The Write Habit: How to Strengthen Your Writing Muscle

By: Katey Coffing, Ph.D.

Writing is a muscle that needs exercise to stay in shape.

I realized how true that saying is when I took what I called "a well-earned break" after I finished my first novel. The last few days of writing that novel felt as sweet as whipped cream--I was in a writing groove, humming along. I figured I'd take a little hiatus for a few days, then start my second book. No problem.

Those few days stretched into a week. Soon two more weeks wandered by and thumbed their noses at me. I felt guilty every time I passed my PowerBook. Then I began to avoid the computer altogether, a beautifully self-defeating habit.

Finally, twitching with dread after more than a month away, I sat down at the screen and began my next novel.

Trying to write after that time away was torture. My neglected writing muscle had become flabby and whiny. It protested my sudden demands and resented being drafted to work.

For many people, the key to productivity is making writing a habit. Consistent writing breeds easier writing. If that's true for you, create a new habit.

Make a commitment to a certain amount of writing every day--a length of time or a number of words or pages to reach before you lift your butt off your chair. Each day when you've reached your goal, do something nice for yourself.

One of my published clients who loves email has chosen to write five pages each weekday before she can log in. She made getting her email a reward for completing her writing goals, and every time she slows down with her writing she remembers how much she wants to read her newsgroups and see her friends' replies. That spurs her to complete her pages, and she feels doubly triumphant when she hears "you've got mail!"

Is email not a good enough carrot for you? Find one that is, then earn it. Setting goals and rewards that make you want to keep writing create a great habit that's win/win.

Write away!

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