When I first started writing fiction, I spent tons of late nights and early mornings wrestling with my manuscript, slogging away in front of the computer, and obsessing over my word count.
I woke up feeling confused about my next steps as self-doubt crept in. I second guessed my decisions and felt like a fraud. Once anxiety took over, procrastination was quick to follow—which kept me in an unproductive cycle for months at a time.
None of that felt good, and more importantly, it was not the path to a successful business model. Even though writing fiction is emotional, I couldn’t get sucked into my feelings and day-to-day pain. I needed to produce consistently.
As I refined my system for consistent progress, I came up with three daily practices that are crucial to building a fiction writing business:
#1 – Record your progress in a journal.
For a long time, I recorded my progress in a spreadsheet and paid attention to word counts, time, and speed of writing. I was miserable! As useful as those metrics were, I never had the data I really needed, which was why I could write quickly one day and didn’t want to on others.
We are not machines, therefore any creative endeavor is heavily influenced by our day-to-day emotions. Once I started recording my progress in a journal, I was able to identify the underlying challenges I was facing, then take action so I could feel differently in the future.
This is something I still practice today, every day. Journaling not only keeps my emotions in check (particularly fears, self-doubt, and perseverating), it also helps me work out problems in my manuscript, become one with my characters and their emotions, and empty my mind of stress and overwhelm I’m facing.
#2 – Move, preferably outside.
Your creative well isn’t endless. You need to keep refilling it, and the best way to do that is to stay inspired.
Writers are naturally indoor types, but getting some daily exercise (even if it’s just a 30 minute walk) can do wonders for both your physical and emotional health. Our bodies are not meant to stay still, and when we move them, we clear toxins in our bodies and our minds.
Going outside will do even more, because nature is constantly changing. Inspiration requires stimulation—new things to notice about the world—and going outside is the best way I’ve found to stimulate the senses.
I honor myself with a daily walk in the mornings, where I can unwind my thoughts along with my muscles. Bonus: bring a cell phone with Evernote or a small notebook and pen so you can jot down any inspiration that spins free during that time.
#3 – Establish a writing block and protect it.
To make consistent progress, you have to work consistently on your project. Sounds obvious, right? But I’m surprised by how few writers do this—how many instead wait for lightning to strike, the moon to eclipse, and their sign to move into Saturn’s house before they can pull out their project and work on it.
The easiest way to combat the loophole of “I’ll get to it when I have time” is to set a daily time and do it. Start with five minutes a day (set an alarm on your phone) and force yourself to sit in front of the computer with your project open during those minutes. Don’t let yourself do anything else besides sit there in silence or work on your project.
One day, you will be bored enough to start; from there, you can increase the time to 10 minutes, 20 minutes, until you get that daily hour going.
There’s a ton you can do to optimize this time in the future. For now, it’s important to just have a writing block. You’ll be shocked by what a difference this makes.
My writing block is 1-5pm every single day. Yes, I miss it some days (weekends, especially), or I sometimes only complete 2 hours instead of four… but overall, I get a hell of a lot more writing done as the result of having that block.
BONUS: Eat healthier, sleep better.
This is a bonus, because these two are the easiest ways to influence the fuel that will drive your book project forward: your energy levels. Without question, the worse I eat or sleep, the worse my fiction writing block goes the following day.
I used to not care about this, but by making even a simple effort (for me, eating a salad for one meal a day and moving toward bed at 10:30pm) I have seen major results in my business and my stamina to do the writing block.
These are the 3 habits that have made a huge difference in my ability to produce good fiction content quickly. Are there any others you would add, that have worked for you?