build daily writing habits with Sarah Barbour

Sarah Barbour is a book coach and editor who helps entrepreneurs write books they can brag about. She can help you craft your content, plan a manuscript you can be proud of, and navigate the world of self-publishing so that you can put your book in the hands of people who need it.

She recognizes that her clients have businesses to run, so Sarah’s goal as a book coach is to save you tons of time and frustration by making the publishing process as painless and efficient as possible.

Sarah began her self-publishing journey as an editor. Her first major editing job came when she was living in Japan. She edited books written by Japanese scientists that were going to be sold in English-language markets.

When she moved back to the United States, Sarah got a part-time job as an editor for the University of Illinois Press. Later on, she got a full-time job managing a library of documentary films about Asia. Managing the library came with the responsibility of editing a website and newsletter. Eventually she quit that job to be a stay-at-home mom.

In 2011, she decided to put her skills on the market as a freelance editor. She was able to get quite a few clients because of the explosion of self-publishing around that time.

Sarah has worked in the industry ever since. She noticed that there’s quite a bit of information for people who want to become full-time authors…as long as they produce books on a regular basis. There isn’t a lot of information out there for people who just want to write one book to support their clients and help build their business.

Sarah stepped in to fill that gap.

How to Be a Successful Author

The most important step to achieving success as an author is defining what success means for you.

Everyone is different. We all have a different vision for what success as an author looks like. The clearer you can be about your vision and your end goal, the more likely you are to achieve it.

Put another way: What do you want your book to do for you?

Knowing the answer to that question in advance will help you plan strategies to achieve your goal.

How to Write Consistently

The key to writing consistently is to make writing part of the routine of your life. It’s not something special that you’re doing; it’s something you do every day as part of a daily routine.

The first step is to get some sort of writing tracker. The easiest thing to do here is to print off a calendar for the month if you don’t already have one. Then you simply mark off in some way every day that you write.

It’s important that you put this writing tracker somewhere that’s easily visible in your daily life. As you see the chain of writing days mount up, it will be added motivation for you to continue.

When you’re just starting to develop your writing habit, it’s important that you not be too concerned with how much you’re writing every day. The important thing is to write something every day so that you establish the habit.

How to Install Your Writing Habit: CARP

To build your writing habit successfully, use the CARP method: Cues, Action, Rewards, Preparation.


Establish a set of habits that lead into your writing. The best thing to do is to establish a time and place to write. It’s easiest if you can write at the same time in the same place every day.


Set up as many positive associations with your writing as you can. You want to put yourself in as pleasant a situation as you can and still be writing. You should do things that set your writing time apart as something special.

Maybe you can wear comfortable clothing, drink tea or coffee, and turn the heat up or down (depending on what makes you comfortable).

You want writing to be something you can train yourself to look forward to.

Sarah Barbour


One of the most important elements of establishing a writing habit is to acknowledge the completion of the session. You can decide what triggers the completion of the session.

You can write for a certain amount of time. You can write until you make your daily word count. You can write until you’ve hit a predetermined time trigger (like your kids have gotten up for the day.)

Whatever causes your session to end, you have to acknowledge successful completion so your writing habit can be hardwired into your mental programming.

It’s also important to celebrate milestones in the process. You might want to share your streak on Facebook or other social media.

You can also set up a series of rewards for the entire process. You should make your rewards proportional to the size of the goal you achieved. So if you’ve been writing for a week straight, you might go out for coffee with a friend. If you hit publish on your book, you might get a massage or go out to dinner. Do whatever feels like a reward to you.

So often, people make the progress they say they want to make, yet subconsciously they don’t feel like it’s enough…so they beat themselves up for not living up to their potential. The truth is, progress is important. Be kind to yourself. Make accomplishing your goals a positive experience.


In the preparation phase, you want to set up the cues for your next writing session. You want to make it as effortless as possible for you to begin the process of writing each time.

You might also want to plan your session a little bit. For instance, you might plan to write a section or a scene in your story. If you can plan this sort of thing in advance, it makes your writing sessions much more efficient and effective in terms of completing the manuscript. Research has shown that if you prepare to be creative the night before, you are far more likely to be successful than if you just demand instant creativity from yourself.

In some sense, preparation should come first. But the important thing to realize is that writing is a process. While you may finish a step in the process or a project, in order to be successful as a writer long-term, you also have to start the next project.

(And if you are only writing one book, you have to signal to yourself that you’re starting the next phase of your project: promotion.)

Recharge Your Creative Mind

It’s important to recharge your creative mind with new ideas and experiences as much as possible so that you have something to draw on when you’re creating content.

Taking a break from writing, as long as it’s intentional, can really help you reset your creative batteries.

Having a balanced life is the shortest path to becoming a consistent, productive, and happy writer. People who just try to crank out words without resting eventually burn out.

It’s also important to give yourself permission to not write. You’re allowed to go on vacation! You’re allowed to have life events intervene. As long as your breaks are intentional and you have a plan to return to your writing, it’s okay to schedule time off.

Sarah Barbour quote

A Trick to Help Up Your Word Count

Make a spreadsheet to track your total number of words this month. As you track your daily word counts and you see that monthly word count increase, it will motivate you to write more consistently, and to write more words per day.

Links and Resources Mentioned in This Interview

Word Count Spreadsheets — This website offers two spreadsheets: a basic spreadsheet, and a complex spreadsheet. The spreadsheets were designed specifically for NaNoWriMo, but can be used for any project and any month.

Sarah Barbour’s Facebook page — Sarah’s Facebook page, where you can post about your writing journey. — Sarah’s professional website, where you can learn about her coaching services and sign up for her free mini course on starting your writing habit.