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How to create better writing habits
Stuck? Maybe it’s time to get to create better writing habits. If you’re waiting for inspiration to strike, you could be there for a while.
I hate to break it to you, but you need to find that place inside of yourself that’s willing to push beyond your lack of words.
Get out of your comfort zone of simply talking about writing. The habit of writing only becomes a habit when you create a pattern.
Are you in search of your writing style? Thinking if you have a special technique it will be easier? Writing doesn’t work that way.
There’s no pressure when you’re writing for yourself as a hobby. If it’s paying work you’re after, you must be self-driven. There isn’t another option.
Your job is to find those words deep within you and get them down. The more you write, the easier it becomes. Now, don’t get me wrong, there will be moments that will be more difficult than others, but it doesn’t mean you give up and walk away. It means you dig deeper.
Read something. Look for prompts. Start asking questions. Who is the story about? Why are you writing it? What do you want to say? How will the story end? There are five to get you started.
Let’s look at five more. Mix them up. Who are you telling this story to? Why hasn’t it been written prior to this? What happens to set the story in motion? How do you want the reader to feel when they read the story?
Dig into your plot and see if you’ve overlooked something. Is there a reason the words aren’t coming? Are you not being true to your character’s nature? Have you written a scene that doesn’t feel right? Back up. Do it again.
I play match-three games on my iPad. It’s true. I’m hooked. On the other hand, when I sit at my computer, I work. It’s the cue that my brain responds to–desk time equals writing time.
Train yourself with new routines. I’ve included a small checklist below, but don’t jump ahead. First, let’s tackle a couple of other issues that might standing in your way.
Stop worrying about how many spaces go after a period, or are titles of books underlined, or even when to use a semicolon. If you aren’t sure, look it up after you get your writing done. Don’t distract yourself with things that simply don’t matter during your first draft.
It’s a form of procrastination. Plain and simple.
Next thing you know, you’ve slid down the rabbit hole of the web and an hour’s gone by.
Frustration sets in.
Ugh, I set that time aside to write, but I didn’t get any words down. Oh well, I’ll try again another day. You then go chat with your friends… “I can’t write. I’m so frustrated. I sat down, but the words wouldn’t come.”
That’s not true.
You didn’t give the words a chance.
You chose to do something else with your time. Free will, baby. You were more than capable of writing, but you opted not to. Tough love? Maybe.
If you’re a hobby writer, you can afford the luxury of drifting off. Sure, go play Candy Crush or get lost on IMDB. Eventually you’ll remember the name of that movie you saw five years ago and were thinking about for a few seconds.
If you make a living with your writing, you don’t have that option. You need to get the words down, whether you’re in the mood to write or not. It’s your job.
Writing routines are vital when creating good habits
How you do that is by creating routines. The habit of writing becomes ingrained when you do it every day, just like brushing your teeth, or putting your napkin on your lap when you eat. You do put your napkin on your lap, right? Eyes you up, with a mom-like stare. Manners are important.
You don’t have to set hours aside to write, but block off fifteen or twenty minutes to start. If you have the ability, thirty minutes to an hour is even better.
Open a document and put words down–any words. Wow. I make it sound so easy!
Here’s the trick:
If your story isn’t flowing, start typing anyway. Write about what you hoped to be writing, ideas you have for your story, thoughts on your characters. It’s not about a cohesive story at this point, it’s about creating a pattern.
You sit down with the intention to write. Then you write. That’s how it happens. Notice I didn’t mention magic was involved. There were no special pills or potions, and there wasn’t a mind-blowing orgasm of inspiration involved. It was intention.
Do you want it bad enough?
If you don’t, you’ll find every reason in the world to avoid writing. It’s easy to type up a page or two, but to keep going, that’s a thing of champions.
The writer’s checklist
Here’s a writer’s checklist to make things easier. Grab a pen and paper or open a text file. This is important. Okay, now I want you to number the steps on your checklist. Are you ready?
- Sit down to write.
Got it? Perfect!
Simply follow this handy process and you’ll be on your way.
Oh…you thought there was a handy chart to make things easier. Yeah, sorry about that.
Want to make things easier? Plot before hand. Think about your character’s. Consider what you want to happen in your scene, or what emotion you want your reader to feel.
If you write by the seat of your pants (sometimes called a pantser in the writing community) and aren’t a plotter, then you’ll need to wing it. Either way, you can still follow the handy checklist above. It works for both types of writers.
Your writer’s style and voice
The only way to find your writer’s style or voice is to write. After you’ve written enough, you’ll find you word things a certain way.
I tend to be conversational and lighthearted in my stories. I have a friend who writes darker romance. I couldn’t write dark if I tried. I’m an upbeat, cheerful, optimistic girl and it’s doubtful I’d pull it off well.
Now, that doesn’t mean I can’t write multiple types of stories, which I do. It means, I know my voice and style and where it works best.
While I’ve written crime suspense about kidnapping and another about a murder gone wrong, I’m more comfortable in the cozy mystery world where quirky character and pun-happy titles thrive. It suits my voice.
I write romance, but my romance tends to be comical or light. I’ve written heavy themes, and while the story is solid, people know it’s not the right voice for me. It shows in my reviews. You’ll learn to trust your voice the more you write.
It takes time when you’re first starting out. What feels most natural to you is usually a clue. If it’s like pulling teeth to write your story, consider why you want to write that story. It may help you find answers you didn’t know you had.
As for me, I’ve bounced around in different genres and experimented over the years, but at the end of the day when I start typing, one style flows easier than another. I trust my voice, now. That’s a good feeling.
Put in the time. Write enough things. Grind through the difficult days.
If you get stuck, go back to the handy-dandy checklist above. The first draft is to get the ideas down. Don’t get hung up on perfection. Get hung up on the natural high of finishing your project.
Hang in there.
The words will come. Sit down. With intention. Now, write.
It’s as simple as that. I wish I could snap my fingers and give you a magic answer, but quite honestly, there isn’t one.
Perfection is a story killer
When I don’t have the chance to write (ex: family issues or other responsibilities that keep me from my computer), I get antsy.
I’m anxious to get my hands on my keyboard. To vibe. To get words out. They live inside of me, and the urge to share them is strong. Writing feels like breathing.
Writing offers me the freedom to share my thoughts, and to watch my words take shape.
Keep repeating this to yourself. Perfection is a story killer.
Stop trying to be perfect. Nobody’s first draft is perfect. Okay, maybe there’s a rare unicorn out there who writes a perfect first draft, but most serious writers go back over their work to polish their words. They adjust sentence structure, smooth over rough dialogue, and do things like fix plot holes.
Get in there, champ. You’ve got this!
Don’t forget that handy writer’s checklist I gave you. If all else fails, start back at step one, then move onto step two. Stuck? Back to step one, then onto step two. That’s the secret of creating a habit–showing up and doing the work, day after day, even when you don’t want to.
Check out more writing tips and resources here.