“A writer who waits for ideal conditions under which to work will die without putting a word on paper.”
I write best sitting at a coffee shop. Preferably a rustic, downtown coffee shop with the buzz of the people around me drowned out by my headphones. The fresh aroma of coffee and the concentrated people around me allow me to enter the state of flow and write a single blog post.
But there are days I don’t make it to a coffee shop. Time escapes from me, as it will do, and I’m left at 11:00 pm with only an hour to write.
It’d be so much easier to go to bed, curled up beside my Pomeranian dog. It’d be so much easier to put it off until tomorrow.
I don’t write well when I’m at home. I can’t concentrate when I’m this tired. I won’t be able to create something good enough to put out into the world to be criticized.
If you look at any great writer, though, most will reveal that they have a daily writing habit.
Stephen King used to write six pages a day; John Steinbeck advised that you lose track of the 400-page book and write just one page a day. In almost every instance of greatness, the writer produces.
No matter how bad the distractions. No matter how horribly distant greatness seems. No matter how scatterbrained the thoughts and words seem. Poor writing is better than no writing.
Contrary to popular thought, or at least how I viewed writing, it’s not some free fall creative expression. It’s a slow, steady climb up a cold, treacherous mountain.
In outlining a writer’s day, Pressfield says,
I am keenly aware of the Principle of Priority, which states (a) you must know the difference between what is urgent and what is essential, and (b) you must do what’s important first. What’s important is the work.
The Resistance is a vicious beast that will do its very best to tear you away from your work. The difference between mediocrity and greatness is the way we fight off the beast. The difference is in our daily habits.
Turning pro is like kicking a drug habit or stopping drinking. It’s a decision to which we must recommit every day. Twelve-step programs say “One Day at a Time.” The professional says the same thing.
“But,” the Resistance screams, “your writing isn’t good enough! It’s not pristine or anywhere near perfect. It’s actually quite poor!”
The Professional, someone who is a pro at what they do, will block out the cries of the Resistance and write. Not because there’s a deadline. Not because the world is asking you to or there are no distractions. The Professional will write because the only way to become better is through habit.
Writing daily, for me, has become a creative outlet. A blank piece of paper I can display my colorful thoughts on. It’s something that pushes me to become a better person in more aspects than just the writing part of my life. The more I write, the more I force myself to write (poorly if need be), the more I stifle the screams of the Resistance.
Your first objective should not be to write well.
Your first objective should be to write.
Become a creature of habit. Schedule a portion of your day, even if it’s just a small portion of your day to write. Make it a professional habit to write even if it’s just for thirty minutes a day.
Don’t push aside, making writing a habit because you can’t make it an ideal habit. That’s just another form of the Resistance appearing in your life. Make the habit small enough to not form any excuses at the beginning.
Start off by setting a ridiculously easy goal.
Something like writing 100 days for a week. This works because you’ll feel ridiculous if you make an excuse that you can’t write 100 words. The Resistance can’t hide so easily from you if you make the goal simple enough to hold in your grasp.
Then continue to build your habit from there. Reaching your goals have a beautiful way of motivating you. There’s a rush of adrenaline that comes from reaching a goal. Kind of like when the forward scores a goal in soccer.
So, this second begin to make writing a habit. Set goals for yourself and commit to reaching those goals.
Even if the goals seem small and your writing seems poor.