Writing Habits: Myth or Essential?

tumblr_n0z1btdqUa1r47vufo1_1280Tell me in the comments: Are writing habits a myth or are they essential?

I.e. Do you think writers should write everyday? Do you think you should write a minimum amount of words per month or per month day? What does a writing habit mean to you? Does sticking to a set schedule or set of rules make you perform better or make you feel stressed? Does your schedule change with the time of day or time of year?

Share your writing habits/schedule/rules!

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5 Things Writers Should Stop Worrying About 

pages-freestockphotosWorrying has to be one of the essential parts of a writer’s DNA. There are so many things to be concerned about! However, the reality is so many things are out of a writer’s control–especially during the writing process. Here are my top 5 things writers should learn to stop worrying about. Save all that energy for what matters: writing the best book you can.

1. Timelines

Writers make promises to themselves and to other people. Some people call this goal setting. This is a reasonable thing to do, provided you’re being realistic. However, there are other timelines that you can’t worry about because sometimes things get pushed back in publishing: an offer that’s “supposed” to come in, a delivery date that’s no longer attainable, a publication date that gets moved up or way back and many more. Focus on what you can control and let the rest go. Use your best judgement and guidance from your support team to curb that urge to stress about timelines that aren’t able to be set in stone.

2. Judgment 

It’s so easy for writers to judge themselves. “This isn’t good enough” is an easy way to blame yourself even though there are many things you can do to resolve that (self-editing, critique partners, workshops etc). It’s also easy to pile on judgment from others. Sometimes critique groups stop working for you. Sometimes it’s hard to remember to write with no one looking over your shoulder. Judgment is a stress that people put on themselves willingly. However, judgement is only what you perceive it to be and often times it’s not there at all! If you choose to internalize this it’s a choice. So choose not burden yourself with other people’s thoughts or the negative self-talk.

3. Other writers’ business

Advances, marketing budgets, foreign sales, reviews–the list goes on! I could be here all day listing the things that stress writers out when they start comparing their business plan to someone else’s. A book is not a kitchen table. You can’t blanket-market something so special as a book. It’s uniqueness is what makes this business amazing and frustrating sometimes. However, focus on the best business strategy for you. Learn from the other writers in your life, but remember the grass isn’t always greener.

4. Amazon

We could also spend all day listing how Amazon is continuing to stress us all out. Rankings, distribution delays, metadata, self-publishing platform–these are a mere few of the things that plague writers’ minds about Amazon. The thing is, Amazon is not transparent and if they want to do something they will. So Amazon is not something we can let worry us. Everyone’s time is better spent elsewhere.

5. Perfection 

Guess what? It’s not attainable. No draft will be perfect. No marketing plan will be perfect. No copy edit will be perfect. Because we’re creating art the best thing we can do is stay agile and be aware. Do the best we can but realize our limitations. Work hard, but be smart about what we spend our time on and–what we let worry us.

Further Reading:

7 Things Writers Should Stop Wasting Their Time On

7 Things Writers Should Stop Wasting Their Time On

IS09AL15JWe all know what a demon procrastination is. But what about the other things that get in the way of actual writing? I have a list of things that (some, not all) writers have a tendency to waste their time with. Whether it’s old habits that need shaking, or creative crutches that lead to excuses, the only way you’re going to write your book is when you sit down and do the work.

My goal, with this post and all of my blogs, is to help writers recognize their personal limitations and push through them for higher productivity and success!

So see if these apply to you, and decide if it’s time to let it go…

  1. Writing with one eye over your shoulder – So many writers hold back, especially when they’re writing their first novel. Whether it’s because it’s painful to go too deep, or they’re afraid what others will think, there comes a time when you have to stop looking over your shoulder and delve inside to find the truth of what you want to say.
  2. Critique groups you’ve outgrown – It’s hard to recognize the exact moment this happens because it’s a progression. I believe critique groups serve many functions: help to schedule ‘you time,’ assist in meeting personal deadlines, teach you observe critiques, and give others feedback. However, everyone knows that growth isn’t predictable or linear. It can happen in leaps or in steady climbs. But someday, you might outgrow your group, so have a plan for what you want to do when that time comes.
  3. Thinking you’re going to please everyone – This is a life skill as well as a writing skill. It’s a fundamental truth that writers learn one way or another. Every writer has the dream that they’ll drop off a manuscript to their agent or editor and they’ll say “I have no critique!” It’s a lovely fantasy, but an extremely rare one–and I think all writers know this; I’m not saying anything new. But don’t let a fear of failing to make everyone happy stop you from writing. Writing happens one word at a time, one day at a time. Do what feels right to you and your voice.
  4. Fancy technology, expensive retreats – These elaborate things don’t make you a writer (but they don’t not make you one either). If you have a habit of thinking the writing will come when you spend money on it, you’re finding a new way to procrastinate. I believe you have to protect your writing time–and if that means a writer’s retreat and you can afford it all the power to you!–but if you’re waiting to start your project once you can afford the retreat, software, workshop, or new laptop it’s another way you’re stopping yourself without even knowing it.
  5. Rewriting your first 5 pages before you finish your first draft – There is no reason to attempt to make a first draft “perfect.” Nothing good will come of it. If you have a habit of tweaking things over and over before you even have the first draft it’s going to lead to over-written work that you don’t want to cut because it’s become a darling. “If I waited for perfection, I would never write a word.” — Margaret Atwood
  6. Twitter stalking – There is a time and a place for research, but sometimes Twitter can be a place that drowns your voice and makes you anxious. I’m all for social media breaks and I think it’s great to have an understanding of the industry, but don’t let Twitter or Facebook take over your protected writing time and take you away from your ultimate goal.
  7. JealousyI wrote this post last year and it remains one of my personal favorites. Please read it again. I think everyone in creative fields can relate. Numbers 1, 2 and 5 are points to come back to time and time again. Moments of jealousy and comparison are a perfect time to reflect on why you’re feeling that way and get out of your funk.

If you want to write, find time to write. You’re the only one that can make your dreams come true!

Q: Did you recently shake a bad writing habit or creative crutch? Tell us about it.