How to Create a Writing Habit

You know that writing is good for you, you’ve tried to start a writing habit and maybe stuck with it for a few days or weeks, but the habit didn’t stick. You’ve bought different notebooks, tried new pens, googled for free writing prompts, maybe even purchased a journaling course. You’ve read books on habit building and admire others who have a morning writing practice but you can’t seem to make it happen. Does this sound familiar?

Nothing is wrong with you

First, let me tell you that there is nothing wrong with you! And you are not a failure for trying over and over again, in fact that has helped you build resilience. 

But I can guarantee that you’re trying to build this habit the wrong way.

We all think that changing our outside circumstances — like the notebook or pen you’re using, or the time of day you’re writing, or where you sit, or here’s the big one – waiting to feel *inspired* to write — is what is causing you to ‘fail’ at building this writing habit. 

None of that matters. What matters is what you tell yourself about your ability to stick with creating a new habit.

Why it’s hard to build a daily writing habit 

The Motivational Triad, developed by Dr. Douglas Lisle and Dr. Alan Goldhammer (The Pleasure Trap is their book that introduces this concept), states that our brains are wired to:

  1. Seek pleasure
  2. Avoid pain
  3. Use energy efficiently

Think about this — our survival brains are biologically wired to avoid pain, seek pleasure, and use energy efficiently. 

That most often looks like doing what we’ve always done, because we know it has kept us alive and has more or less provided enough comfort for us to prefer for things to stay the same. 

We are often motivated to change only when the cost of not changing is more painful than remaining the same. Read that again!

So, if we know that our brains don’t like change, and in fact they prefer to do easy things that don’t hurt and feel good, it is not at all surprising that beginning a new writing habit (or any habit that isn’t ‘easy’) is so difficult. 

This explains why it is hard to start a new exercise habit, a new way of eating, a meditation practice, and even a new business or creative project.

These new habits/routines/practices/projects :

  1. Do not use energy efficiently as it requires lots of energy for our brains to wire neural pathways for new information
  2. Often lead to feelings of discomfort at the minimum — maybe even frustration, shame, discouragement, boredom, resistance, etc. 
  3. They might be pleasurable at first, but that quickly wears off, as the dopamine half life dies off and boredom and resistance to doing the activity crops up.

Here’s what you need to do

ONE – Figure out WHY you want to have a writing practice.

  • Is it to dump out all of your thoughts so you show up with a clear mind? Is it to discover what you believe? To document your days? Process your experiences?

TWO – Combine your writing practice with an existing habit.

  • For example, sit down and write while having your morning coffee. Or when your kids go down for their first nap. Or while you eat lunch. I suggest trying to write before dinner time if at all possible. But if you want to clear your mind before sleep then by all means incorporate it into your evening routine!

THREE – Don’t fight your resistance.

  • Oh, resistance. We tend to think it’s wrong or a problem if we are resisting doing it, but that is not true at all. Seriously, don’t agree with your brain on this! You can feel resistance and say, “Okay, no problem. But we’re going to sit down and set a timer for eight minutes and put pen to paper”. 

FOUR – Embrace your humanness and commit now to 80% output.

  • You are a perfectly imperfect human. You will not write every single day. Life happens. Commit now, from the outset, to writing 80% of your days. Don’t set yourself up for failure by expecting yourself to be superhuman and then use it as another time you try and quit as evidence on why you’ll never be able to do it.

FIVE – Commit to your goal for at least 90 days.

  • Frame it this way for your brain: “For the next 90 days, I am a person who has a goal to write daily. My goal does not end until 90 days from today, on X date. That means until X date, I am a person with a writing habit.” Don’t fall into the trap of when I don’t do this perfectly I quit and give up/oh well this habit isn’t for me anyway’ drama. Know that falling off the horse and getting back on is the absolute point of this practice.

Curious about my writing habit? You can watch me share + explain my thought work here and watch me do my thought work here.

Do you want to create a daily writing habit?

What if you could develop a daily practice that documents your life, your growth, and where you’re going?

And in turn it gave you a platform for all of your ideas so you can flesh them out and find the one that will become your next big idea?

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