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How to build a writing routine that works

3 min read

It’s been a month since I began writing in this blog again, and, like I promised, this is another milestone to check and maybe slice and dice a little bit.

After doing this for a whole month straight, I can say for sure that building a routine is the key for this to work. Of course, having an editorial calendar and outlines for your posts definitely save time and effort but building a proper daily routine is what you need to keep your mental health intact.

Why? Because you need a certain frequency to sit and write and make content or write your novel or dedicate to whatever creative project you have there.

So, how do we do it?

The main ingredient for building a writing routine is being aware of what comes before and after it in the habit loop.

In the book The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg explains that a habit loop is a neurological cycle that governs any habit. The elements of the habit loop are cue, routine, reward.

We already know that “routine” is the habit we are trying to build here. That’s the behavior we want to reinforce because writing is good.

Before the routine, there’s a cue. That’s what triggers the habit. When do you write? What’s around you when you’re writing? When do you feel like writing? And what provides you the best mood for writing and being creative?

American writer Ernest Hemingway used to write in the morning, at 5:30 or 6:00. In an interview with The Paris Review, he said, “When I’m working on a book or a story I write every morning as soon after first light as possible. There is no one to disturb you and it is cool or cold and you come to your work and warm as you write.”

So, he (and many other writers) used to write in the early morning because the conditions and mood he needed to write were possible. In other words, when you force yourself to be susceptible to a certain trigger (like waking up at 5:30 in the morning), you allow the cue to make its magic for the habit loop to start.

To make the cue possible, you might want to wake up earlier or go to bed later, make a pause during your day, hide somewhere for 60 minutes, barter time with your family, friends, or even barter this time at work, so that you can afford to let that cue happen every day.

Then, after the routine, there’s a reward. The reason for all this. You want to finish your book, you want to convey a good message in your blog or social media account, you want to be paid for your writing, you want to write something and be proud of it, you want to write to learn. That’s your reward.

It’s the pay-off for messing with your sleep, or not spending 60 minutes with your family or friends, to write. There must be a reward, otherwise, the routine is kinda useless. Don’t you think?

My cue here is usually possible between 8 and 10 in the morning, that’s when I’m most productive. That’s also why I write these posts in the morning.

With this blog, I’ve learned that I have to find more cues to optimize the whole process. I know that’s something I already said at the end of the one-week milestone post but I keep trying to find a good way to do it.

This could be a topic for a new post but I just want to tell you that finding cues or optimizing processes takes time so don’t sweat it.

So, how do we build a writing routine that works?

  1. Being aware of the habit cue.
  2. Making it easier for the habit cue to happen.
  3. Craving the writing routine by not forgetting the rewards.

Now, for the comments…

Do you agree? When do you write? How does the cue for your writing routine look like?


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