Short version: make it a habit.
Slightly longer version: make it the right habit.
After 18 months of experimentation (following 18 years of dabbling) I’ve made writing my habit. It’s part of my daily routine.
Every morning, Best Beloved and I have our tea and a chat. Then, I go downstairs and write one scene (+/- 1,000 words is where mine seem to fall.)
Then, back upstairs, fix breakfast, and down again for a second scene.
Upstairs again to grab the laundry bag which I take downstairs and put in a load (the stairs are my secondary workout, after a very sedentary lifetime.)
Check email. Tidy the kitchen. Downstairs to shift the laundry to the dryer.
Out for my daily mile (or nowadays, mile-and-a-quarter, building to three eventually.)
Home again to fix lunch. Some days, lunch and walking are swapped.
Afternoons are fluid, my time to do whatever I feel like doing, whenever it arises.
Notice the lack of any clock times on my activities?
I don’t live by a clock. I live by routine. Do this, and then that, and then the third thing.
If I did it to a clock, one of my infamous sleepless nights followed by waking at 9:30 would be a very different day from one of my less famous “like the dead” sleeps where I wake at 5:15 ready to take on the world.
But when I wake up, it’s not hard to make a cup of tea first thing. Feels natural.
And while we have tea, we talk about our day.
And now that I’ve done the two things that prime my brain, the next thing just happens, naturally, without much effort: I go downstairs and write.
Even that has a miniroutine: close the door, power up the computer, put on an album that suits either my mood or the mood I want for what I’m writing, light the citrus candles to fire up olfactory memory settings, bring up all the documents I need for reference and a blank one for writing, and go.
I can do what comes next all day every day.
Here’s Why You Can’t Build a Habit
Yes, you’ve tried and tried and you keep giving up.
Here’s what you’re doing: choosing a method, and then shoe-horning yourself into it come hell or high water.
If you don’t work that way, you’ll spend the rest of your life making it a habit.
I don’t work to a clock. But “this follows that” is cake.
You have to find a habit that suits your thinking and creative methods, not just one that suits your preconceived ideas which you probably collected in a dismal cubicle somewhere.
Yes, it takes time to see if a new work style fits. But it doesn’t take years. Even if you spend the full 21-day habit-creating period, you can test more than 30 variations in 2 years.
If you spend a month on something that’s not working, check the horse’s pulse and then find another mount.
If you’re going to give your kingdom for a horse, it might as well be a live one.