Unlike most other activities, writing is one of those things you can do when you’re not tapping away at your keyboard. Not sitting in your favorite coffee shop, pen in hand. Not taking notes about your latest blog post or article.
In fact, writing — “constant writing,” as Jeff Goins calls it — is an ongoing process that takes place at so many places that aren’t a keyboard.
In this case, “constant” doesn’t even mean consistent. It’s not about sitting down at your computer every morning at 7am and turning out 500 words of deathless prose. Constant writing is an ongoing process that lets the act of writing get under your skin and into your blood.
Constant writing is the easiest way to foster a writing addiction. To do it, you need to stop thinking of writing as “Writing” — an external, objective task. Instead, you need to start thinking of it as a natural part of you, an extension of who you are. Like thinking, breathing, and laughing.
Here are three ways you can keep writing, even when you’re not actually, you know, writing.
“If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.” — Stephen King
Sports psychologists have their subjects imagine themselves running the perfect race, playing the perfect game, executing the perfect moves. This “mental practice” reinforces the same motions and movements the athlete is supposed to make in competition. Researchers have found that this mental rehearsal is nearly as good as the real thing.
For writers, our mental practice is reading. Reading other people’s works. Not just online though, but in books. Read authors whose work you admire, whose style you want to emulate. By constantly reading, you’re practicing your own writing. Be sure to read works from different kinds of genres, not just your own. Expose yourself to new styles, new authors, and new ways of thinking.
2. Find New Words
Goins suggests that the next time you’re writing something like a text or an email, focus on the words you’re using, and try using new ones. When you write an email, try opening with an impactful lede (newspaper term for “lead,” or the opening statement). If you’re used to using big words, try using small words that a 12-year-old could understand. Or vice versa.
I keep a small notebook to record clever turns of a phrase. When I find a new one, I’ll write it down, and try to use it somewhere, or come up with my own variation.
3. Step Away From The Notebook
Oftentimes our brains will lock up when we’re trying to come up with an idea. I sat here at my computer for 10 minutes trying to come up with this third point. It was finally when I stepped away for a little while and puttered around that this popped into my head.
If you can engage your brain in something fairly routine, mindless, but enjoyable, you can find a new idea or two. I’ll go for a walk, clean up in my garage, or start a woodworking project. I let my mind wander, and usually find what I was looking for. The annoying part is, I’m usually enjoying my new activity so much, that I hate to stop just to finish the writing. (This is why I keep a notebook handy.)
The great thing about being a writer is that we can write anywhere. We just don’t need a computer or pen to actually do it. Typing is the art of putting our thoughts onto paper. It’s coming up with the thoughts — the actual writing — that takes place in our brains. That’s the actual hard part.
Erik Deckers is the owner of Professional Blog Service, a newspaper humor columnist, and the co-author of Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself and No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing. His third book, The Owned Media Doctrine, will be available this summer.