing. This preparation is a cognitive commitment to your tiny habit.
3. Celebrate each time you activate your tiny habit.
Celebrating the achievement of your tiny habit is an excellent way of reinforcing your new routine because it strengthens the new neural pathway you’re creating. Try using a fist pump or saying out loud, “Yeah, I did it!”
But what about motivation? How can you keep your motivation sharp?
How to Stay Motivated
Motivation is not a fixed entity. It fluctuates. When we face a challenge, our motivation naturally tends to dip.
We long to be motivated before we take action. However, it’s rare for anyone to be motivated in advance of a challenging task. Just ask any athlete. For example, even though I love karate practice, I often feel reluctant to go to the hard classes for black belts. Nevertheless, I hardly ever miss my black-belt classes each week because there is something I know about motivation:
Motivation arises out of action.
Once you start, motivation follows. You see, motivation is the result of action and not its cause. When you get started, even with just two sentences, you tap into active inspiration that will help you establish a joyful daily writing habit.
Have you tried developing a tiny daily writing habit? Tell me about your experience in a comment below. And if you found this post helpful, please share it on social media and with your friends.
About the Author
Mary Jaksch is the Editor-in-Chief of WritetoDone.com. She is passionate about helping writers develop their innate talent. If you want to improve your writing overnight, click here to receive her free report, How to Write Better: 7 Crucial Tips.
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Photo courtesy of Ivan Kruk.
Donald Nordeng says
Thank you for this post, i really enjoyed it. You suggest a great idea and I am going to give it a go next week.
I am just starting the Tiny Habits programme at https://www.tinyhabits.com/join and it is amazing. You start with three habits and one of mine is: “When I turn on my PC, I will open a word file named “writing” and celebrate by saying, “Yes, I can do this” to myself. Another is “When I am done checking email, I will open a word file named “writing” and type one word and celebrate by saying, “Yes, I can do this” to myself.
While the whole celebration thing seems hokey, it does help me to remember to continue the activity.
Nina Amir says
The wors work as an affirmation and trigger! That’s awesome. Keep it up!
Robert Doucette says
After reading Tiny Habits, I started my own experiment. It was educational.
My goal was to write at least 50 words every day before I went to sleep. I had some idea about the main characters and thought I could at least get the story started. For a while, it worked well. Every day I wrote at least 50 words. Some days many more than that. But after a few months, it all fell apart. The writing was a complete mess with characters wandering about without goals, motives, conflicts, and quite little personality. The 50-word goal had changed me from telling a story to simply putting words on paper.
Since then, I realized I needed a plan or outline before beginning my novels. At least enough to allow me to be able to go from one bread crumb to the next. After completing some brief outlines, I plan to try the 50-word day habit again.
FYI: Do you think this would work for revisions? My efforts to revise a previous novel have hit a wall. Does it make sense to try to revise it via five-minute sessions every day? Your thoughts would be appreciated.
Nina Amir says
Hi Robert! This is Nina… I think every book –fiction or nonfiction–needs a content plan before you begin writing. Otherwise you will get off course. So, writing in short amounts works better if you can follow a plan. If you are revising, I, personally, find it more effective to work for 30-60 minutes to keep my find focused on where the book is headed. If I only do 5-15 minutes, I get something done, but there is no continuity.