Saturday, January 17, 2015

Get Into the Writing Habit

Everyone has habits—both good and bad. Some say we’re creatures of habit. It’s human nature. In fact, all mammals are. In the animal world, it’s called instinct, but for us humans it’s called habit. Most people concentrate on their bad habits. But everyone has some good habits, too. Which you have more of is up to you.

Developing good writing habits takes time and discipline. It also takes some determination and dedication. So how do you develop good writing habits?

First start by finding time to write. Not just here and there in your busy weekly schedule, but a specific times. You don’t need a lot of time, just a reasonable amount, say an hour or two, several times a week. If you use the time you set aside to write productively, you’ll get a lot done. If you wile away that time daydreaming about your first novel, you won’t get anything done.

Begin by making a schedule for yourself. Lay out everything you do in a week, including relaxation time and meals, plus employment if you work at a full-time job. Look to see if there’s any time left. Don’t cut into your relaxation time, but look carefully at how much time you spend at meals. You’ll soon discover that you can easily set aside an hour or two to dedicate to writing.

The trick is to stick to your writing schedule. The time you’ve set aside doesn’t have to be spent actually writing. You could be doing research or editing. But you should be doing some sort of writing-related activity.

Like physical exercise, writing often isn’t a lot of fun while you’re doing it. The key is to make it enjoyable. Begin by writing about subjects that interest you—subjects that you’re passionate about. Your passion will produce the words.

Some writers literally go straight from their bed to their computer the first thing in the morning. For some working full-time at another job, this means getting up with the roosters. But even if you’re a full-time writer, starting the first thing in the morning is a good habit. And any distraction that takes them away from their work kills it. Once you get into the rhythm of writing, the material will flow from your fingertips, almost like magic.

To get yourself into a good writing habit, start by setting aside a designated time to write, each day or on selected days, according to your schedule. Try, if possible to set aside the same time each day, so that your mind will get used to delving into writing problems at that time. Many fiction writers set a number of words to write each day. Non-fiction writers, on the other hand, usually set a certain number of pages to write at each session.

Another good habit to develop is proofreading. With spell-checkers and grammar assists, too many beginning writers fail to do careful proofreading of their work before anyone else sees it. Set up a routine of sifting through your work. First proofread it by reading it from the bottom to the top and from right to left to throw our brain off. This will allow you to see mistakes you might otherwise miss.

Follow proofreading with polishing. Nothing says amateur like a piece that hasn’t been carefully polished. During this process, you’ll delete things that don’t fit, tighten up sentences, take out wordy phrases, and eliminate repetition.

By developing these good habits, your writing will go forward. And the more you do it, the more successful you’ll become at it.

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