Habits and Systems for Writers

This month’s post is about systems for the writer in me. I hope readers also find it of some value.


Early Rising:

This is making a significant difference in my productivity and writing habits.

It’s almost midsummer here in Tokyo and dawn breaks around 4:15. I awake naturally and for five days out of the seven I wander into my writing area and begin to write.

And by using the Pomodoro technique, which I discuss briefly below, I am able to write for two or three 25-minute Pomodoro sessions first thing.

The challenge, of course, is to go to bed earlier the previous evening so that I am rested to actually get up and be productive and not sit there like some kind of sleep-deprived zombie.

The Pomodoro Technique:

This has been around for a while. I remember studying it when I was writing about self development and career coaching more than ten years ago. Now that same Pomodoro technique comes with a slick website and the owner has built a multiple streams of income business around it.

In a one-hour writing session stint I aim for two Pomodoros of twenty-five minutes each with a break of ten minutes between. The break means not just resting wrists and hands and fingers. I get up from my chair and go do some basic stretching, push-ups or balancing exercises, spend a penny (bathroom visit) etc. These all help to keep the physical system active.

I also purchased the BeFocused Pro app for my phone and use it to countdown and track Pomodoros. What I like most about this app is the ticking timer because it helps me to associate the habit of writing fiction with a learned (audible) cue.

In some ways this app is similar to the operant conditioning I mentioned in several posts here years ago about the Motivaider device.

More on my experiences with the BeFocusued app in a future post.

Dedicated Writing Tablet:

Different writing mentors over the years have told me that it’s better to have your own writing computer but I put off implementing that system for the longest time and stuck by my 13-inch MacBook pro for everything writing, social media, idle surfing; the works.

The problem with that loose approach was the device morphed (in my mind and in practice) into a jack-of-all-trades tool that allowed me to cheat.

ipad air tablet for short story writers

It might seem strange to some readers, but for me the procrastination bug is a real phenomenon whenever I allow the little ba$tard any elbow room in which to nudge me. I’ve been battling it for a long time.

And that’s where I am now.

I purchased an iPad air plus the Apple keyboard and use it only for writing fiction. I also disabled the Safari browser and removed many other onboard apps that serve no purpose wrt writing.

I should’ve done this years ago. Ah well, better late than never.

Of course, I realize this is only a state of mind. When I sit down and begin to write it’s important to say (and believe) that I am a writer.

The mistake I’ve been making forever and a day is to tell myself that I am trying to be a writer.

Yes, there is no try, there is only do.

My 52-in-52 Short Story Writing Challenge:

This challenge stalled in March after I returned from an enjoyable visit to Hong Kong and found it difficult to get a regular writing rhythm going again. Maybe holidays aren’t a good idea? Not so sure about that one. But anyway, I have slowly got things back on track and as I look at the wall chart that I posted about here, I have now completed short stories 15, 16, 17 and 18, and will update this blog about them in due course.

What I’m Writing:

That’s easy! Challenge stories 15 to 18.

I would like to do longer pieces but I know I’m learning so much from writing short stories while also overcoming some of my limiting beliefs around the habit of regular writing and putting my work out there. (See Heinlein’s Rules for further details.)

What I’m Reading:

I’ve started listening to audiobooks while walking and that’ been a revelation. I’m getting through one or two per month .

The most recent was Stephen L Peck’s, A Short Stay in Hell. I enjoyed reading the Kindle version some years ago.

I’m now listening to Atomic Habits by James Clear.

This one reminds me of some of my earlier work on goal creation maps and self-coaching. It’s interesting to hear James Clear’s take on habits, identity and the power of reinforceable self-beliefs.

There is a lot in this for writers to think about and implement.

The idea itself is not new to me but the presentation is fresh and I hope to share my feedback on this inspiring book in a future blog post.