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I'm a writer, a freelancer, a crafter, a nail polish mixatrix, a tea drinker, an unconventional life-liver, a journaling junkie, an introvert, a chronic-pain-sufferer, an idealist, a geek, a TV-lover. Welcome to my corner of the web!

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Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Writing Lessons - Build good writing habits

Here's the thing about habits: it's super-easy to get into bad ones, super-hard to build good ones, and the easiest thing in the world to fall off the wagon.

But here's another thing: writers need to have good writing habits to get any writing done. When you were just writing for yourself, it didn't matter if you ever finished anything, it didn't matter if it was messy and lazy writing, it didn't matter if no one ever saw it, and it didn't matter if you went months or years without writing. But if you're reading blogs looking for this sort of information, I'm going to have to assume that you're trying to be a pro writer, and if that's the case, you need to act like a pro writer.

Listen: Writing is hard. Well, putting words on paper isn't that hard, but writing as a profession puts a lot of control in your own hands, and that means you need to exert that control to keep your butt in that chair and your hands on that keyboard and your brain ticking over with the next scene, the next chapter, the next book, the next leg of your career. No one is going to do it for you, and no one is going to force you to do it for yourself, and, like it or not, the days of the tortured artiste-writer up in the garret are mostly over; if you want to make a living writing, you have to learn how to write in such a way that things get:

  • done
  • revised
  • submitted
  • published
  • and maybe collected.
I've been writing since I was twelve, but this is only the fourth time I totally finished a long-form project, and the only time that I revised it and got it good enough for publication. I once had a girl tell me she had 60 finished novels in a drawer in her room and I'm just like, why? Why do all that work and then not polish them? Why let them sit there instead of trying to publish them? I don't understand. If she could write 60 books in a few years, why isn't she living off them?

And here's the bottom line: You have to do it yourself. You have to find the way your brain works and keep aware of when you're drifting. You have to figure out how to make yourself write every day, and keep yourself in the habit of doing so--and you have to do it with your own willpower. You have to Get Stuff Done and then you have to Make It Better and then Send It Out. If you can't do that, you need to sign up for classes somewhere and work your way through them with the idea that they will help you build the habit of writing and keeping to it. The point of a mentor is to hold your hand early on--and then to push you off on your own two feet when you're ready, even if you don't feel like you are.

Other good habits to keep:
  • waking up at the same time every day, with the time chosen to give you at least a solid hour of work-time / waking up at a time that leaves you with at least a solid hour of work time before bed
  • journaling to capture ideas, opinions, bits of work, concepts, outlines, moments of your life, dreams, etc
  • reading all the time, from as many different sources, genres, formats, writers as possible
  • talking to other writers about everything
  • seeking out new knowledge and experience just for the sake of learning something new
  • not allowing yourself to skip days without a damn good reason
  • taking care of your body enough that your mind can be clear and thoughtful and emotionally balanced enough to keep writing
  • finishing--even if you hate it, even if it's the hardest thing you ever did, even if you don't want to--you can always start over later, or scrap it, or line the littlebox with it, but when you're writing it, finish it
  • daydreaming--seriously; it lets your mind drift and things come together that you wouldn't expect
  • trying new things with your writing--never wrote poems before? Go ahead and write one every day for a month. Never wrote short? Write ten short stories or flash pieces. Never wrote long? Devote yourself to a novel.
  • get over the idea that writing requires a muse and that the muse is fickle; writing is a discipline, and the muse is nice, but not necessary
  • love what you write, even when you hate it
  • learn to hold two ideas in your head at once, especially if they're contradictory
What other good habits do you guys have to share with each other?


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