Tools For a Daily Writing Practice

Letter keys on a vintage typewriter
photo by istockphoto.com © Bojan Kontrec

How can I know what I think till I see what I say?

– E. M. Forster

I first encountered the idea of writing three pages every day years ago when I read Julia Cameron’s book The Artist’s Way. After a few false starts, I eventually found the rhythm of writing three pages in long hand each morning. With practice I discovered why it mattered.

There are many good reasons to adopt a daily writing practice. It can be a kind of brain dump, letting you sweep out the odds and ends that are still snagging attention. Once written, those stray bits often settle down and let us focus on more important matters. I recommend it if you’re not working because you just have had a fight with someone and it’s taking up all your brain space.

A daily writing practice can be a kind of meditation. Beginning the day with 20 or 30 minutes of focused writing time becomes a sort of ritual, the signal that the work day has begun. Steven Pressfield describes this sort of practice in his book The War of Art, including lighting candles and praying before beginning to write. (He describes a whole lot more in this amazing little book that will provide new weapons to anyone who battles procrastination during the creative process.)

A daily writing practice can be a limbering-up exercise for those who write a lot throughout the day. A chunk of free association can be like stretching before heading into more purposeful and directed writing.

And of course writing a little every day is the best way to produce something big, eventually. Writing three pages a day is one sure-fire way to produce a book, an article, a white paper, a dissertation, or any other document you want to finish.

While Julia Cameron’s book suggests that it is best to write longhand with pencil and paper, I have been experimenting with online tools to help support a daily writing practice. My favorite is a free website called 750words.com

750words.com is a nicely designed site, visually appealing, that does not attempt to come between you and your writing. It has a few features that I really appreciate. For instance, it keeps count of your words as you type and lets you know when you’ve reached 750. It ticks off the days in a month’s-worth of boxes at the top of the blank page. There are challenges and social tools you can use or not. And silly bird badges. I love the silly bird badges.

Ready to try a daily writing practice? Commit to it by leaving a comment here. Or maybe you already have one. Tell us what you get out of writing every day. How do you do it? Paper or bits? Any advice for someone new to a daily writing practice. Do share!

 

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