I used to be a panic writer.
I would put off writing until I had a deadline, and then lock myself in a room with nothing but coffee and panic until I got it done.
Can I just say that is not a good writing plan? (And an even worse marital improvement plan.) I dreamed of a world where I would be one of those writers who was actually ahead—getting articles written not the night before, but the week before.
Friends, let me tell you— that dream is now my reality.
Maybe you don’t know this about me; I’m dyslexic. Writing has never been a joy for me. But if I can do it, you can, too.
Here’s my secret: I wake up every day (except Sunday) and write at least 500 words. Usually more.
I’ve gone from someone who dreads writing to someone who actually looks forward to it and gets it done without a lot of drama. It’s become a part of my routine, like making coffee and brushing my teeth.
No matter what stage of life you are in right now, these five practices can help you increase your word count and consistently write at least 500 words a day.
- Decide ahead of time when you are going to write. Don’t wait for the writing whim to hit you, because it won’t. When I worked a full-time job, all I wanted to do was sit down and write. But when I had time to write, I was mentally exhausted. I had young kids, and it was so much easier to curl up on the couch and watch an episode of Gilmore Girls with my daughter than it was to actually write something.
When you are trying to decide between writing and not writing, not writing is always the easier option.
When you sit down to write, your mind will think of a million other things you should be doing. You can usually tell when I’m on a writing deadline because the grout in our bathroom is sparkling and there are no crumbs in the silverware drawer. Writing is hard work, and if you’re not intentional about it, other activities will crowd out that time.
But if you put writing time on your calendar, it really does help cement it in your mind.
Just that one simple act prepares you to write. Your brain starts to churn out ideas. I use Evernote to jot them down, and when it’s my time to write, it’s all there. If you can’t write every day, at least schedule a couple hours a week to write.
- If you’re a morning writer, write before anything else. I only do a couple things in the morning before I write. I go to the bathroom and feed the animals. The coffee was made the night before. Some people would say you should do your Bible study before you write. Here’s the thing: I have noticed when I do my Bible study first, I get very preachy.
Also, the more awake I am, the more awake my inner editor is. First thing in the morning, I am writing to my reader. Later in the day, I’m writing to all the critics—all the people who are telling me nobody needs this book, I don’t know what I’m talking about, and there are already a million books on this topic. So I write before Bible study. I write before showering. I write before checking email or Facebook or Instagram.
I deeply believe God works on us so much during the night while we are asleep. There is so much going on in our thought processes and our dreams and we are given a clean slate each morning. For me, that’s the best time to write.
- Learn to be an early riser, especially if you are responsible for other humans. When I was in kindergarten, my mom stood in line for hours during school registration because there were only two options in our school: morning kindergarten or afternoon kindergarten. My mom knew I slept like I was on Codeine and Percocet. I had to be in afternoon kindergarten because she was not going to fight with me every morning just to get out of the house.
Now I am an early riser, and it’s because I’m a writer. I had to train myself to become an early riser. I get up every morning at 5:30. Strangely enough, I get up more refreshed than I ever did when I was sleeping late.
If you cannot find time during the day to write, consider becoming an early riser. If that’s difficult for you, try getting up 10 minutes earlier than you normally do. Then 20 minutes. Then 30 minutes. Building a habit of getting up early takes time.
- Leave off in the middle of a sentence. When you leave off in the middle of a sentence, somehow when you come back to it, your brain dives right into where you left off. If that doesn’t seem like something you can do, write notes to your future self to remind you what you were going to talk about next.
Don’t get hung up on something. If you don’t want to lose your train of thought but you need to interject something, just say something like, “Tell the story about Justin and the orange car here.” Then you can come back to it without losing your momentum.
- Give yourself an hour. You can write 500 unedited words in an hour. The key word is unedited. For me, I have to get the words down and then go back and play with them. You can’t spend that hour tweaking each word or going to headline analyzer. You’ll never get very far. You just have to sit down and write. Then go back and edit another time.
My routine for writing looks different than my routine for editing. First thing in the morning, I am sitting on the couch with a little coffee table. My cat is sitting on my lap and the dog is sitting next to me. This is where I just throw down all the words. I simply write whatever comes to mind.
When it comes time for editing, I’m in my office where I have two screens—a horizontal screen and a vertical screen. I mark up the pages. The thought of me editing first thing in the morning makes me want to weep openly, so I do it later in the afternoon. I can even edit in the evening. When you separate your writing and editing sessions, your word count will go up.
I hate when weight loss show contestants say, “If I can do it, anyone can…” Yes, anyone with round the clock supervision, a personal chef, and a fitness coach yelling at you while in the gym.
But I will say this: If this late sleeping, dyslexic, non-writer girl can pump out 500 words a day, I have very high hopes for you.
Do you have any additional tips for getting the words on the page? Share them with us below.
Kathi Lipp is the founder of Leverage-The Speaking Conference and a national speaker. She’s authored 17 books, including Overwhelmed, Clutter Free, The Get Yourself Organized Project, and The Husband Project. Over the past 10 years, Kathi has helped hundreds of people increase their platform through teaching and coaching. She is a frequent teacher at writers’ conferences and has helped countless authors and speakers find their audiences. Learn more at kathilipp.com.