by Kathi Lipp
I used to be a panic writer. I would put off writing until I had a deadline; then I’d 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 was one of those writers who actually got articles written the week before and not the night before. Friends, let me tell you—that dream is now my reality.
Here’s my secret: I wake up every day (except Sunday) and write at least 500 words. Usually more. 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 daily.
1. Decide ahead of time when you will write. Don’t wait for the writing whim to hit, because it won’t. When you sit down to write, your mind will think of a million other things to do. You can usually tell when I’m on a writing deadline because the grout in our bathroom sparkles and the silverware drawer is free of crumbs. 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, schedule at least a couple hours a week to write.
2. 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 suggest doing your Bible study before you write. However, I have noticed when I do my Bible study first, my writing gets 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—the people who tell 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.
3. Learn to be an early riser, especially if you are responsible for other humans. When I was in kindergarten, I slept like I was medicated. My mom knew I had to be in afternoon kindergarten. She was not going to fight with me every morning just to get up and get moving. 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.
4. Leave off in the middle of a sentence. When you stop 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. 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.
5. Give yourself an hour. You can write 500 unedited words in an hour. The key word is “unedited.” First, 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 deciding on a title. You’ll never get very far. Just sit down and write. This is when I simply throw down all the words. Then I go back and edit later.
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 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.
Kathi Lipp is a national speaker and the best-selling author of 17 books including Overwhelmed, Clutter Free, The Get Yourself Organized Project, and The Husband Project. She is a frequent guest on radio and TV and has been named Focus on the Family radio’s “Best of Broadcast.” She is the host of the popular podcast Clutter Free Academy with Kathi Lipp and is the founder of the Leverage Speakers Conference held each November in San Jose, California. Kathi will keynote and teach workshops at the upcoming Oregon Christian Writers Fall One-Day Conference on October 20 at Rolling Hills Community Church in Portland.