When I sit down to write, I open my laptop, I move my fingers over the keyboard, and thousands of words pour out onto the screen. It has to be that way.
I work two jobs, and I have a young family. As a result, my writing time is precious. I don’t have a clear three-hour stretch to write every morning. Most mornings are a whirlwind of toothpaste, breakfast cereal, and finding lost socks. Then, I start my day job.
So, when after a lon, busy day I sit down to write, I write. I have no time to waste getting lost down the rabbit holes of Twitter or YouTube. I just want to get started writing. That’s why I became a click-whirr writer.
I’m grateful I learned about habit triggers. With “click-whirr” triggers to get you started, you can write thousands of words on demand.
There’s a time when that would have sounded like a crazy dream to me. But it’s actually very achievable. All it takes is a handful of easy-to-apply techniques and a couple of mindset shifts. Make it as easy as you can to write, and you’ll get more words onto the page. Here’s what you need to do.
Start-blockers are any distraction that stops you from writing when you sit down to write. For example:
- The itch to check your email
- Not knowing what to write about
- The double click to open your writing software — and the time it takes to load
I learned a ton about building good habits by getting fit. I discovered I’m much more likely to exercise when I lay out my gym clothes the night before. By doing this, when I wake up feeling sleepy, I’ve minimized my resistance to getting started. The same is true for writing. When you search-and-destroy start blockers, you minimize resistance to getting started, and you’re more likely to just start.
I keep my writing laptop next to my couch, so the moment I sit down for the evening it’s easy to pick it up. What’s more, when I flip open the laptop screen, I have my writing software ready to go. I also have a ton of article headlines and outlines prepared, so I can grab one of those and simply start writing.
Now, when I sit down on the couch, that’s a “click-whirr” trigger to start writing. I pick up my laptop, and I start typing.
Apply the Zeigarnik Effect
My favorite writers use cliffhangers all the time to keep me hooked. Cliffhangers keep readers engaged because human beings are programmed by evolution to seek out information. A cliffhanger screams “you’re missing information here!” You feel compelled to read on.
In scientific terms, this is called the Zeigarnik Effect. The Soviet psychologist Bluma Zeigarnik found that people are much more likely to remember incomplete tasks compared to completed tasks. Things we’ve not yet finished stick in our minds.
I find it easy to start writing when I pick up a story that’s unfinished and continue writing. Later in my writing session, I start a new article. In this way, I create cliffhangers for myself that compel me to return to my writing again and again. Click-whirr!
Interruptions are inevitable in my life. I can’t eliminate them entirely. Part of what has made me a successful writer is learning to write amidst interruptions.
Even so, I do better work when I limit interruptions. That means blocking distracting websites, or even turning off wi-fi. Sometimes it means putting on music to decrease my inner-noise and improve my focus. Sometimes it means telling my family “I need an hour to focus on my writing” so they know to let me be for that time.
Get 1% better each day
When you write, you don’t wake up one day and know “I’m a writer”. At least, that never happened to me. Some days I feel like a writer. Others I feel like a fraud, and I wonder: “Whatever gave me the idea that I can write anything?”
Writing isn’t a destination. Writing is a journey. There’s no finish line .
In other words, being a writer is a process, not a goal. That’s liberating because it means I’m a writer when I’m writing. I don’t have to focus on big goals like winning a publishing contract or earning a full-time living writing fiction. I can just improve a little each day.
Big goals stop me from writing. Focusing on the process sets my fingers typing. Click-whirr!
Choose stories you enjoy writing
According to exercise researcher Dr. Louise de Lannoy, the best cardio workouts are the ones you actually do. There’s no secret to getting fit. All it takes is regular exercise. So, the best exercise you can do is exercise you enjoy, because you’ll keep coming back to it.
As with your fitness, so with your creative life. There’s no secret to writing. All it takes is putting words on the page.
Your best story ideas are the ones you’ll enjoy writing. My first question when I’m deciding which article to write next is: “do I want to write this?” I pick out ideas based on how excited I am to write about them. This mindset means I look forward to writing articles. Click-whirr!
Make your mistakes on stage
The Beatles didn’t learn to perform by practicing in a garage. They learned to perform by playing for eight hours per night in the nightclubs of Hamberg, Germany. As Ringo Starr said:
“I never studied anything, really. I didn’t study the drums. I joined bands and made all the mistakes onstage”
In other words, there’s no complicated formula to becoming a writer. Everything else gravitates around your goal. If your goal is to write articles, then write articles. If your goal is to write a novel, then write a novel. If you want to be a poet, write poetry.
Scott H. Young, the author of Ultralearning, calls this the principle of directness. Young has devoted his life to finding the smartest way to learn new skills. Young says: “It’s actually doing while doing the thing you want to get good at when much of learning takes place.”
Drop the extra. Quit writing exercises, and focus on the skill you want to learn. Get your writing out there. Make your mistakes on stage.
I love this method because not only is it the quickest route to improving my writing. It also means I’m building a body of work, and a following of loyal readers. When I’m writing for an audience, and that I will have real readers for my work, I’m more likely to actually write.
Fill the tank
“Click-whirr” writing means having ideas ready to go. So, immerse yourself in ideas. Listen to podcasts. Read books. Watch TV.
My personal favorite is live talk-radio because it allows for serendipity — I discover stories and ideas that I’d never otherwise come across. The more ideas you engage with, the easier it becomes to pour out words when you sit down to write.
Don’t feel you have to capture everything, but do have a capture system. Mine is Google Keep. Whenever I want to remember something, I create a Keep note. The app is now a treasure trove of stuff for me to write about. When I sit down to write, I have ideas ready to go. Click-whirr!
You can be a click-whirr writer, too
When you adopt the above strategies and mindset shifts, you’ll become a click-whirr writer. It’s much easier than you might imagine.
You can too. Click! Now, get whirring.