How to Create a Writing Practice That Sticks

Lessons about unblocking myself as a creator

Mia Quagliarello
3 min readJan 3, 2023
Index card via Phil Stutz

’Tis the season for goal setting. One of mine is simple: publish something by 5pm PT on Monday here (or by 6am on Thursday on my Substack), for 20 weeks. Having published 4 posts so far, I’m already on my way. I can do this! 💪

It may sound basic, but for me it’s radical. It’s a pearl on my string of beads — a step forward, turd and all. (Watch “Stutz” if you don’t know what I’m talking about!) The turd’s there because I am making myself hit publish no matter how unsure I feel about the caliber of what I’m creating. In 2022, I learned that the only way to overcome Hard Things is to move through them. Avoidance helps no one.

For the last 10 years, I’ve badly wanted to write, for myself. I tried “forcing functions” like working with a life coach, taking writing classes, and enlisting in programs like 100 Rejection Letters and To Be Magnetic. Nothing worked nor stuck. Even before I tried, I would psyche myself out and not bother.

This fall, Jay Acunzo helped me to stop being my own worst enemy. When I started working with him, I was expecting to learn the Secrets of Being a Thought Leader™ — a checklist I could follow from one of the best. But he noticed that I kept jumping to the end results without first tackling the most critical piece: establishing a practice. Without a practice, there can be no end results.

Jay called this my momentum problem. Anytime my mind would flit to other projects, anything that blocked me from the singular act of pressing “publish” was a distraction. Couldn’t my writing be better? Sure. Isn’t it hard to feel like you’re writing into a void? A little. These were issues for future me to worry about.

“Solve your momentum problem first, then later you can worry about your brilliance problem” is something he told me again and again. Just get the machine running! That is step 1.

Jay paired two techniques to analogies to help me cement my practice. These “memes” were memorable and relatable:

  • Schedule time to write and think of these as meetings as sacred and hard-to-move as a doctor’s appointment. If you can’t fit these into your life, see what you can drop.
  • Think about your weekly publishing moment as a flight you have to catch. You’ll always do what it takes to get to the gate before the doors close, right? This is the same.

In addition, Jay wouldn’t read what I wrote! He didn’t want to become my crutch and wanted me to get comfortable publishing without any external validation. It’s tough but I know he’s right to push me out of a perfectionist’s mindset.

By turning down the volume on expectations around brilliance, including whether anyone would care at all, I started to notice this idea of practice over perfection everywhere. The ending of the documentary “Stutz,” which I mentioned earlier, is a great example: Jonah Hill just keeps going despite his insecurities about where the film is heading. He realizes that just finishing it is a major accomplishment.

In this podcast, NFL linebacker Emmanuel Acho posits that we shouldn’t even set goals. “Why would I start something with the end in mind?” Acho asks. (Guilty!) “Reaching a goal is a penalty you receive for setting one…Why aim for something when you can have anything?”

To be clear, goals are good, he says, when they are microscopic and in service of a big picture. For example, publishing something every week is my goal. But stepping into my potential as a writer is limitless and cannot be put in a box.

“Choose significance over success” is another way the podcast puts it.

That’s something I can remember too.



Mia Quagliarello

Curation, creators and community @Flipboard , @burningman , @YouTube n' more || Maker of "The Art of Curation" podcast || My heartbeat has a bassline.