Creating Good Writing Habits

Originally Posted October 18, 2020 by Joe K.
Last Updated November 20, 2020

Writing habits develop over time. You always hope the good habits stick. If you find you’ve acquired bad writing habits, it may be time to take a closer look at what you’re hoping to get out of your writing time. The difference between accomplishing your goals and simply piddling about is that those who want to write—write.

E.B. White says, "A writer who waits for ideal conditions under which to work will die without putting a word on paper."

Sometimes, it’s about the excuses you make for yourself. I’m not ready, I not good enough, I’m not sure what I want to write, and the list goes on. It’s easy to find reasons not to write, but how about revisiting each of those thoughts from a new perspective.

For example:

  • I’m not ready, can become If I don’t start now, when will I start?
  • I’m not good enough, can become I need to start somewhere, so I can measure my growth.
  • I’m not sure what I want to write, can become If I write something, I can then decide if it’s working or not.

Simply changing your mindset can be a good step in the right direction. Look, nobody is perfect. And if that’s what you’re waiting for, you’ll be waiting a long time. Writers write. Passion allows you to use your creative energy to express your thoughts. Why not share those thoughts with your readers?

Haruki Murakami says, "The repetition itself becomes the important thing; it’s a form of mesmerism."

When looking at the writing habits of famous writers and other good writers, you see that they focus on getting something down. Just like you lift weights to build muscle, you write to grow your brain’s comfort and strength with writing. It’s a habit, like anything else.

Henry Miller had wise words to stay focused on the project at hand. "Forget the books you want to write. Think only of the book you are writing."

One habit that might be worth considering is outlining. It doesn’t mean it has to be a stiff, solid outline that goes on for pages and pages, but by getting your ideas down even in pieces, it can help. Famous writer, A.J. Jacobs says, "I am a big fan of outlining. I write an outline. Then a slightly more detailed outline. Then another with even more detail. Sentences form, punctuation is added, and eventually, it all turns into a book."

Let’s look at a few bad writing habits, and how you can change them.

How to Fix Bad Writing Habits

One aspect of writing is that it’s easy to fall into bad habits because "at least we’re doing something" and have a mentality that we’re creating.

Dabbling in writing and getting into a pattern is well and good. It’s an important step, but if you stay there and don’t learn from what’s not working, how will you find productivity? There are two levels in writing you’ll want to look at. Are you writing as a hobby to fill your creative well, simply as something that you enjoy? Do your thing. It’s like doodling on scrap paper. You’re doing something without a purpose, but you find it satisfying. On the other hand, if you’re writing in hopes of making money from the process or building up to a book, then we need to focus on why you’re stuck.

When you do things with intention and purpose, you carve a path for yourself. But like any path, you need stepping stones. If you’re not moving forward, you’re standing still, and that won’t finish your story.

Here are a few tips to write with intention.

  • Set goals for your writing, whether it’s a certain number of words you want to write each day or a certain number of days you want to write each week.
  • Create a plan or outline. Know where you’re going. Knowing your end goal is a good way to figure out the steps you need to take to get there.
  • Find a place that offers limited distractions where you can focus on the task at hand.
  • Know what you want to write. Are you looking at fiction or non-fiction? What genre will you be writing in? Each of these small questions will help you set better goals for yourself.
  • Find an accountability partner through a writer’s group, message board, or forum. Sometimes, knowing somebody else is in the process with you can be motivating.
  • Call yourself a writer. This seems simple, but you’d be surprised how many people discount their desires. Ever heard somebody say, "I want to be a writer" and you’re wondering why they don’t simply say they are a writer? If you’re spending time writing, you’re a writer. There is no professional accreditation that will suddenly make you magically a writer. If you write, you’re a writer. Give yourself credit for the effort you’re putting in.

Another famous writer, Barbara Kingsolver, says "I write a lot of material that I know I’ll throw away. It’s just part of the process."

Note that last word. Process. It’s building something. It’s a system. If you don’t write words, you can’t edit them and draw out the ones you want to keep.

When building a writing habit, the key component to keep in mind is just like every other habit in your life, you need to create consistency. You do that by showing up and doing the work.

You’ve created a lot of good habits in your life, and that’s simply by doing them over and over again. You brush your teeth, you shower, you go to work…you go through the motions. It’s the same thing with writing, only the good news is like with driving, you’ll improve over time. Remember when you first started driving? You probably thought you were awesome since you were a fearless teen, but as you got older, you developed natural instincts from having done it for so long. The same thing happens with writing. The more you do it, the more you can hone your skills and sharpen each step of the process.

It’s time to drop the excuses and bad writing habits and create new, better ones.

Sit at your desk, or grab a stack of paper and a pen, and get started. The one way to get to "THE END" is by actually writing the story one word at a time.

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