The Creative Independent New here?

How to establish a daily writing practice

I’m Furaha Asani—a researcher with a PhD, a teacher, a mental health advocate, a writer, and an unpaid opinion-holder on social media. As 2015 was drawing to a close, I decided to give myself a challenge for the following year: to publish one new piece of writing every single day of 2016.

What I didn’t know at the start of my challenge was that my father would unexpectedly pass away on the 8th of March, 2016. With respect to my writing for that particular day, I had already published my daily piece hours before his passing. After crying through the night and finally getting out of bed the next morning, I was determined to honor my father in this one small way: to immortalize him through my continued writing. You see, despite being a medical doctor by trade, my father had dabbled in writing himself—he’d even self-published one novel.

By the end of 2016, despite everything life threw my way, I’m proud to say I was successful with my challenge. Over the course of the year, I produced a body of work that includes prose, poetry, flash fiction, essays, think pieces, and allegory. Since then, some friends have asked how I was able to achieve my goal through grief, and while being in the third year of my lab-intensive PhD in the UK, far away from my family in Nigeria. The truth is, it wasn’t easy to commit to a daily writing practice, but with time, it became much easier.

— Furaha Asani

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Begin by noticing

Towards the end of 2015 I began “collecting” inspiration. This meant taking photos on my phone of things like graffiti, flowers, or anything else that caught my fancy, and paying extra attention to song lyrics, or the unintentionally poetic phrases my friends used in their speech. Basically, I was beginning the challenge by noticing what I might want to write about, and being intentional about how I kept track of these references so I could use them later.

Before I started my challenge and throughout the year, I made a habit of carrying around a miniature notepad, and even used my phone to make recordings of my thoughts for later use.

Reading, both short- and long-form, also influences everything from our vocabulary to syntax. I’d advise proactively seeking pieces to read that challenge your critical thinking and senses, and inspire you to write. This could be anything from an article in Vogue, to a research paper, to the latest New York Times best-selling novel.

Define your goals and intentions

I don’t put this as step one because I find that setting goals for a creative project too early can limit your creativity. It may be better to stew in inspiration first, then set a goal.

As you think about what you’re aiming to accomplish through a consistent writing practice, consider these questions:

  • What kind of practice will work best for you (daily, weekly, etc), based on how much time you have, and what you want to accomplish?
  • What are you writing? Essays, poetry, chapters in your novel? If your main ambition is just to write regularly, consider that writing in a mix of styles and formats can help keep things lively.
  • When will you write? In the morning, on the train, at night, or between meetings? Making time to write within your daily routine will help ensure you’re able to stick to your plan.
  • Will you publish your work somewhere, or keep it private? If the former, where and how will you publish, and who will be your readers?
  • Will you use imagery alongside your writing, and if so, where will you source it from? Pexels is a great resource for Creative Commons (CC) imagery, which you can use for free, with an option to tip the photographer via PayPal. I also like Pexels because unlike most stock image websites, it has many photos of Black people and People of Color.
  • What are your personal motives for writing? Don’t be judgmental here—just ensure you understand where your desire to write every day is coming from, so if you feel depleted, you can tap back into that energy.

Remember that this is your writing project, so you are always allowed to reevaluate your answers to these questions as you evolve and change courses, with no apologies!

Establish your writing routine

Starting on January 1 and throughout the entire year, I made time each day to sit down and write. Some days this would literally be me using a 10-minute incubation period in my lab, typing on the computer while wearing a lab coat and gloves. As you strive to introduce a regular writing practice into your daily routine, flexibility is the name of the game. Try not to allow the writing itself to become another stressor—instead, fit it in around your already-established schedule. Make time for it, but don’t let it make you anxious.

At the beginning of my challenge, I chose to open a Medium account because I liked the idea of being able to share each thing I wrote within my own blog, while also being able to follow others’ writing. I’ve always found the platform to be user-friendly, and love how easy it is to incorporate images, links, and video clips. As you consider how to publish your writing, know that there are a range of free blogging sites that you can choose from, or you can even create your own website from scratch. Keeping your writing private is also an option—as you consider which approach to take, refer back to your goals.

Keep up your momentum

Early on, I decided not to make any rules for how exactly I’d express myself. There were days when I felt open enough to share intimate feelings, so I would. Other times I felt extremely vulnerable and not safe enough to share, so I’d use allegory. As a result, the body of work I created has a mixture of reflections, parables, fables, and think pieces. Something I always tried to do was spill my feelings out with no censor first, then edit before publishing. Being able to write what was truly on my mind was cathartic, especially knowing that I could polish or change a piece before actually sharing it.

By sharing my personal struggles in my writing, I was able to do something I’ve always wanted to do: advocate for more transparency around mental health. What happened during the period of mourning my father’s death was that something within me cracked open and the only way I could healthily pour out those emotions was through writing. Now, I’m not saying you need grief or any negative circumstance to tap into your deepest feelings. Rather, what I would encourage you to do is not to shy away from, or fear, these types of emotions.

This article by Alene Dawson offers tips you can use to tap into your creative energy, including building up your commitment to your work, relaxing the constraints you place on yourself, and identifying what time of day you’re at your most creative. Remember that once you establish a creative routine, you can use it for the rest of your life (give or take a few adaptations now and then).

So, where do you go from here?

The only way to start writing every day is simply to do just that: start. I found that during the course of my year-long writing project, I got more creative, and the momentum I built spilled over into my work and other projects, positively. Opening yourself up to everything around you, setting goals for yourself, and creating something you’re proud of is bound to have a larger impact than you imagine, both on your writing, as well as on you as a person.

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About the Author

Furaha Asani

Researcher, Teacher, Writer, Mental health advocate

Furaha Asani is a researcher, teacher, and mental health advocate who enjoys writing, walking, and window shopping. Furaha’s background is in Biochemistry and Immunology, and she has a keen interest in social justice.