If you develop good writing habits you’ll improve all your writing, and writing will become fun for you too.
Want a great writing tip? Here you go: “The only difference between professional writers and everyone else is that professionals expect to write junk.” I’ve forgotten who said it first, and I’m sure I’ve mangled the quote, but it’s true. Your life will be much easier if you expect to write junk, because you will. And you’ll fix it later.
Consider developing these three habits.
1. Write daily.
Yes, write daily. You’ve heard this before, many times. If you don’t yet have the daily writing habit, get a wall calendar, and follow Jerry Seinfeld’s advice:
He said for each day that I do my task of writing, I get to put a big red X over that day. “After a few days you’ll have a chain. Just keep at it and the chain will grow longer every day. You’ll like seeing that chain, especially when you get a few weeks under your belt. Your only job next is to not break the chain.”
Before too long, you’ll have the daily writing habit.
Initially, you’ll find this a challenge, because you want to write well. That’s natural. Sooner or later you’ll understand that sitting down to write is really all you need to do. Just start writing. Words will come out.
Think of your daily writing stint as a meditation if you like:
… as revered Zen monk and teacher Shunryu Suzuki points out in Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind, when you take your posture (sit to meditate), you’re meditating:
“When you have this posture, you have the right state of mind, so there is no need to try to attain some special state.”
Similarly with writing. When you take the posture – sit down to write – you’ll write. You don’t need a special state, nor you do need to be inspired.
Currently I’m writing a novella. Most days when I sit down to write, I’m convinced that since I don’t have any words in my head, there aren’t any words in there. I’m always wrong. (Thank heavens.)
2. Develop processes and checklists. Stop thinking. Write.
When I’m working with my book coaching authors, they tell me either “I don’t know how to start”, or “what else should I write?” if they’ve started.
Processes and checklists help.
Develop a writing process for a form of writing by chunking everything down into the smallest possible component, and make a checklist.
Let’s say you want to write some blog articles.
Here’s a process, as a checklist:
- Brainstorm 20 topics;
- Choose three topics (or more);
- Spend five minutes of research on each topic (optional. You can research before you write, or after your first draft);
- Brainstorm ten titles;
- Choose three titles, find appropriate keywords;
- List three or four points under each title;
- For each article: write two or three paragraphs under each point;
- Find references and/ or sources;
- Whiz through a quick draft of each article;
- Leave each article to gestate for 24 hours;
- Write the final draft of each article…
3. Tomorrow is another day. (You’ll improve today’s writing tomorrow.)
As Scarlett O’Hara said: “After all… tomorrow is another day.” Writing is always a process: tomorrow, you’ll be in a different frame of mind.
If today’s writing seems junk, a fairy godmother may sprinkle it with fairy dust overnight, and tomorrow you’ll think: “it’s not so bad… It might even be good.”
No fairy dust? Never mind. You’ll fix it.
These three writing habits will improve everything you write. Soon, writing won’t be a chore. You’ll look on the writing you do as the best part of your day.
If writing’s a challenge for you, get a writing coach. As one of my students recently said: “this is the best investment I’ve ever made.”