All over the internet you find posts akin to “X amount of habits of successful people”. Well why not jump on the bandwagon, right? So this list isn’t necessarily the five habits of successful writers, but it is a list of five habits every new writer should work on. The so-called “professional writers” have all taken the time to learn these habits. Why? Because they work.
There are a bunch of failed novelists out there who just never got their minds and habits calibrated to being a writer. Though these habits may seem pretty basic and obvious to most, please remember that this post is dedicated to absolute beginners. We writers who have been doing this for years already know these things (though some of us don’t stick to it as much as we should).
My point is that if you’re new to this whole “writing thing”, then you need to be aware that simply proclaiming yourself a writer isn’t going to make it so. You need to enforce habits that will help you grow and that will form the basis of your writing career.
I guess I’ve gone on about it for long enough now, time to actually tell you what these habits are. Bear in mind that these are in no particular order.
You get home after a long day at work and you sit down in front of your pc. You open your preferred word-processor. Nothing…
Your mind is a complete blank. You know what has to happen next in the story. You know what it is that needs to be put on the page, but you just can’t get the words out. You just don’t know how to start!
The problem here is that you never prepared. You never wrote some kind of outline. Hell, you never even made mental notes on what you’re going to write about. Now your mind is constipated and you just can’t get the words out.
Now I’m not saying you need to write a 10-page detailed outline before you start writing, that’s just crazy. But you need to at least write a paragraph or two summarising the next events in your story/article/report/whatever it is you’re writing. Just get a good idea of what has to happen. I often find that when I write about what needs to happen next (again, just a paragraph or two) I know exactly how to start.
Another important step is to turn off distractions. Find a way to minimise any and all distractions you might face. Turn your phone off. Turn your internet off. Turn your TV off. Turn your kids off. Do what you have to do
A well prepared writer is a busy writer.
I wrote a whole post about the importance of reading a while back. Not my best work, but I still stand by its message. In order to be a good writer, you need to be an avid reader. There’s just no way around it. My buddy, Stephen King, said it best in his book, On Writing – A Memoir Of The Craft.
Would you pay for music composed by someone who never listens to music? Would you pay to see a film directed by someone who never watches movies? Would you pay for a meal made by someone who only ever eats PB&J sandwiches?
Didn’t think so.
This is exactly why a writer who never reads could never be as good as a writer who does. You need that exposure. There’s just no substitute for reading. I don’t care how hard it is or how you find TV more exciting. You have to read. You just have to. Want to be stuck on your current skill level and never improve? Neglect reading. Want to improve your skills and actually grow as an artist? Read voraciously. Simplicity itself.
Now go and read a book. Anything by Stephen King, Cassandra Clare, or George R.R. Martin will do.
No I’m not being funny. You’d be surprised at how many new (and some experienced) writers never make a habit of writing. And what do I mean by “making a habit”? I mean writing every single day (you could take a day off every week, I suppose).
No kidding. If you’re not writing every day, you’re not going to improve. As before, would you pay for food made by someone who only ever cooked when they felt like it? Personally, I’d rather pay the chef who cooks every day and knows what the hell he’s doing, but that’s just me.
Same goes for buying the album of a pianist who only practiced once or twice a week. Famous composers practice almost every single day, without fail.
You can’t write “when inspiration strikes”. Fuck inspiration. Fuck your muse too. Real writers write. It’s that simple. And don’t give me the old “writer’s block” excuse. You clearly haven’t read my latest post on that.
Just write every day. Show up at your pc and do it.
Make a date with yourself. Just do it.
While we’re talking about making dates with ourselves, I should mention this as well. You need to schedule your writing time every day. Find some free time and schedule that as your dedicated writing-time.
Announce it to your friends and family too. Let them know that you’ll be unavailable during that time. If they’re unwilling to accept it, then you need to have a serious talk with them. People need to realise that writing is important to you. It’s not some hobby. It’s not some fleeting fancy. It’s your passion.
Ask them if they would interrupt people at their office jobs “just to chat”? No? Then they shouldn’t fucking bother you. Writing is work. So set some time aside for work.
Also, I should mention that it is imperative that you stick to schedule. If you make a habit of showing up for your writing “work”, you’ll be more likely to stick to it. This is how you “form the habit”.
Remember that writing is work. Set a fixed schedule and stick to it.
You wouldn’t stay home from the office, so you shouldn’t neglect to show up for writing.
Communication is extremely important as a writer. I don’t mean talking to people about your Work In Progress. No, your WIP is something you keep close to your chest until the day it’s ready for alien eyes.
I mean that you have to communicate with other writers. Find some Facebook communities where you can talk with other writers. Embrace online communities of writers wherever you can. Nobody else is going to understand the struggles of a writer as much as a fellow writer.
Alternatively you can always find a writing-buddy in your personal life that you can talk to. If they’re someone close to you that’s even better! However, even if you find someone close to you, I’d still recommend an online community. Many writers working together can yieldd amazing results.
If you don’t have writing-buddies to talk to and you can’t find any, you can always find someone in your life who doesn’t necessarily write. Spouses and significant others work the best for this, though siblings or best-friends work well too. Just find someone who cares enough about you and your interests. Even if they know nothing about writing, just having someone to talk to can be a huge help!
If you really don’t have anyone or you just want someone else, you could always talk to me of course! I always respond to comments and you can find all my social media in the side bar to your right. I also have a newsletter you can sign up for! You’ll get a ton of bonus content in it too!
So if you’re new to the world of writing, then I highly recommend at least working on forming these five habits. They’ll not only help your writing improve, but they’ll form the groundwork for all your future writing endeavours. By the way, what other habits do you think are important for a writer just starting out?
Let me know in the comments below!