I’m often captivated by the writing routine and tools of other writers — it gives me inspiration and ideas to try. If it works for them, maybe it’ll work for me too.
So I thought I’d share a little bit about how I write, for those who are looking for an example of a daily writing routine (and the writing tools you might use).
The first thing to note is that my routine changes over timeÂ — there isn’t one exact thing I do every day, and I’m constantly trying new things out.
That out of the way, here’s my basic daily writing routine:
- Prewriting: I think about what I want to write about the day before, usually. If I think about it the night before, that allows me to sleep on it. That doesn’t necessarily mean I’ll process it while I sleep, but when I wake up I definitely have a sense of purpose and excitement about writing what I’m going to write. I also like to think about the intention of the writing — am I writing it to show off, or to help someone? If I’m writing to help someone, it makes me more motivated to write.
- Write with coffee. I like a cup (or two) of coffee in the morning, and that’s generally when I write the main thing I want to write that day. I start the coffee, have a drink of water, meditate for 5-10 minutes, then make my cup of coffee. Then I start writing as I drink that first cup.
- Fight distractions. When I open my computer to write, the first thing I’m tempted to do is check email, blogs, news, etc. I might allow myself to check email quickly after writing for 10 minutes or so, but I fight off the other distractions as much as possible, because I know once I give in to the distractions, I’ll get lost down the rabbit hole. Even email is dangerous, but I’m usually pretty good at just doing a few quick emails and then getting back to writing.
- I write a quick outline. I’m not big on formal or detailed outlines, so I just basically start writing by typing up a few bullet points about what I want to write. Just 4-5 main points or tips or something like that. Maybe more. This gets the writing going, and gets my thoughts down quickly, rather than just having me stare at a blank screen wondering how to start.
- I write the intro. The start of each post I write is also important, because (ideally) it introduces the reader to the topic, maybe shares a little about my story, and tells them why the topic is important. So I write this next. For a book, I try to just get out a couple of sentences to introduce the topic.
- I flesh out the rest of the post. Once I’ve written the intro, I expand the brief outline I started before. Each bullet point of my list can become an expanded bullet point (like this list), or an entire section if needed (like the section below on writing tools).
- I share the post with readers. Once I’m done writing, I will sometimes read it over, sometimes re-write the headline if necessary (if I can come up with something better), and then publish it. Then I share it with my readers — if it’s a Zen Habits post, I share it on Twitter, or I’ll email a Sea Change lessonÂ out to you guys. This is important because it gives me some accountability (and eventually feedback). Once I’ve done that, I usually read it over again and see if I made any mistakes! For book writing, I don’t usually share it with anyone until the first draft is done, but other times I’ve shared with readers during the writing process, and it’s scary and fun.
My Writing Tools
I’m not encouraging you to use any of these tools — I’m just sharing what I use for informational purposes:
- iMac: I also have aÂ lightweight Macbook for travel, but at home I usually write on my desktop computer, the iMac. It’s a couple years old but it works great.
- Ulysses: I like simple writing tools. Lately, I’ve been using the Ulysses writing app, as it’s simple but also keeps all my work organized into project. I’ve also used Google Docs, Writeroom, Byword and other writing apps in the past.
- WordPress: I often just write my posts in WordPress for Zen Habits and Sea Change. I’ll just open the WordPress editor for a new post, then click on the “fullscreen” button to clear away all the editor button distractions. Then I write.
- Markdown: This is a simple markup language that allows you to format (bold, italics, lists, titles and subtitles, links) without having to put a bunch of HTML tags all over the place. This allows me to write more quickly without having to worry about the details.
That’s about it … I don’t use a lot of complicated tools. All the tools I use are designed to make my writing process simpler. I hope that helps as you continue your writing habit!