I love the art of written word, so much so that I think about writing all the time. At least, I used to… Language Arts (or English) was my favourite school subject, and for most of my adolescence, my dream career was to be a writer. I am constantly trying to put together tales in my mind, grinding over the details of my experiences that I hope to put down in words. But the problem is, I hardly ever actually sit down and write the stories or essays I create in my head. On occasion I jot down my thoughts and feelings on scattered pages in varied notebooks and journals and computer files, but it is an entirely unstructured and convoluted sort of writing.
To actually BE a writer, one needs more than simply a passion for the art. This is true of any endeavour – music, sports, you name it. You need action and discipline. No matter how much I want to be a writer, no matter how much time I spend thinking about the stories I could tell, no matter how many blogposts or books I read to learn more about the art of writing or to serve as some sort of ‘inspiration’, it all means nothing if I don’t actually put pen to paper. And consistently.
I think that both hopeful and seasoned writers alike struggle when it comes to writing consistently (and especially struggle when it comes to writing consistently well). Personally, I tend to write only when the mood hits me – which occurs usually after I have had some kind of emotionally moving experience that I want to reflect upon. Unfortunately, my life is not so interesting that such experiences occur every day. Moreover, the desire to write about these experiences is fleeting, and even if I tell myself that I will write about it later “once I have the time”, I rarely ever do.
The ultimate question of course, is how does one actually get started writing, and then stick to it? For me, there are three major components to the answer to this question: motivation, habit and accountability.
First, in order to write you need to know why you want to write and then what message you want to deliver. George Orwell wrote a wonderful essay on this very topic and I completely agree with his thesis. If you haven’t read it, you can find his essay here. Find something (or in my case – a number of things) you are passionate about, that inspires you to want to write. It also helps bring focus and purpose to your writing, as many individuals struggle with starting to write simply because they do not know what to write about.
The next task is to turn writing into a habit. This is something I learned from reading Leo Babauta’s blog Zen Habits. His philosophy is that that it is much more effective to turn something into a habit rather than approaching things as large goals or tasks that need to be accomplished with great effort. So if you want to become a writer, learn to write daily. Start small, just 5 minutes every day, and increase gradually over time.
The last step is to find some way to keep accountable. That is why I am (re)-starting this blog. Although this post may sound like advice to the aspiring writer, it is really advice to and for myself. These are really basic lessons that I know to be true in order to become an effective writer based on research of many successful writers and bloggers – but have yet to successfully implement in my own life. With this blog, I am accountable to my audience (no matter how small) to regularly provide content (which will be about whatever I want and am interested in). If you don’t fancy writing a blog, when I was younger, I kept a joint journal with my mother in which we wrote to each other on a regular basis. You could also find a pen pal, or even something as simple as checking off your calendar for each day you write, with some small reward (like going out for ice cream) at the end of each successful week is a useful tool to help keep yourself in check.
Although these three steps have been explained in the context of writing, they can be applied to almost anything you want to improve at in life – fitness, healthy eating, playing an instrument, quitting smoking etc. But keeping in line with point 2 – start small and just pick one thing at a time! In the meantime, I’ll be re-posting some of my old blog posts, mostly just because I really like them 🙂