Starting a Writing Regiment

The one piece of advice I hear over and over again on how to be a writer is a rather simple tidbit.

Just write.

It’s not wrong. If you’re not writing, you have no right to call yourself a writer. So instead of me beating you over the head with a mantra of just write – just write – just write. Why don’t I give you something a little more helpful. After all, if someone wanted to be a marathon runner, I don’t think being told to just run would do as much good without maybe outlining a regiment to get them into shape for a big race.

So let me do the same for any would-be writers out there.

First is to set up a routine. Anything less than daily and you’d be doing yourself a disservice. Find a time of day that you can carve out thirty minutes. More or less doesn’t matter right now as long as you can commit to the same time every day.

Now aim to write three pages or 750 words in that time. Here’s the thing. Don’t plan to write anything specific during that time. Not that screenplay you have swimming in your head or that Great American Novel creeping out of your subconscious. Just write what’s at the forefront of your mind. Don’t stress about punctuation or grammar at this point either. This isn’t for anyone else to read. It’s solely to get you writing.

Two things happen from this. One, it gets you past all of your surface crap. By this I mean, all the things on your mind that keep you from having an original thought. Maybe it’s venting, complaining, or even freeing your inner demons. It feels like weights being lifted once you can get past it all. Second, when you do this long enough, it forms a habit. It should become part of your daily routine like eating breakfast or putting on pants. Eventually if you should miss a day of writing, it should feel uncomfortable. Unpleasant.

Once you get into the daily habit, that’s when you can start doing more. Stretch your time out. However, try to limit that stream-of-conscious writing to just three pages or 750 words. Focus the rest of your time on one project or another.

This isn’t a new concept. Julia Cameron suggests what she calls Morning Pages, where every morning you are to write out three pages long hand. I’ve done them and recommend them, but I don’t have the necessary time in the morning to do them anymore. Recently I’ve found this wonderful site called 750 Words. Three guesses on what goes on there. Yep. It offers a place to write your daily 750 words and makes it fun in the process by giving reward badges for certain accomplishments (my inner gamer loves this), tracking your total progress, analyzing your writing, monthly challenges, and creating a community of others doing the same thing (don’t worry. you can keep all your writing private if you like). The best part?

It’s free!

Do yourself a favor and check it out. You won’t regret it.

So there it is. My little suggestion to get the writing started. We were all there once if not there right now. So I’ll put the question to you. How do you get the words to flow? Any tips would welcome in the comments below.