What is Writing Practice? 6 Timely Rules for New Writers


What is writing practice?Writing practice can help

How can it help you become a better writer?

And is there a right way and a wrong way to do it?

In 1986, the author, artist and writing teacher Natalie Goldberg introduced the concept of writing practice in her popular and accessible book Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within.

She says:

“One of the main aims in writing practice is to learn to trust your own mind and body; to grow patient and non-aggressive.”

Much like free writing, writing practice involves turning up and writing about a particular topic, theme or an idea without editing yourself for a pre-determined period.

Whether you’re a blogger, nonfiction writer or novelist, this expressive  type of creative work will help you write better.

It’s also helpful if you suffer from common problems like writer’s block.

The Six Basic Rules of Writing Practice

No matter what keep that hand moving


According to Natalie, there are six basic rules to writing practice. Follow these step-by-step and you won’t go wrong.

These are:

1. Keep Your Hand Moving

Don’t take your fingers from your keyboard or put down your pen because you want to check email, attend to chore or get something.

Instead, much like during meditation, you must stay present with whatever you are writing.

2. Don’t Cross Out

If you cross out while you write, you are editing your work. There’s a time for self-censorship and for removing what you didn’t mean; it’s after your writing practice is done. The best writing often comes after eliminating your inner censor.

3. Don’t Worry about Spelling, Punctuation or Grammar

Natalie adds that writers who use pen and paper should write between the lines and on the margins of their notepads.

Again, there’s a time for proof-reading and it’s not during first drafts. You can also use writing practice to play around with word choice.

4. Lose Control

The purpose of writing practice is to free yourself write on “waves of emotion” and say things you hadn’t thought possible.

This loss of control is difficult to achieve, and I’ve found it only comes deep into a writing practice session. In other words, I’m not writing and also checking social media at the same time.

5. Don’t Think. Don’t Get Logical

Natalie practices Zen (a topic she relates to writing practice in her book), and she cautions against over-thinking the words that appear on the blank page.

Avoid trying to join the dots and move from A to B to C. Instead Natalie recommends exploring how your writing can tackle the ever changing nature of life, of human suffering and the world around us.

6. Go for the Jugular

Natalie says writers in the middle of writing practice shouldn’t back down from an idea that’s scary or an idea that makes us feel naked. The best writers push past their fears and keep going.

We should “dive in” because these ideas have “lots of energy”. In other words, if you feel uncomfortable writing about a topic, you need to write about it.

How I Approach Writing Practice

Writing practice renews for me during those moments when I feel blocked and unable to write. I use it for short stories, blog posts and longer articles. It’s one of my favourite activities.

Before I start, I close every application on my computer except my word processor and I set an alarm for 30-60 minutes.

Then, I pick a single topic (recent examples include fear, love, anxiety and ambition) and write without holding back until a buzzer sounds.

Typically, I write 1,000-2,000 words, but this word count isn’t important,  and I only share it here as an example.

The content of these writing practice sessions often ends up having nothing whatsoever to do with my original topic.

Occasionally I extract fragments from these writing practice sessions and work them into usable ideas for blog posts, articles and stories.

Stuck? Use Writing Prompts

A collection of writing prompts can help a lot with writing practice. Essential a good writing prompt is like a springboard. 

You can use it to jump into the unknown. I recommend keeping a personal list of prompts for your writing practice and also referring to other writing prompts.

They can also help with cultivating a daily writing habit.

If you need help or don’t know how to use writing prompts, check out my free book Yes, You Can Write. This book also includes printable and creative writing exercises.

Hone Your Writing Skills With a Little Practice

If you’re a new writer, writing practice will feel difficult at first.

This feeling is natural because new writers often concern themselves with arbitrary word counts, with perfect sentences and finished stories and articles.

However, writing practice is a skill you can develop over time by turning up in front of the blank page and letting your hand take you in bold and unexpected directions. It’s a key part of the writing process.

Natalie explains:

“Like running, the more you do it, the better you get at it. Some days you don’t want to run and you resist every step of the three miles, but you do it anyway. You practice whether you want to or not. You don’t wait around for inspiration and a deep desire to run.

This week, instead of writing with a set word count or a target in mind, set an alarm clock, disconnect from the internet, pick a single idea and explore it until the buzzer sounds.

Whatever type of writer you want to become, this type of writing practice will help you explore the outer edges of your craft and break through boundaries you hadn’t realised were in your way.

With a little hard work, your practice will pay off! 


Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within by Natalie Goldberg

Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within
  • Amazon Kindle Edition
  • Goldberg, Natalie (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 260 Pages - 02/02/2016 (Publication Date) - Shambhala (Publisher)

Yes, You Can Write! by Bryan Collins

Yes, You Can Write!: 101 Proven Writing Prompts that Will Help You Find Creative Ideas Faster for Your Journal, Blogging, Writing Your Book and More (Become a Writer Today 1)
  • Amazon Kindle Edition
  • Collins, Bryan (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 45 Pages - 03/21/2018 (Publication Date) - Become a Writer Today (Publisher)

Writing Practice FAQs

How can I practice essay writing ?

You can practice writing essays by breaking your work down into small manageable sections that you tackle day-by-day. While writing a single essay is difficult, after you’ve written a few it will get easier. If in doubt, ask a classmate to critique your work.

How can I practice my english writing?

You can practice your english writing by taking the first page of a book you love and typing it out. Although this may sound monotonous, it will help you understand good sentence structure and grammar. From there, you can develop your own style.

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14 thoughts on “What is Writing Practice? 6 Timely Rules for New Writers”

  1. Hey Bryan,

    I’m an avid writer who journals frequently. I do something similar to this writing practice but will usually find prompts for myself in order to jump start the writing.

    30-60 minutes is awesome if you can get it in, but much of the time I can only squeeze out 10 minutes. Sometimes having shorter sessions benefits the creative process. On the days you don’t feel like writing something original, you can also try going back and editing pieces that you wrote previously. Thinking of ways to trim or cut from a previous free hand post can also help to hone the craft.

    Thanks for the post and the reminder to stick with the habit of writing daily!

    1. Hi Lucy,
      10 minutes of journal writing works for me from time to time too. It’s better to write consistently and regularly than it is to write for four or five hours every other Sunday.

      Sometimes I warm up by editing too, although I find I have to force myself to actually write and not spend all my time editing.

  2. Oh my – I think I just had a fabulous idea for a new Blogging Challenge. I want to get back to writing for myself while still helping others and working on other personal assignments.

    This is perfect – I can just free-write for 30-60 minutes. I won’t edit, I won’t change (most) words ;).

    Thank you, Bryan <3


  3. Bryan, I write every morning when I wake up in my journal. Sometimes, I just write whatever, words come into my head. Other times, it might be about a dream or a difficult situation. Then the magic comes when the words take on a rhythm, and I create a poem.The words just flow, and many times I just write about a feeling. It sets the tone for my day and offers a space for creativity. I love the space of beginning my day with words.

  4. Pingback: Conquer Procrastination and Develop a Daily Writing Practice - Writers Who Finish

  5. You helped me so much as a writer’s conference newbie with the same advice you just wrote. And when I was a college journalism major, our prof told us the same for newspaper writing. Thanks!

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