“It seems to me that those songs that have been any good, I have nothing much to do with the writing of them. The words have just crawled down my sleeve and come out on the page.” – Joan Baez
When Becoming Minimalist first began, I had little writing experience. Other than school assignments, articles for a company newsletter, personal letters, and e-mails, I had little experience with the written word.
But as of today, I have written over 500 posts for this blog. I have become a regular contributor to one of the highest-rated organizing websites, Organizing Your Way. And I have written two books, Simplify (a #1 Best Selling book on Amazon) and Inside-Out Simplicity (which has sold over 5,000 copies).
One of the reasons for the success in writing is because I have become far more thoughtful and intentional about which habits benefit my life and which detract from it. I have learned to establish healthy life habits that improve my overall life and make the process of writing easier. This process has both made me a better writer and has made the discipline of writing more enjoyable.
These are the life habits that I incorporate to improve my writing:
• Waking Early – I have found that my best writing happens early in the morning between 5-8 am. The house is quiet, my mind is slower, and the busyness of the day is yet to begin. As a result, the words flow with less effort. As a side note, I was not always an early riser. When I first began developing this habit, my trick was pretty simple: I would smile, put my feet on the floor, and look out the nearest window. It took some effort at first, but after a couple weeks, my sleeping habits had adjusted. And I would never go back to sleeping in late.
• Running – I have written countless articles jogging along the side of the road in my neighborhood. Because I rarely run with music, running provides quietness and opportunity to think. The blood is flowing and my mind is free to wander. Some of my best ideas have come during the longest runs of my life. Interestingly enough, lifting weights rarely has the same effect… only running.
• Reading – I prefer biographies. They challenge me and inspire me to make the most of my life. But it doesn’t matter if I’m reading fiction or non-fiction, books or magazines, something good or something bad, reading always produces better writing. Good writers are almost always good readers.
• Eating Protein for Breakfast – While I am not a nutritionist, I did learn early in life that protein for breakfast makes me more productive. It gives me better memory, sharper thoughts, and longer concentration. As a result, I have eaten two eggs and one piece of toast at breakfast for as long as I can remember. The whole process (cooking, eating, cleaning) takes me approximately 15 minutes and always starts my day off right.
• Drinking Coffee – There is a reason coffee is one of the highest consumed beverages in the world. While the stimulant of caffeine certainly helps coffee make an appearance on this list, it seems there is something that can’t be beat about just the whole experience of sipping a fine cup of coffee. It adds pleasure and richness to my day. And at the age of 36, it still makes me feel like a grown-up when I drink it.
• Finding Solitude – There is a direct correlation between the intentionality in my life and the amount of time I spend in solitude. By electing to intentionally withdraw from human relationships for a period of time, I am able to reevaluate the assumptions, claims, and messages of our culture. Solitude provides opportunity to rediscover my life… and these new discoveries often find themselves into my writing. With that as the backdrop, there’s no wonder why Leo Babauta called it The No. 1 Habit of Highly Creative People.
• Changing my Environment – Whether it be writing in a local coffee shop, at the library, in a bookstore, or outside in the summer, changing my environment almost always provides a fresh look at the words on the screen. The new environment encourages new connections and synopses in the brain that help stimulate the writing process.
• Attending a Religious Service – I have always embraced spirituality. I have found that it inspires me to think beyond the physical aspects of our everyday life and search for deeper meaning in the world around us. Going to church causes me to intentionally think about issues of the heart and soul. And because of that, it almost always pushes me further in my writing.
• Using Pen/Paper – While the actual words of posts/articles/interviews/books are always written on a keyboard, most of them are brainstormed and outlined on a piece of paper. I prefer one blank sheet of paper and one black pen. By the end of the outlining process, it is always marked with words, arrows, circles, numbers, and scribbles. But the marked up sheet of paper provides the perfect first step and foundation for putting the actual words on a finished product.
• Traveling – Traveling provides opportunity to experience new people, places, languages, foods, and customs. It has allowed me to see life from a new angle and appreciate different aspects of it. I’ve had the privilege to experience a number of different countries and cultures over my short lifetime. Each of them have made me a better person… and a better writer.
• Setting Goals – In all walks of life, goals move me and shape me. Whether it be running a marathon, finishing a book, or planning a party for 10,000 subscribers, goals always provide an added dose of motivation and momentum to my writing. When I have a desirable and achievable end goal in mind, my writing always benefits. And when I don’t, it suffers.
I have found the 11 Life Habits above to be the most helpful and instrumental in my writing process. As a matter of fact, when even one of them is lacking, I can sense it immediately in my personal creative process. But we are all different. No doubt your list will look different than mine in some regards.
Consider sharing below in the comment section which life habits improve your writing.
If you don’t have a list, I encourage you to find one. Start by implementing some of the habits above and give them a 2-3 week trial period. If they are not helping, that’s okay… just try something different (for example, I know a number of writers who write better late at night rather than first thing in the morning). The goal is to discover which life habits stir up the creative process in your life.
Because when you are writing at your best and sharing your life experience with the world, we all benefit.
Interested in writing online? Here’s a helpful guide on how to start your own blog.
Debbie Scott says
Love this article. I am keeping this for repeated reference! I am a consummate proofreader- so I had to ask it you meant “synopses” or “synapses”- meaning connections in our brains’ nerve impulses. That seems to fit a bit more. :-) I am an aspiring writer, a anti-clutter “minimalist” (thank you for that term)….and you are a true and significant inspiration to me. Further, a lot of comments about writing with pen and paper- the person I think of is Julia Cameron (The Artist’s Way). She really encourages this, and calls her daily practice “morning pages”.
Lesley Bona says
What Is A Pension?
Thanks for sharing your experience, Joshua.
What i like about these points is that almost anyone can apply in their lives; they are simple and practicle. I can jog, eat eggs or sausages for breakfast… :-)
bryan halferty says
Appreciate the insight Josh. Helpful stuff.