30 Minutes, 30 Days: This Practice Can Help You Become a Better Writer

30 Minutes, 30 Days: This Practice Can Help You Become a Better Writer

I’ll admit it, I’m guilty of waiting for my muse.

I’ve waited while drinking a third cup of coffee. I’ve waited while listening to mood music. I’ve waited while reading someone’s else’s work. I’ve waited while killing time on the internet.

But, quite often, my muse lets me down. She must have a very exciting personal life because she rarely visits. In fact, I can count the number of times in my life I’ve been inspired to write on one hand.

In September, I took matters into my own hands and set an ambitious goal.

I wrote every single morning for 30 minutes.

No days off, no excuses, no matter what.

And guess what? I did it.

I wrote when I wasn’t feeling well. I wrote after four hours of sleep. I wrote when I should have been vacuuming, doing laundry or cooking. I wrote when I had projects due. I wrote standing at my kitchen counter. I wrote in my office. I wrote with my daughter sitting on my lap.

At first, I told myself I wouldn’t be able to do it.

After all, I take care of a toddler all day. My first responsibility is being a mother. My second is running a small business.

I didn’t have time to add an extra 30 minutes of personal writing into the mix.

But here’s the thing: I did have time.

It was time I mindlessly scrolled through Instagram or Facebook, watched random YouTube videos, read Medium articles or checked headlines on Huffington Post.

I had that time, and I bet you do too.

Here’s what I learned: I don’t need my muse. She can visit if she wants, but her presence is not necessary for me to create.

In 30 days, I:

  • Published nine new posts on my blog, Freelancing Mama and drafted another 21 posts.
  • Planned out my content until March 2017.
  • Completed 30+ pages of an ebook on becoming a virtual assistant.
  • Decreased the amount of time it takes me to write a post
  • Gained more confidence in my abilities.
  • Discovered my well of ideas would not dry up if I dipped my bucket in every day.

I finally felt confident enough to call myself a writer; I am a writer.

Here’s how I made it happen.

Each morning, I sat down and turned on a timer. I’d spend 30 (mostly uninterrupted) minutes writing. I didn’t check my email, Facebook or any websites.

I used Toggl to track my time and Brain.fm to keep me focused and drown out the sounds of toddler morning TV. If I needed to take care of something, I paused the timer, did the task as quickly as possible and went right back to writing. On the weekends, I was able to hole up in my office while my husband took care of our daughter.

I realized I don’t need perfect conditions to write. I could stand in the middle of the tornado that is my kitchen and write as if I was at Walden Pond. As long as my mind was peaceful, it didn’t matter what my surroundings were like.

Want to create a daily writing habit? Set yourself up for success with these tips.

1. Get an accountability buddy

When it comes to meeting your goals, having someone hold you accountable can make all the difference. You don’t want to disappoint someone who believes in you.

I’m a member of an awesome Slack group called #JustWrite. My writing streak started with a week-long challenge from Sara Frandina that I liked so much, I didn’t stop. Every day, I let other members of the Slack group know I completed another day of writing.  Knowing the group was waiting for my daily check-in kept me accountable and gave me encouragement to keep going.

2. Choose to make writing a priority

As soon as I decided to pursue this journey, I knew it wouldn’t work unless I made it a priority.

I couldn’t let my to-do list dictate my morning. I was going to write whether I had one or 100 projects due that day.  In the grand scheme of it, thirty minutes was not going to make or break my business, but it could make or break my writing process.

3. Sit down and write.

At some point, we just have to do it. We can’t wait for perfect conditions, or the mood to strike, or the planets to align.

One my favorite quotes about writing comes from Anne Tyler; she says “If I waited until I felt like writing, I’d never write at all.”

What’s next?

Not only did writing every day produce tangible results, but it improved my life in other ways.

I was more motivated to meet goals that had nothing to do with writing like cooking homemade meals and going on a walk in the evenings.

Completing these 30 days also gave me a huge boost of confidence. In fact, it inspired me to submit my first guest post – the one you just read!

So, what’s next? I’m going to keep going. I plan to write every day for the rest of the year.

Then write every day of 2017.

Will you join me?

Filed Under: Blogging, Craft

114 comments

  • Semi says:

    Ms Erin Sturm…wow…phew!…thank you so much for all the valuable nuggets in “The Write Life”..

    I tried my hand..uh..pen writing. The result is a nonfiction piece. Do you know of a writers competition or reviewer for short stories? Would be good to be judged on my present work.

    Thank you so much Ms Erin Sturm.

  • ersağ says:

    I’d have to carry a pen and paper into the shower with me! As a freelance copywriter, I have deadlines to meet.

  • A big thank-you for some really valuable advice. Will IMMEDIATELY be putting into practice!

  • Wonderful article! Thank you for sharing your experiences.

  • Exzell Scott says:

    Thank you so much this. I enjoyed this article. I usually try to write a little at times but not really write more less type a letter to myself. Now I know what to do and to work with smaller goals rather than larger ones.

  • William Straw says:

    Great Article Erin

    Sometimes the simplest steps do get the greatest results. Great confidence booster

      • William Straw says:

        just reread your article again. really think I’ m going to out this practice into action. as you said at some point we just have to do it. now do you recommend that in this challenge to focus on one project i.e., a screenplay or short story or just anything that whatever you have to just do the challenge

  • Erin, thank you for a great article. I am most encouraged by realising that this is a struggle for every writer and not just myself. I loved this: “Here’s what I learned: I don’t need my muse. She can visit if she wants, but her presence is not necessary for me to create.” You have helped to boost my confidence a little now, I just need to keep working at it!

  • Karen C says:

    This was a fantastic, inspiring, and helpful read. I have nothing but the utmost respect for writers because I know how hard it is and how discouraging it can be. I find myself constantly looking online for advice as well as book recommendations too. I feel that this a craft that needs to be constantly worked on and I can never learn too much about it. I recently read a book that has literally changed me as a writer. You and your readers must read “Creative Visualization for Writers” by Nina Amir (http://ninaamir.com/). It answers the questions about one’s own writing that you may never even think to, or moreover, know how to ask. Nina Amir must have taken a hard look at her own writing to come up with something so outwardly helpful for the writing community as a whole. And to think that so many other untapped literary works could now be a reality thanks to this handbook of sorts? This book is a gem of immeasurable proportions; to give the gift of beautiful writing is one that cannot be taken back. One would be remiss not to at least give this work of art a once-over. I really hope you will check it out. I would love to hear your opinion!

  • Cindy says:

    Thanks Erin, you are just what I needed today. I had an epiphany about as month ago that writing is absolutely what I want to be doing and you’ve given me the push I need. I have so many ideas jotted down and I’m sick of reading articles and thinking “I should have written that.” I’m going to start small with a 7 day challenge and when I’ve accomplished that – go for 30. Also definitely need to find someone or a group for accountability.

  • Deborah Scherrer says:

    Erin, thank you for your article. I have a goal to exercise for 30 minutes each day to keep my body healthy. I’m setting a new goal to spend 30 minutes of quiet time each day for personal writing. I’ll call it my mental yoga 🙂 !

  • I can’t continue to wait for inspiration to come. I just have to go out to unleash my uncommon wisdom out there by sticking to activities that keep me motivated.

    Thanks for sharing this.

  • Ersağ says:

    I got inspired by your words, thank you. I will also want to join you for 2017.

  • Duşakabin says:

    Thanks to a truly inspiring article. I will start as soon as possible.

  • Nice article! I really liked it and will take on that challenge.

  • Comprehensive list! Thanks for sharing.

  • Jones says:

    Count me in, Erin!

    Interested to try writing for 30 minutes in 30 days. Thanks to you, I also joined the #JustWrite in slack! I’m sharing this so that more people will be able to start practicing 30 minutes 30 days to writing!

  • Excellent! I will join you! thanks for the inspiration

  • Brooke says:

    I’ve tried this several times but usually only make it through one day…but the benefits you talked about were so so beyond writing and it struck a chord. I himhawed around yesterday but it nagged me. Finally I got everything and just kept pen and paper handy, planning to sit and write in the evening. Over the course of the day it started helping, and I did (probably more than 30 to finish what I’d already started) it was the saddest most depressing thing to ever come out of me…but it did something! I woke up today just knowing this was already working. Got me a an accountability partner (the one who’d shared your post! Lol) and getting organized already! It’s giving me an organized outlet to the ramblings, and focusing on the writing projects as a separate thing. So even if for “work” I have to write for an hour, that doesn’t count as my 30 mins! Brilliant!! Thank you thank you you held a key I was desperate for! Plus, it gave me some courage to do the blog I’ve been thinking of!

  • Neha Srivastava says:

    This is some really awesome advice! I have been writing daily as a freelancer for an academic support company and by now I am an expert in niches far beyond my specialisation. However, I do write some stuff for soul off and on and got a guest post published on a blog towards the end of last month. However, after reading this I wish to write for my self everyday and submit more guest posts in the remaining months of this year. I am also writing a book and have signed up for nanowrimo next month!

  • Fiona Ward says:

    Love this article! It coincides with something I have just re-started – working through a book “The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron to help creatives unblock all their negatives. One of the must do’s of the course is “The Daily Pages” 3 pages of longhand writing to be done every day. Write anything, about anything with no intention of re-reading it. Some days I write drivel, some days a little gem of an idea emerges …

  • Sara says:

    Amazing article! I really liked it and I will take on that challenge but I will start with NaNoWriMo and forward. 🙂

  • Gautam Parija says:

    Hi Erin,

    I’ve seen EVERY mentor suggest writing everyday. But, rarely anyone shows the path they traveled and all the road-block they overcame.

    Awesome post! Thank you very much – much appreciated.

    That said, I have a personal situation, which I need to tackle. Need your help.

    Well… English isn’t my first language.

    Yesterday, I sent a writing sample somewhere. They returned it with a feedback that I’m nowhere close to having any command over English language.

    Then, there’s all the ranting on the internet against ESL writers… Very often JUSTIFIED.

    Rejections happen and sometimes it’s best to ignore them, keep trying…

    Bit dejected… wonder whether ’30 Minutes, 30 Days’ plan will work for ESL writers or I can improve.

    I’d have reservations against my ‘brethren’ who lack elementary spelling and grammar skills.

    Now, I need to take a firm decision and choose an appropriate career path. It makes perfect sense to be realistic – go for a career that matches one’s skills.

    What do you think?

    • Erin Sturm says:

      Hi Gautam, thank you for commenting!

      First of all, I would not have known that you were an ESL writer from your comment. Your writing is clear and has very few errors. I think your critic was too harsh. I do think that practicing will improve anyone’s writing skills. Keep pursuing your goals. I don’t get all of the jobs that I sent a sample or pitch to, but I keep trying. 🙂

  • Kamesha Small says:

    This is an awesome article!!! Me and my son wrote this down on our dry erase board for our goals for the month. I am just getting starting on my blog and working on my book so this is just the inspiration that I need!! I am going to start tomorrow with my 30 minutes of writing for 30 Days. Thank you again for the inspiration!!!!

  • Great article Erin! I’m with you!
    I always had such a hard time finding the time to write being a single mom and working full-time and who wants to write after a hectic 8-hour day?
    At the end of August I presented myself with a challenge based on a blog post I had read about a guy who had written 1 post a day for a year. I chose 30 days because I wanted to make sure I didn’t frustrate myself and I stuck to it. In fact I have blogged every day since September 1.
    It may not be 30 minutes a day but I’m writing every day and it’s changing the frequency of writing otherwise and I’m getting more done.

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