“The major difficulty a writer must face has nothing to do with language: it is finding or making the circumstances that make writing possible. The first project for a writer is that of constructing a writing life.” – David Huddle, The Writing Habit

The more you write, the more you will grow in your writing capabilities. While this concept isn’t difficult or surprising, the problem persists in that writing often gets pushed into the margins of our lives. We find ourselves saying, “I’ll work on that article after the kids have gone to bed” or “After this semester ends, I’ll start the short story that’s been milling around in my head” or “I wish I had more time to write” as we click “next episode” on Netflix. Why is it so hard to open a blank document or turn to a fresh page? A lot of the time, writing is one of those activities that brings more long term rewards than immediate results. The only way to reap those long term benefits is to sow the seeds of a healthy writing life.

Some people argue that if they aren’t feeling inspired to write, they must not have anything worthwhile to share. Whether you agree with this or not, the fact remains that writing is like a muscle. Picking up a pen (or opening your laptop) is like lifting a weight – if you do it over and over, you’ll only get stronger and more confident in doing so. So if the key is consistency and practice, how can you ensure that there will always be time to dedicate to your craft?

Here are 4 steps to help you develop your writing life:

  1. Create a timeline of your relationship with words. When did you start reading? Why did you start writing? What books were milestones in your life as a writer? What authors, websites, magazines, etc. inspire you the most today? You might be surprised at how much insight this look into your past will give you regarding your style and approach to writing.
  2. Determine what time of the day is your ideal time to write. Everyone has a preference. Some people write before the sun is up or before they eat breakfast, others don’t write till the end of the day when the house is still again, yet others write in the middle of the day between errands and exercise. It doesn’t matter when, it just matters that you find the right time for you when your mind is awake and ready to focus on the task at hand.
  3. Learn about your “writerly” needs and distractions. While this can encompass a broad array of things, it is, nevertheless, important. Understanding and maintaining the needs that you require as a writer is one of your biggest jobs. It should be a priority to which you pay diligent attention. Learn the ins-and-outs of what sets you up for writing success. Glean ideas from other writers and creators whom you admire, but don’t try to emulate their habits. Instead, create your own routines and be fully aware of what distracts you.
  4. Remember that the books, stories, essays, poems, articles, etc. are just products of your writing life. If you develop successful and enjoyable writing habits, the product will flow! David Huddle says, “nourish the ongoingness of your work” by recognizing that personalized writing habits move writing from a task to a necessity.

The important thing to remember is that you’re developing your writing life, which will maximize your writing output. While the details of other writers’ schedules may help you to try out new things, don’t get bogged down by advice from others. Look back to what first inspired your passion for words and writing, figure out when is the best time for you to write, be aware of your needs and possible distractions, and focus on creating the rituals that will make you a productive writer.

Emiley Jones works in the marketing & writing departments for Certa Publishing // http://www.certapublishing.com/