The Write Habit:

How to Strengthen Your Writing Muscle

By Kate Coffing, Ph.D.,
Book Coach for Women Writers

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

I’m not the first to say that, but I realized how true it was when I took what I called “a well-earned break” after I finished my first novel.

The last days of writing the novel tasted 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.

Those few days somehow morphed into a week. Soon two more weeks slithered by, thumbing their noses at me. Guilt swarmed me every time I passed my lonely PowerBook. I began to avoid my computer altogether, a beautifully self-defeating habit.

Finally, twitching with dread after more than a month of avoidance, I sat down at the screen to begin 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 again.

For many people, the key to productivity is making writing a habit. Consistent writing breeds easier writing.

If this is true for you, create a new habit. Make a commitment to a certain amount of writing every day, whether your goal is a length of time or a number of words or pages drafted before you lift your butt off your writing chair.

If your muscle has been out of practice and you’re afraid to begin, just start slow. Write at least one new paragraph today, or even a sentence. Tomorrow, write two. The following day, three. Keep rolling, bit by bit, until you reach a daily goal that works well for you.

And this is important: each day when you’ve reached your goal, do something nice for yourself. Many people don’t, feeling they don’t deserve the credit. They tell themselves, “My goal was too small, I didn’t write well enough, I didn’t ‘do it right’…” Sound familiar? Yep, I hear those nasty Inner Critic tapes, too. But think about this: if you don’t reward yourself for writing, is it any wonder you don’t write?

One of my published clients who loves her email has chosen to write five pages each weekday before she can access the Internet. Enjoying email has become her reward for completing her writing goals, and every time she slows down she remembers how much she wants to read her friends’ new messages or to surf YouTube and CuteOverload.com. That spurs her to complete her pages, and she feels doubly triumphant when she hears “you’ve got mail”.

Is the Web not a good enough carrot for you? Find something that is, then earn it. Setting goals and rewards that keep you writing creates a great habit that’s win/win.


Kate Coffing, Ph.D. is a life coach for women writers. She helps women write, publish, and succeed! Discover more at Women-Ink.com.

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© 2004

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