4 Ways to Develop a Writing Habit

My love letter to Paris is there somewhere. Shakespeare & Company, Paris, circa 2014.

M, an old friend of mine reached out and asked me to help him to write again. So I sent him a few tips that I’ll share after this little trip down memory lane.

We met 29 years ago, when I was in sixth grade. On my way home from the bus stop on a scorching Florida day, he asked me about the Mario Puzo Godfather book I was carrying. We were both raised in American Italian homes and immediately connected because of this brick of pages about the Italian mob I carried everywhere for the month it took me to read. Our friendship grew as we shared our discoveries in literature, music, art, film and spirituality, an art unto itself that we still continue through the decades.

Back in our childhood, M was more disciplined in painting, research and spirituality than I was. I tended to dabble then party and travel as much as possible in between, except I did write on literally everything: my hand, my clothes, napkins, other people, even sometimes in notebooks. When M. recently asked for my help to develop a writing habit, I was happy to repay him for all the media and spiritual practice nuggets he had bestowed upon me through the years.

Maybe some of the writing tips I’ve shared with him can help other aspiring writers or seasoned stuck ones!

Here’s What to Do to Keep Writing

1. Recognize that writing can become a habit like anything else. I like to combine a new habit with a daily task to trick myself into developing a new habit. E.g., for ages, I couldn’t get into the habit of journaling, but now I journal with my morning coffee (or tea when I’m trying to reduce that delicious aromatic anxiety-inducing monster) or with meals instead of watching TV or reading.

2. If an idea hits you in transit when no pen is in sight or you’re just not in the habit of capturing the magic: use dictation on Google Docs or the free notetaker on your phone. There’s a mic on your keyboard and it will translate voice to text. Then tell yourself this mantra my teacher Cynthia Whitcomb tells everyone: Write now, edit later.

3. Carry a tiny notebook and a pen everywhere. Even if you don’t use it for the first six years of carrying it everywhere, one day you’ll finally allow yourself to use it, and it’ll be a glorious breakthrough moment.

4. This is the most important tip that creatives don’t talk about enough, except for maybe David Lynch. I borrowed this line from another friend, N, when discussing the topic of staying in a creative mindset all the time: say YES instead of no when the magic of creative impulse strikes. Those tiny moments pass us all the time if we don’t pause and feel. If you’re picking out fresh Roma tomatoes and a lovely line of poetry hits you in the produce aisle, then pull out your phone or that tiny notebook and take the two minutes to scribble your heart onto the page. You’ll feel infinitely better for giving yourself the permission and freedom to express your creativity and eventually writing in the moment will become habit. Think of all the time you waste on nonessentials if your mind tells you no: scrolling on social media, bickering about dirty dishes, trash talking a rando — whatever the vice: you could be writing instead.

If none of that impels you to finally start a writing habit, maybe this interview with David Lynch will. I watched it a couple of months ago and it changed my life, forever. I no longer talk myself out of being spontaneously creative. Ever since I watched this interview, I make the time and space for creativity, whether it’s in the moment or at specific times I block out for writing, painting and drawing. If I see shadows dance on the sidewalk, and I want to film or photograph the natural play before me, I do it. I no longer make excuses not to draw or paint. I write everyday, in some capacity. I hope this David Lynch interview inspires you at least a fraction that it did me.

Happy Writing! And please leave any comments if you try these techniques. I want to know if they work for other people.

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