This is my 38th Monday in a row of crafting and posting an essay. If you’re keeping track, that’s all the Mondays of 2020. I’m frequently asked how I was able to establish a consistent writing practice. My short answer is always: you just do it.
Here’s the thing … it doesn’t get easier. I’ve become a better writer over the past year, for sure. But the actual act of writing is still a pain in the ass. It ALWAYS feels like doing leg day in the gym on an empty stomach and not enough sleep. Each Monday, I spend a good portion of my allotted time staring at a blank screen. (For this one, it’s been 1 hour and 9 minutes of screen staring). I have a healthy avoidance practice to go along with my writing practice. I will scan social, reply to some emails or Slack messages, look at my to-do list (which clearly says “WRITE MONDAY ESSAY”!), re-heat a cup of coffee, make a smoothie.
But eventually, I sit down and do the task of writing. And I keep doing it. Every Monday morning. Because I have to. It’s not just that I set a goal to post an essay every Monday. It’s because writing is part of becoming the master of my mind. It’s because I’ve been called to be a conduit. It’s because, like it or not, words are my art.
So nothing I can tell you will make you want to write. I can’t give you motivation or inspiration or discipline. But I can share a few things that have worked for me these past 38 Mondays …
- Have a set slot on your calendar. One of the biggest mistakes I made prior to this year was waiting to write until I felt like writing. That’s a nice feeling but a fickle one that can easily be replaced by excuses. Once you have this set time, make it sacrosanct. If for some absolutely critical reason you can’t do the allotted slot, pick a new one for the night prior or some other time that day.
- Have an idea catcher. For me, this is an Apple Note. I create a new note for each month, then put the dates. I jot down pretty much any ideas that come to mind. This also includes quotes I found, links to interesting articles, song lyrics. These note entries often include a recap of something I journaled about as well. There are no tasks in the idea catcher. No goals. No to-dos. Just ideas, thoughts, musings, ramblings. Essentially a written version of talking to myself.
- Have a pre-writing routine. I write every day. Some of it is short ponderings I capture on an Apple Note. Some writings are longer hand-written journal entries. Some are the #musings I post on social frequently. This is the first pre-writing routine — to write every day in some form. The second routine is the time just prior to writing. I always take a long walk. If I feel extra hungry, I will eat something healthy. And I allow for distraction. I do check Slack, my phone, my email, social during this time.
- Assume the Resistance. If you are a frustrated (and reluctant) creative like me, you’ve likely read “The War of Art” by Steven Pressfield. He describes this feeling of avoidance as a dark presence called “The Resistance”. The Resistance is part accuser, part shamer, part distractor, part hype man. It always shows up. Every f**king Monday. It shows up because it’s supposed to. The ego-mind loves the illusion of control. Art and the creation of art are things it can’t control. The Resistance means you are doing something divine. And threatening. And subversive. You don’t want the Resistance to go away. You just want a weekly appointment to kick its ass.
- Ask for feedback. Writing can produce a lot of insecurity and doubt. So part of my writing practice is reading my essay out loud to someone I trust prior to publishing. For me, this puts the writing into an area where I’m much more comfortable: speaking. When I can’t read it out loud, I will often send the Google doc link. A few things happen when you ask for feedback. First, it makes the writing real. It gets you out of your head. Second, praise and affirmation is always nice, no matter how mature your creative practice is. And third, you will become a better writer. It will boost your confidence. And confidence is the best thing to make the Resistance smaller and less of a dick.
So there you go. As I said, most of what you need to do you can’t learn from others. Sure you can learn skills — and I hope these tips are useful. But this is your work to do. So go do it.