By Leo Babauta
I write every single day. I do it for a living, of course, but I think writing daily has allowed me to do it for a living.
I journal, I write blog posts, courses for my Sea Change program, books and ebooks. For fun, I’ve written 50,000 words of a novel for NaNoWriMo, and another year I wrote 110,000. For years, I wrote newspaper articles and opinion columns. None of this is to brag, but to show the kind of writing I do when I write daily.
Writing every day has helped me in so many ways. Just to name a few:
- My writing skills have improved with the years.
- I’m able to write faster, type faster, with so much practice.
- I can clarify my thinking better because of writing regularly.
- I’m able to think from the reader’s perspective, which helps me in lots of life situations.
- I am forced to reflect on my life, which deepens my learning.
- I am forced to figure out how to motivate myself to write regularly.
- I learn to create a regular practice, as I do with meditation, exercise and eating healthily.
- I learn to overcome perfection and put things out there to be judged, which helps me to embrace failure and messiness.
- I learn to overcome distraction and procrastination.
There are many more benefits too, from embracing uncertainty to find a way to express the soul of my being. Not small feats, I think.
So how do you write daily? I’ll share a few ideas that work for me.
How to Write Daily
What works for you will be different than what I do, but I thought I’d share what has helped me:
- Most important: Have a great reason. The rest of this doesn’t matter if you skip this step. Answer this question: Why do you want to write every day? If it’s because it sounds fun, sounds cool, sounds nice … you’ll abandon it when you face discomfort. If you want to do it to help someone else, to make the world a better place, to lift someone’s spirits, to reduce your pain, to find a way to express your deeper self … then you can call on this deeper reason when things get difficult.
- Block off undistracted time. All you need is 10 minutes a day. But you have to block off those 10 minutes, and treat them as an unmissable appointment. You wouldn’t tell your doctor that you’ll get to your appointment with her “after checking your email and Facebook just one more time” would you? Then don’t do that to your writing appointment. This is undistracted time, so shut everything down, and treat this space as sacred. Have a place you write, treat it like your daily prayers, and be ready before the appointment starts.
- Don’t let yourself forget. What would you do if you absolutely couldn’t forget an appointment? You might write it on your calendar, set an alarm, even put up a note where you couldn’t miss it. You might ask someone else to remind you. Do all those things.
- Do it in a sprint. Some people think they need to write for an hour or two to make it count. But a task that big will seem daunting. Instead, write for 5 minutes. Or 10. Something small and doable. Then put your full focus and write your ass off for those 10 minutes, like you’re running to the love of your life after a long separation.
- Practice mindfulness. You can treat writing as a meditation — it’s a way to put everything aside but you and the writing, to let your thoughts become words on the page, to see your urges to run, the stories you’re telling yourself about yourself and your life. Don’t simply rush through the writing process and treat it as a chore — notice when your mind is complaining, notice the texture of the room around you, notice how your body feels as you sit and write, and embrace the moment.
- Practice gratitude. As you practice mindfulness, notice the awesomeness of this moment of self-expression. It’s so easy to take this for granted, and want to go do something else. But instead, pause and see what you can appreciate about this writing time. What is beautiful? What are you taking for granted? For me, I am grateful just to have the opportunity to write, to help others, to share what I am learning about this world. And having a roof over my head, not starving and not being in incredible pain, being able to see light and colors and hear the music of the world … these are simply incredible!
- Embrace imperfection. Writing is about letting go of our ideals, and just doing anyway, even if we can’t have perfection. If we only wanted to write amazing things, instead of sucky first drafts, we’d never write. So we have to be messy, let ourselves not be good at something, put it out anyway, and embrace the imperfection of life.
- Don’t let your mind run (for a little while). Your mind will want to run from the writing. This is normal. The mind doesn’t like uncertainty and discomfort. You’ll want to go check email, check blogs, check social media, check news, go clean your kitchen. Notice this urge, and then sit with it. Don’t run.
So that might seem like a lot, but in truth it’s pretty simple. Have a big reason, block off the time, set unforgettable reminders, do it in short bursts, and be mindful, grateful, and focused.
Practicing this on a daily basis helps you form some incredibly useful skills of staying with something and not running to distractions, learning to express yourself, sticking to a regular habit, and being mindful and grateful. These help in all areas of life, and I highly recommend you start today.