There are only 3 things a writer must do every day, and they’re very simple.
1. Write Every Day.
This should go without saying, but too many times we get distracted with things like video games or American Horror Story marathons and forget the most important thing we need to do to be writers: write!
Try to set aside the same time to write every day, whenever you do your best work. Or if you’re very busy, keep a notebook and pen handy, and write while you’re in the waiting room, or standing in line, or for five minutes in the parking lot before you go inside or before you drive away.
You don’t have to write a lot. Try for 4 notebook pages per day, if you’re writing longhand, or about 500-600 words. If you can do 500 words per day, you’ll have 100,000 words (novel length) in about 200 days (or about 6 and a half months).
After your 500 words are complete for the day, feel free to edit the previous day’s or previous week’s writing, or to use the time for plotting or character development or brainstorming or going outside and feeling the sunshine, or whatever. But write your words first!
Remember: you can’t fix a blank page.
2. Get Some Exercise.
Sitting on your butt in front of the computer (or with a notebook) all day is not good for your body. You gotta move, even if it’s just to stand and stretch for 30 seconds.
This advice comes from my chiropractor: Throughout the day, right before you sit down, set a timer on your iPod or stove (or whatever you use for a timer) for 10 minutes. When it goes off, stop what you’re doing and get up. Stretch, walk around the room, set the kettle on for tea, clean up cat puke, anything that’ll make you move for a short period of time. It won’t take long; 30 seconds to a minute is all you need. Then, right before you sit down again, set the timer again. It might take a few repetitions to remember to do it.
I know exercising is no fun (at least for me) and sweating sucks (at least for me), but we really should do something more than simply standing up and circling the room every ten minutes. Pick something that takes a little more effort that you can do three times per week for a half hour, minimum. Walking, biking, snowboarding, yoga. Qi gong is one of my favorites, but I also spend a lot of time pulling weeds in the desert wasteland that is my back yard.
If you have a physically demanding job, you can probably ignore the 10-minute stretch rule, but you should still get some different kind of exercise than what you do at work. If you’re disabled, do what you can, but do something.
Movement decreases stress and has a way of connecting us with ourselves.
3. Participate in Life.
Writing is a solitary endeavor, and we need life experiences to draw from to make our stories believable. In order to write about humans, we need to be human.
Interaction with others is necessary, even for introverts like me. Daily participation in life may take the form of face-to-face interaction, or through social media. It’s all good.
But to really participate, you have to get out of the house and into the world, even if it’s just once a week. Visit historical sites, window shop at the mall, go hiking in the forest with friends or family, walk around downtown with the dog (which will improve both of your socialization skills).
Pay attention to your surroundings. Make a mental note of interesting things or people and jot them down in your notebook afterward for later reference. Don’t stop what you’re doing to take notes, though. Be present in the moment.
Schedule some away time for sanity’s sake.
These three things should be easy enough to accomplish that you shouldn’t stress over them. #2 and #3 can be combined, if you exercise with a friend or family member, or go to a gym (or yoga studio, or karate, or whatever). Likewise, #1 and 3 can be combined if you take your notebook with you to your local café to meet with friends, and write after they leave (or before they get there). Hell, you can combine all three by walking to the cafe to meet with friends and write (if the café is too far from home, try parking a block away and walking).
There you go. 3 necessary things every writer must do: Write every day. Get some exercise. Participate in life.
Funny how those last two don’t have anything to do with writing.