Read This If You’re Trying to Build a Daily Writing Habit

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A wooden doll on a desk next to a silver laptop.
I get antsy when I skip a day of writing. But that hasn’t always been the case.

Pre-mid-2017, writing was the last thing on my mind (I was an electrical engineer). But seven years later, here I am, a writer by vocation.

If you want advice from someone who’s done the work to go from no writing to writing daily, read on.

In this post:

What daily writing is not

Daily writing isn’t a formula.

Ignore the BS about how to write five articles in an hour or come up with 317 ideas in 20 minutes.

Writing — good writing, anyway — isn’t that simple.

If you’re just going to use AI to create content, then please move along and make way for the writers who actually put in the effort. You won’t go far anyway. All you’ll be doing is wasting your and your readers’ valuable time.

Some people can write faster than others; it’s the same as how some artists can sketch faster than others. Just because some writer can publish seven articles in one day doesn’t mean you have to do the same.

Hard work and consistent practice can eventually help you get faster, but there’s no shortcut to this process.

Anyone who promises such shortcuts is either a fraud or trying to present their own unique experience as a generic formula. And what do we know about formulas for writing faster?

They do not exist.

There are things that can help a little, but they’re not miracle drugs. I once took a profile writing class where the professor gave up a template. It was amazing and sure, helped me cut down some time on structuring my essays, but I still had to research the person whose profile I was writing, figure out which information to include and which to leave out, and just do the work to write well.

Blog posts aren’t different. You can use a template to help you with some things, but a template can’t turn you from a novice to a master by any means.

My story

Before stepping away from engineering, most of my “writing” was strictly technical — lab reports and research papers in college, and then work/procedural reports at my job. And I assure you, engineers don’t give a single fuck about the “readability” of these reports. For most of them, “quality” is determined by factual accuracy, and not even bad grammar is frowned upon as long as the information gets across.

Coming from that to making a living with writing felt… odd, to say the least.

But, as a former engineer, if I can do one thing well, it is this: studying 🙂

So, I studied writing.

Because I started as a blogger and content writer, I studied other bloggers like Jon Morrow and Melyssa Griffin. They were big when I was gearing up to start this blog.

And then, as I slowly widened the breadth of genre and voice, my entire reading practice changed. Some of you may have heard of the phrase, “read like a writer.” Yeah, I started reading like a writer.

Now, after almost seven years and a satisfying career as both a content and creative writer, I can proudly say that writing a few thousand words daily is no big deal for me.

Here’s what I’ve learned in the process, in case you’re struggling to get the words out.

What does writing daily mean to you?

Sometimes, new writers end up conflating daily writing with daily publishing.

But writing and publishing daily are not the same. And if you’re a beginner writer, it’s really important that you understand this difference.

Daily writing is something to strive for (especially if you’ve decided to live as a writer), but if you’re new to writing and you prioritize daily publishing, chances are that a lot of you will end up sacrificing quality for quantity.

I don’t recommend it.

Maybe daily publishing is your (eventual) goal, or maybe you’re trying to get into the habit of writing something every day — a certain number of words or for a set amount of time, maybe both. In any case, if you’re a new writer, you should start by asking yourself this question:

What does daily writing mean to me?

Once you’ve set a goal, you can start planning.

And even if the plan is to get to daily publishing (eventually), it is better to start with writing daily and then let your practice and hard work push you to daily publishing once you can comfortably maintain quality.

The first step: write one blog post, story, or essay

Most bloggers (those who treat it as a business, anyway) focus on a niche.

There are also writers who don’t have a niche. (Many writers on Medium fall into this category.)

But since The Side Blogger is all about blogging as a business, let’s stick to that for the time being.

So, I’m going to assume, for now, that you have a niche.

That’s great! Building momentum with a niche is always safer since it’s easier to be an expert on fewer things than many.

Assuming that you’re new to writing, this is what I want you to do: I want you to write and finish one blog post. It doesn’t have to be great; it just has to be done. Finish writing the damn thing!

A piece of advice: Do not try to tackle a subject matter that is too big. Your first blog post should be easy to write so you do not burn yourself out on your first try.

For example, writing an entire guide on “how to design logos” may be too much. So, you could focus on a very specific aspect of logo designs. Something like “How to Pick a Logo Font for Brick-And-Mortar Coffee Shops That Look Good on Pylon Signs.”

Once you’ve picked an easy-to-tackle topic, write it.

Now, even if you’re not an aspiring pro-blogger and just want to try writing (say, personal essays on Medium, for example), the same theory applies. Pick an easy-to-tackle topic and just write! Do not attempt the most important story of your life when you’re learning to write; you won’t do it justice. Leave it for later.

For your first try (or first few tries), pick an easy subject and finish writing the blog post, memoir, travel story, or whatever it is you’re writing.

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Do not write in one day, but do write every day

If you can write your first blog post in one day, great! You’re one of those lucky writers who were born with this inherent talent.

But if not, remember that this is only the first of many articles or stories to come. Don’t try to force-finish it in one day.

In his book “What I Talk About When I Talk About Running,” my favorite author, Haruki Murakami, said this:

I stop every day right at the point where I feel I can write more. Do that, and the next day’s work goes surprisingly smoothly. I think Ernest Hemingway did something like that. To keep on going, you have to keep up the rhythm.

Even though I’m not a novelist, I find this quite inspiring and often practice it myself (or try to, anyway; my quite-possibly-ADHD brain likes to run marathons when it finds itself in the flow zone).

So, don’t shy away from stopping yourself before you burn out.

The idea is to come back again the following day and continue writing.

Remember, publishing daily is NOT your goal from day one.

You should first try to get into the habit of writing daily first.

So, pace yourself.

Publishing frequency will naturally increase over time so long as you keep writing.

Healthy and achievable goals are good

I’ve talked about writing daily, but daily writing can look different for different people.

I find that having a goal is useful.

Some writers always try to write a certain number of words per day. Others will write for a certain amount of time. These daily writing goals are great; they keep you showing up and push you to finish a project.

So, set a writing goal for yourself. Maybe you have one hour every day right after you wake up in the morning or before going to bed at night. Or maybe you want to write 500 words.

This may sound a bit too rudimentary if you’ve been writing for some time already, but a lot of new writers actually struggle to set up healthy goals and boundaries. So yeah, if you’re new, try to set up a goal that makes sense to you.

You should aim to push yourself, but not too much. You want writing to be challenging but not to the point where you risk burnout.

That’s not to say that you shouldn’t or you cannot have ambitious goals. Writing is an art, after all. It comes to some people more naturally than others. So, you may find that you can finish writing a whole blog post in just a few hours, even if you’re a new writer. However, others may find that writing just a few hundred words is difficult for them.

I’m here to tell you that it’s OK to struggle. After all, I’m one of those struggling writers. I mean, I could only manage to write and publish one blog post in a whole week when I first started this blog!

Writing may be a lot easier for me now, but I’m still a lot slower than many other writers I know. So, if I can make a living with words, anyone can… provided they actually enjoy writing. As I do.

Do not publish the moment you’ve finished writing

Here’s one writing tip (that I really should be paying heed to myself… but uhh… I digress) that will really, really help: Do not publish a story the day you finish writing it, no matter how many times you’ve read it that day or how well it’s been edited by you and/or some grammar-checker tool.

Wait for at least a day, and then come back to it for one more read-over. I guarantee that you’ll find ways to make it better.

Now, I don’t want you to fall into the perfection trap. I’m not asking you to keep editing over and over for days.

Perfection is overrated, anyway.

But bad writing isn’t an excuse, either.

You need to find a balance.

You should make your writing better without being paralyzed by the many different ways in which the quality may be lacking.

As a blogger, you want good enough. Maybe good enough happened on day one, but there’s no harm in waiting just one more day to hit the publish button. Especially when you’re new to writing.

Put it aside, come back the next day, change a few more things to make it slightly better, then go ahead and publish.

[Note: Good enough isn’t enough if you’re aiming for literary magazines. This guide is for those trying to get into the habit of daily blogging, where perfection is not only unnecessary but can be a bit offputting, too. I mean, go ahead and read a story from the Paris Review or the New Yorker… those stories aren’t written in one day, fellas!]

You want momentum, but you do not want to hate the process

If you feel yourself getting to a point where you start hating just looking at a computer screen, listen to that feeling and take a break.

Or else you’ll likely quit writing altogether.

Take a day or two and do something else.

But then, come back to it.

You do not want to lose your momentum, but it’s OK to take a short break from time to time, maybe even weekly (like a weekend of writing break).

Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

Yeah, just keep repeating the above process over and over, and you’ll find that after a couple of months or so, writing daily will have become second nature to you.

Make sure not to lose the momentum. Also, remember that momentum doesn’t mean you never take a break. Momentum means that you take measured breaks.

Stay ahead of the ideas you want to write about. Take a few hours every week just thinking up writing topics for the following week.

For now, I’ll say this:

If you have a niche:

  • Look at what others are writing about in your niche.
  • Ask yourself, when you came to this topic/niche, what were the things that interested you? What questions did you have? You can often find great ideas in your own life experiences.
  • Go to SpyFu, Ubersuggest, or a similar tool and search for the general topic you want to write about. These tools will show you related ideas, which can help you find topics to write about. (I have a blog post topic research webinar right here if you’re interested.)

If you do not have a niche:

Most niche-less writers seem to write about the things that make them think/contemplate/ponder, etc.

There are journalists who can write on a variety of topics. Memoirists and personal essayists will write about their life experiences.

As for me, I like to take cues from day-to-day events.

Give it a try.

Become an observer of your own life.

Write down your moment-to-moment thoughts and feelings in a notebook or a note-taking app on your phone. (Not saying you have to write down every little detail, but if a certain experience affects your mood in positive or negative ways, that’s worth exploring.)

At the very least, try to sit down once every day for a few minutes and write about your day in your journal.

You’ll find your ideas and topics there.

[On that note, check out Davis Sedaris’ “Theft by Finding” and “A Carnival of Snackery.”]

That’s it. At least, that’s how I became a daily writer.

Not necessarily a daily publisher (although I do often publish multiple blog posts/stories in a week), but I hardly go a day without writing at least a few hundred to a few thousand words.

How amazing is that?!

I’m sure that, given some time, you’ll be able to publish a few times a week yourself.

Start by starting 😉 That’s the most important step. Write your first article, essay, story, how-to guide, or whatever you want to write. Then, find your momentum.

Good luck!

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