Writing is the kind of undertaking that can take a lifetime to master. Anyone who wants to make a go of it should probably remember this before they decide to publish. It’s not a joyless undertaking (normally) but it does take a little discipline and some thought. I’ve worked with dozens of writers, and the successful ones tend to share some habits:
1. Find a quiet space:
Okay. So it doesn’t have to be silent, but the background should at least fade into itself. I’ve always liked the buzz of a good coffee shop, but my stomach always sours on coffee before it sours on writing.
2. Write every day:
Being a writer begins with the habit of writing itself. Most pros agree that it’s important to do it at the same time each day, but that’s not going to work for everyone. Just make sure you put words on the page before the lights go out for the night.
3. Get clear on your “why”:
Why do you want to write? Your voice carries your meaning to the world. Ask yourself what you’d like it to do. Are your stories meant to bring joy? Then you need to get clear on the shape and sound of that joy. You’ll attract readers that are attracted to what you’re about – make sure you know before you start sharing.
4. Forget your inner critic:
There’s a million reasons not to write. Your inner critic might help you keep jobs and make nice with coworkers and family members – self doubt is the best prison warden I know. But writers can’t listen to that s@&%. Besides, you can always catch mistakes in editing.
5. Make sure your computer works:
For the modern writer, your computer is more than a tool: it’s a workspace. It houses your work, and you’ll stare into it for hours at a time. Respect it. Keep things up to date. Clean up your desktop. It’s a digital temple after all.
6. Be curious about your subject:
This one should go without saying, but the best writers you’re likely to meet are wildly curious creatures. They wonder endlessly, frequently out loud (see number one). Curiosity begets research, begets useful writing. And going to the library makes a nice way to spend a workday!
7. Write every day:
It’s worth repeating. Also remember that not everything needs to be published or printed. Writers write, after all.
8. Make notes. About everything:
You don’t have to keep a journal, but you should keep a notebook. You should write things down that strike you – quotations, observations, sudden gouts of inspiration. And make it the old paper kind – computers and mobile devices aren’t the best for taking notes; boot time and menu navigation is an abyss into which your best thoughts get lost.
9. Be meticulous with your words:
Know what you mean when you say it. It’s fine to coin new terms and to use familiar words in unfamiliar ways, but make sure you can justify the choice. Good editors will listen, and good readers love that kind of thing.
10. Read every day:
The worst writers don’t have respect for the craft. They don’t read. The best writers will steal books if that’s what it takes to keep the story going. Besides that, reading is the best cure for writers block I know – don’t be intimidated, be inspired.
Writers, whether consciously or not, are playing with perceptions and in so doing, show people new ways of exploring the world. Listen deeply and write frequently – the rest will sort itself out, either in the pages or in editing.
James is a Denver-based editor whose mission is always the same: helping clients get to brilliant. Writing is a deeply personal experience, and James is dedicated to making your work, your idea, your passion reach your audience in the most effective way possible, all while remaining faithful to your vision and voice. He can be reached via email: firstname.lastname@example.org