Here are five tips to help you develop and maintain successful writing habits:
Make time to write.
I’ve had many people tell me they want to be a writer, but when I ask them what they write, they generally say, “Oh, I don’t.” Then they will say they don’t think they’d be very good, or they don’t have time. I believe that anyone can be a writer, but you have to be dedicated, and you have to work at it, just as you work at any skill. Get started by simply blocking out the time to sit down and do it. Physically write it down in your date book – 6 to 8 a.m., “writing” – or schedule in your Smartphone calendar. Maybe it means getting up half an hour earlier; if you do, don’t get distracted by the laundry, the cat or your email. Just write. Then keep writing as a calender item, and make it a daily routine. If you write at the same time every day, you’ll be more likely to get into a routine. Train yourself.
In order to be a writer, you need to be a reader, and you need to read a lot – books from all different genres. Takes notes about the books you like and what you liked about them. Take notes about characters that move you and why. Note what stylistic choices you prefer, which ones you don’t. Visit your favorite authors’ websites and Facebook pages and follow their posts. Check online to see if they have written a book about the craft of writing.
Here are a few books that I appreciate:
- Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within by Natalie Goldberg
- Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott
- Becoming a Writer by Dorothea Brande
- On Becoming a Novelist by John Gardener
Make it a goal to meet other local writers. Go to open mic nights for writers, such as ECA+’s Unbuttoned in Easthampton. Invite a writer for tea, or meet to write together. Meet one on one. Meet as a group. Ask questions about their writing processes, how often they write, where they draw their inspiration from. Ask them what tips they have for writers just starting out. These conversations will help you build a good support network, a network of colleagues. Writing is so solitary. It’s good to communicate with fellow writers.
Real life is the best inspiration for writers. Pay attention to the details around you. Observe people, listen in on conversations. Be the fly on the wall. Every wall. Record what you see in a notebook or using the voice memo app on your Smartphone. Use index cards, like Anne Lamott. Store these real-life conversations to give your dialogue some kick.
Join a writing group. Go to a conference. Attend readings. Immerse yourself in the writing culture. And then apply that to your own process. Find a writing partner – or meet with someone once a week who will make sure you keep on track with your writing goals. I once asked a friend to text me every Thursday and ask how my book was coming along; after five Thursday, I hated to tell her “I haven’t done any work on it,” so I got working! It is good to have someone else motivate you. When you know someone is going to be checking over your work, you are more likely to get it done and get it done right. A writing partner or group will keep you on track, but it will also help you to learn how to critique the work of others.