Header: how vs. Why. Why you need to quote how unquote to successfully write. The why is just the beginning. Natural Writer Coaching

Why You Need to “How” to Successfully Write

Header: how vs. Why. Why you need to quote how unquote to successfully write. The why is just the beginning. Natural Writer Coaching

Something I really try to drive home is that you need to know why it is you’re writing. Not just why you’re writing your story, but why you’re writing in general. In fact, I can list plenty of posts where I reference how to dive into that, and why you need to find your why.

When you know why you want to write something, it’s easier to generate and ground yourself in taking the steps to get it done. When you why is strong enough, it’s going to carry you through the hard times.

This is just the first step.

The next step is to look at the how. When you know why you want to do something, then you need to work on how you’re going to execute it and cultivate the results you want. The results you want will also be down to how you define success, both as a writer, and for your particular project. Think of that success as your target as you aim your bow upward.

How vs. Why

In a post last week, I talked about how Toni Morrison would look beyond why a character was motivated to do something, but how they got into that position/mentality. How did that character develop that way?


The how is a combination of both the macro and the micro in a character or person’s life. It’s the environment in which something or someone developed. Your environment isn’t just present, but is compiled of your past as well. We carry the lessons from our experiences with us, as they create our views of the world and our beliefs. Our world views and beliefs are what inform our decisions and determine how we act upon something.

Consider what your environment consists of:

  • Your personal living space
  • Your personal space within your living space (bedroom, office, etc.)
  • Your neighborhood
  • Your family
  • Your town/city
  • Your State/county/providence
  • Your country
  • The places you choose to be in
  • Your education system
  • Your level of education
  • Your childhood home

This is just a start to your list of the various things that contribute to your environment. And all of these things are what give you a different flavor and view of life. All of these places and situations provide lessons from which you build your personality and understanding from. All of it contributes specifically to you.

When you’re looking to create a successful writing life, you need to understand your environment as well as yourself. When you know these things, then you can learn to work with them in order to develop good habits and practices to get you closer to your goal.

This is the importance of knowing your how. The how of you will help you answer the how to get to your writing goal.

Here’s a small example

I write ghostwrite books regularly. My goal is to get the book done and out of my hands in seven to ten days. My why is that it’s my job to do so. I’m hired to do it. That’s why I write these books on this deadline. Part of my how is to sit down and write the book. Because of my experiences in university, I’m able to sit down and write large quantities at a time.

However, another part of my how is my location. I need to be comfortable where I sit. When I’m not comfortable, I’ll find reasons to get distracted. And getting comfortable can be difficult because, again, a part of my environmental factors in life was an unsafe work environment which led to a back injury that can make sitting for long periods of time difficult.

I can’t sit on the couch because I get sleepy when I write there, despite it being nice for my back. I can’t sit too long at the desk because my back starts to ache.

So, part of my how when it comes to reaching my finished product is that I set timers. I have a treadmill by my desk, and I set my timer for 25 minutes. I write for 35 minutes, and when the timer goes off, I give myself five minutes to walk on the treadmill. When the five minutes are up, I go back to writing.

The break also helps to reset my brain when I do this, so I feel as though I’m coming back to my writing fresh.

So when someone asks me how I write so much in such little time, I tell them my regiment and I tell them about my time in university. Both of which contribute to my how.

How & You

So, when you’re trying to generate how to get through to the end of your project, you first need to know how you work best. You need to know what factors are tugging at you to reach for your phone, or to get up and wander to the fridge, or to decide your dog needs a walk for the tenth time that day.

Knowing yourself is the first step. Knowing your motivation is the first part of the first step, and knowing the factors that make you who you are, what makes you impatient, what makes you lose focus—all of those things are going to influence how you design your writing regiment.

Spend some time getting to know yourself. Really ask yourself how you work best, examine the problems you face, and from there, once you’ve identified them, then you can learn how to problem-solve around those issues.

Your Homework

Create a list of what you find distracts you from your writing. It could be fears, discomforts, noises, people, gadgets, etc.

Once you have your list, write down what it is that compels you to respond to those distractions. Some might be obvious, but others may not be as obvious.

Now, begin to troubleshoot around them. What can you do to ensure they don’t distract you? Are there practices you can put into action so that you in general don’t pick up your phone every five minutes? What about getting a cushion for your chair? What about writing before everyone wakes up or after they go to bed?

See what you can do to help you eliminate your distractions so you can then create an environment in which you write best in. This will help you develop your writing habits more easily, and get to your end goal.

If you want to discuss this further, book a call with me! you get a free 30-minute call with me to see if we can work together to get your project done.

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Nicola Thompson

Born and raised in the Pacific North West (Washington State to be specific), I'm currently living on a farm, raising chickens, and writing in North Yorkshire. A former editor of Durham University's online magazine, The Bubble, I also write for the magazine Carpe Nocturne, and have several short stories published in a variety of anthologies.

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