Part 4: How To Create A Trigger That Saves You Time And Energy – And Gets You Writing
Are you a writer who just can’t get a regular writing routine established? Do you want to write, but struggle to find the time for it or to beat distractions? If you’re ready to write more frequently, but just don’t know how to make it happen, this 5-part series can help.
I’ll share with you the exact steps I’ve taken over the last year and a half to create a daily writing practice that helped me write a 98,000-word novel. No shortcuts, no outlandish schemes, nothing you can’t do around your busy day-to-day life.
Just practical, real tricks to finally turn your dream of writing into your daily reality.
Creating a trigger isn’t a concept I invented – but it’s a valuable technique I can absolutely attest to. If there’s ONE things you take away from this series and actually implement in your own writing practice, let it be this one.
Once you’ve drilled down to the core reason you want to write in the first place, and you’ve made it tremendously foolproof for yourself to start writing, and you’ve decided how many days in a row you’ll challenge yourself to write consecutively…
Then it’s time to establish your trigger.
A trigger is something that helps you shift from your daily work/life/responsibilities mindset into the writing mindset. It’s the action that tells your brain it’s time to get to work, and it can be so powerful that you actually don’t feel any resistance when you start writing.
Imagine how much time you’ll save when you’ve got a consistent trigger that basically flips your mental switch into writing-mode.
The trigger can be almost anything, depending on what works for you. Try out a few different triggers for a week at a time if one doesn’t naturally manifest for you, and you’ll know which one works best.
It takes some time for the association between the trigger and your writing practice to solidify, but stick with it. It will happen.
My best suggestion for possible triggers? Stimulate your senses and make your trigger enjoyable.
I used to write early in the morning before work, and one of my first triggers accidentally became jasmine green tea (or, even more specifically, the act of making jasmine green tea). I’d wake up, turn on the electric kettle, drop the tea bag into a mug, and sit down with the steaming drink while the sun came up and I worked on writing prompts in my notebook.
After a while, I realized that I associated my writing with the sound of the kettle boiling, the “ding!” when it was ready, the smell of the the jasmine, the steam coming from the top of the mug. When I made jasmine tea in the middle of the day, I had the urge to write. Even now, although that’s not a trigger anymore, I still think of writing when I smell jasmine tea.
Triggers are incredibly powerful. You can condition your brain to accept writing as a normal part of your daily life by associating it with something pleasant, exciting, and positive.
My primary trigger while writing my novel was music. This was VERY strange for me – I was never able to write to music in the past. But I kept hearing a few songs that felt like the story I was working on, and I simply started listening to those songs during writing sessions.
A weird thing happened: I knew the songs so well, they became almost like white noise in the background. I wasn’t focused on the music at all – in fact, I focused even more on my writing while the music played because it simply felt like the story.
Those particular songs dropped me directly into the story. I spent zero time trying to find my way into writing sessions (a huge plus, since feeling like you don’t know where to start is hugely frustrating). I’d just put my earbuds in, hit play, and start typing.
The music was my trigger to start working, and I had created such a strong association that I hardly ever battled with myself about getting started.
I’ve also imprinted that playlist in my brain so deeply that I’ll probably never be able to hear Hozier’s Work Song ever again and not think about the people in my novel. Honestly, that’s fine with me!
(Tip: if you’re going to try using music as a trigger, I suggest creating a playlist of 5-10 songs you know very well already so your brain doesn’t spend its time trying to figure out the music.)
Another trigger that I personally love: getting a latte and sitting in the corner table at Starbucks with my laptop. This was a weekend treat for myself while writing my novel. I usually wrote more during those sessions than I’d write almost any other day during the week!
Some other trigger ideas:
- Write in a particular place
- Write at the same time every day
- Write with a certain pen and notebook that you really love (treat yourself to nice ones if that kind of thing excites you)
- Start every writing session with a certain exercise or prayer or mantra
- Light a specific candle at the start of your session (make sure the smell is something you really adore and light ONLY that candle when you write. When it runs out, replace it with the same candle.)
- Do a series of yoga poses before writing
- Steep a pot of loose leaf tea then sit down in the same spot each time you write
- Create some kind of small ritual specific to you and your daily life
- Write at your favorite coffee shop (unlike me, perhaps you can do this in the morning en route to work or on your way home)
- Designate a certain garment of clothing or piece of jewelry and put it on before you write
If you really want to make the whole trigger thing work even better, try adding a reward element, too. The trigger gets you started and the reward comes at the end, reinforcing the positive connection between your writing practice and your trigger.
Keep in mind that you can establish a single trigger for yourself, or a combination of triggers. As with everything related to your writing practice, do what works best for you. But definitely give this technique a try – you won’t be disappointed.
Going to create a writing trigger for yourself? Tell me what your ideal trigger might be. Already have a trigger? Share below. I’d love to hear what gets you writing.
If you found this helpful, share it with other writers who might need it too.
Don’t miss a thing! Check out part 1 here, part 2 here, and part 3 here.
Stay tuned next Sunday for the final installment: Exactly What It Is That Makes Writing “Hard” – And How To Beat It