Looking for a way to express yourself that doesn’t judge or hinder? Do you need something to help you de-stress without having to empty all of the wine coolers in the fridge (Note: depending on the circumstance, this may still be the best option)? Writing is the answer!

I know what you’re thinking. Yes, I want to be a writer. This all sounds fabulous, especially since I JUST ran out of wine coolers, but I don’t have the time. Or the patience. Or the ideas. Help!

Believe it or not, finding time to write is a lot easier than you might imagine, and establishing a writing routine is even more effortless. Not only does a routine help you improve your writing, it becomes an integral part of your day, making it feel weird if you don’t do it. (Don’t get me wrong—I’m all for feeling weird, but for the right reasons.) If you want to become a serious writer, nothing is more important than setting time aside to do so.

I’m sure you’re thinking, But I already told you—I don’t have time! Well, think about it. Is there something in your day you can omit? Maybe you Facebook a little too much. Your favorite celebrity’s Tweet will still be there an hour from now. Or maybe you can binge-watch one less episode of “House of Cards” on Netflix. Replace a half-hour or an hour activity with writing and—TA-DA—you’ve made time to write.

Still finding yourself distracted? Google has a great tool to help get rid of those distractions. It’s called “Simple Blocker” and can be added through Google Chrome. This makes it much easier to focus on your writing and make it more productive. This really neat extension can be found here: https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/simple-blocker/akfbkbiialncppkngofjpglbbobjoeoe?hl=en-US.

Something I’ve found to be helpful in establishing a routine is setting a writing alarm. Set it for the same time every day, so it’s impossible to forget when it’s time to write! As you begin to establish your routine, you’ll find yourself looking forward to the awesome ringtone telling you it’s time to work on the great piece the world is dying to read.

You’ve accomplished the easy part—you’ve begun to write every day. But you may be thinking, Okay, I admit, you’re right—that was easy. But what about IDEAS? I can’t write without having anything TO write about. Fine, I’ll be the first to admit this (Shh, don’t tell anyone): generating ideas can be a little daunting. (Who am I kidding? A little?) Nothing is more intimidating than a blank page. However, there are ways to generate ideas which will make writing enjoyable enough for you to continue doing so.

Free-writing is a great way to accomplish writing and help you come up with some great ideas. Think of it as turning your brain off for thirty minutes. Don’t even think about what you want to write. Let the words flow. Don’t be afraid to throw it all out there and make yourself vulnerable. You may even surprise yourself with what appears on the page. It may not make sense—which is okay! It’s not supposed to. The idea is to get something written and see what ideas can be pulled from the result of the free-write.

Here’s what a free-write may look like:

Driving along the side of the road, the penguin stopped in front of my car. I didn’t want to hit the poor guy, especially since the little baby penguins following him were just too darn cute! I sort of wanted to adopt them and bring them home to my bird sanctuary. But do penguins count as birds? Some could argue that point. I guess it really doesn’t matter. I need a new car and I have been wanting to adopt a penguin for the longest time. They’re easier to take care of than dogs.

See? It doesn’t make much sense, right? I wrote the first words which came to my head without even thinking about them. Now I have a story idea about some adorable, adoptable penguins—or a run-down car that could use some replacing.

A way in which I come up with some really great ideas is by writing a bunch of opening sentences. While this requires some thought, unlike free-writing, try not to overthink it. Writing those opening sentences gets the ball rolling into what may become an admirable story idea—even one you might not have known was in there. Sometimes your idea(s) may even go in a completely different direction than you intended.

My favorite way to generate ideas is writing prompts. Not only are they extremely helpful, they’re also amusing. There are tons of wonderful writing prompts for free on the internet—Writer’s Digest has a list of prompts updated weekly (http://www.writersdigest.com/prompts)— but I recommend looking into a book of prompts. A few exceptional ones which I use regularly are “A Year of Creative Writing Prompts” by Love in Ink, “642 Things to Write About” by the San Francisco Writers’ Grotto, and “1,000 Creative Writing Prompts” by Bryan Cohen. They can be found on Amazon.

Here’s a really fun writing prompt from “642 Things to Write About”:

“You have been evicted from your home, but rather than live on the street you go to Ikea. At night you hide in the bathroom until the janitor leaves. Write about your life.”

Here’s a prompt from Writer’s Digest:

“To get the story straight, Dave, we think, has become a chicken. Just the worst of luck with that guy. Tom is claiming he married the futon that’s now covered in yogurt, Carl is on the chandelier with the dog and you just walked in after getting groceries. What the heck happened here?”

See how fun writing prompts can be? Imagine the juicy stuff you can come up with.

There you have it! With these tips, you can get started in establishing a writing routine and coming up with some awesome story ideas. It may be difficult at first, you may have to force yourself to sit down and write. With consistency, however, you’ll find writing has become a part of who you are. You’ll have to sit down to write.

Writing should be fun! Establishing a routine will keep it fun while also leading to improvements and a few surprises down the road. Do yourself a favor and write, write, write! You’ll thank me later when you have some wine coolers left to celebrate a job well done.

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