For me, writing has become my core action that must be taken to do anything online. If I am doing content marketing? I write first. When exploring myself, I write. Building a website? I write. Regardless of your motivation to write, I believe that writing works best when you learn how to write blog content consistently.
I think many people know this, and believe it (because seriously, how many times have you heard content is king?) yet most do not practice it as well as they should. I relate this in many ways to exercise. Everyone knows that exercise is important, and they will try to build a habit of doing it. They’ll jump in all gung-ho, and ready to workout.
After a while, burnout sets in and they slowly stop going. I have seen (and personally felt) the exact same effects when committing to writing on my blog (blog? Who am I kidding? Blogs.) Consistently. Take a look at a few blogs, and you’ll find abandoned, dusty places that haven’t been updated since 2009. With both writing and exercise, you won’t notice any progress in the beginning, save a few good feelings of accomplishment.
The answer is simple. They formed a habit.
I wanted to form my own habit, so I began reading books on the topic. It was at this point I stumbled on Mini Habits, and it changed how I looked at habits forever. I definitely recommend picking up this book, because it covers in much-greater detail what I’m about to discuss in this article.
This article isn’t a “it’s tough but you gotta POWER THROUGH IT” kind of article. No, no – It’s more practical than that. Let’s face it, establishing a habit is hard, and willpower can only get you so far. The mindset of POWER THROUGH IT usually fails. Again, the internet is a graveyard of abandoned blogs, so that says a lot about this mentality, and its effectiveness.
Start Small, but Don’t Limit Yourself
When you first get started with writing, you’ll probably have plenty of willpower to write. That’s great! Use that! Don’t hold back, either. Write until you are tired of writing, and don’t think twice about it. Sometime in the not-too distant future, you’ll most likely find that your interest in writing will wane. That’s normal, and why you need to make your goal extremely small. My goal? 5 words a day. Five freaking words a day.
What’s important, though is I don’t make myselfstop at 5 words. (I’d never get anything done!) I do, however, honestly only require that I write 5 words. This is my “safety-net” for when willpower begins to run thin, or something happens that causes my time to run thinner than usual. On the days where I know I will have trouble with writing, I will come up with new blog post ideas. 1–2 ideas is more than 5 words, takes just a few minutes to come up with (usually), and honestly saves me a lot of time when the days come where I’m in the “writing mood.” If I can’t come up with any ideas, then I just open a post I’ve got in the hopper, and make some edits to it. 5 new words are on the screen? #jobsdone!
Keep a Cache of Post Ideas and Content
It’s important that you keep your list of blog post ideas full. This is important because it will help you defeat writer's block. On days where I feel motivated to write blog content, I will look at my list of posts that I’m still working on, as well as my new content. I will pick any topic that gels with where my mind is at that moment. Don’t force yourself to finish an article before moving on to another, because that just invites writer’s block. Heck, you may get 300 words into a post, get stuck, and find that it just sits there for a long time. It may never get published, and that’s OK. Everything you create doesn’t need (and probably shouldn’t be) published.
Your brain is a product of your environment on any given day. Each time you sit down at your desk, you’re effectively a different person. Don’t fight this dynamic. Instead, use it to catapult your content, and get the words out. Write about topics that are on your mind at that moment. Look at the titles you have cultivated on those “5-word days”, and just write!
This will be the path of least resistance, and allow you to mind-dump. In fact, sometimes (more often than not, really) I will sit at my desk thinking that it is a “5-word day”, will look at a blog title, and say “ok fine, I’ll do a few words on that topic.” You can guess what happens next. Other times, inspiration will strike on a topic I didn’t even have in the hopper. I’ll blink, and voila! 800 words!
Grow Your Mind
In-order to create blog content consistently, you have to keep those ideas flowing in. To do that, you need to take in content to process. Without content flowing in, the mind will stagnate. You’ll find that your subject matter for your blog content will stagnate, and become repetitive.
If you’re short on time, or aren’t the biggest fan of reading (yeah, that’s me on both accounts) get into Podcasts and audiobooks. Listen to them when you’re cooking, mowing the lawn, taking a shower, or driving. Pay attention to your typical routine, and when you find yourself doing a mindless task, question if you could use this time to listen to an audiobook or podcast. I can’t stress this point enough. If you are not taking in quality content that is growing you personally, you will run out of quality content to write about. Invest in yourself.
Find Time Slots That Work For You
When it comes to writing, consistency can make it easier to develop your habit. It’s not required that you do this, but I have found it to be very helpful. I wake up in the morning, listen to my audiobooks while I shower, and do some programming afterward. In the evening, just before bed, I will sit at my desk and write. It helps me to write at that time, because my body has adapted to writing before bed. Plus, I have the entire day’s experience behind me, fresh on my mind and ready to influence my writing. Of course, that doesn’t mean that you have to write at night.
Just try to make your schedule consistent, if possible. I’ve found that building a habit at a time where many are asleep offers you the most opportunity for success, because nobody can disrupt you from doing your task, so I write blog content at night. I don’t, however, associate a very specific time (like 9:00 PM every day) with writing. That can certainly work, but I associate it with “before bed”. When I feel tired, and know I’m going to be falling asleep in the next hour, I sit down and start writing. Some nights, that’s 10:00. Most nights that’s more like 8:00 (nothing good happens after 11:00, after all.) I don’t have any research to back up my next statement, but I believe that associating a task with an event is a more robust way of establishing a habit, because you’re in a more consistent mindset after an event.
If you can associate that mindset with a positive habit you’re trying to build (such as writing) it will eventually become an automatic thing. Another good example of a time slot that’s associated with an action is “after I eat lunch”.
Track Your Progress
I downloaded a handy app (and free, too!) called Coach.me. It pops up an automatic reminder on each of my goals at a time I specify. It has become a handy tool to help keep me on-track with building my writing habit, but it does a little more than that. In addition, I get to check-off that I completed the writing task each day, and it keeps track of how long my streak is. Not only is it fun to watch my streak continue to pile up, but it also puts a little bit of pressure for me to keep the streak going. It’s rewarding to click the checkbox each day, and watch the fanfare on the screen.
It’s rewarding to look at how long my streak is, because that is the most tangible way to show the progress I’ve made so-far. This is important because you probably won’t see results from your content right away, especially when you’re just starting out. Additionally, this keeps your habits at top of mind, which will help you stay focused on maintaining them.
Writing every day is vital. It forces you to reflect on things, and think about them a lot more than you otherwise would have. You don’t have to write a lot for this to make a difference, either. That being said, forming a writing habit is no small task. The will to do it every day will wane in-time, so making the minimum task that you need to do as small as possible will make it a lot easier to maintain. As soon as you realize that, and begin to make building the habit of writing a priority in your personal and professional career, things will begin to change. If you want to learn more about how forming your writing habit around this method works, pick up a copy of Mini Habits and give it a listen. The author goes into great detail, complete with research results, the science behind it, and a lot more advice on how to be successful.