They’re insidious little habits–those ones you don’t even notice creeping into your work.
It starts innocently. First, you’ve got far too many pencils that need sharpening (you couldn’t possibly get to that latest project until you finish). Soon you’re looking at the two lonely pages of your novel and thinking, “Boy, these could use a quick edit before I move on.”
In the end, you’ve sunk lower than low. You’re caught in a cycle of filthy writing habits.
It’s high time someone hosted an intervention. Which of these nasty habits do you need to quit, and how do you plan to do it?
1. Not Keeping A Regular Schedule
Somewhere along the line, you’ve either fallen out of your previous writing schedule, or you never had one to begin with. Very bad, indeed.
If you have a 9-5 job, schedule an hour of writing (or more) each day, either early in the morning or later at night. For those of you under few time constraints, use that to your advantage. Try to schedule several hours of writing at the most convenient time for you.
Most of all, once you have a routine, stick to it as much as possible.
2. Forgetting Goal-Setting
Maybe your previous list of writing goals are languishing somewhere (along with your good intentions). Perhaps you never took the time to sit down and write them out. Worse, maybe you’ve never even mentally decided what you want to get out of your writing.
If you have a written list of goals, dig it out regularly. Review what you want to achieve. If you don’t have a list yet, create one. Be specific about what you plan for your writing, and map out how you’re going to get there.
You can revise your goals as circumstances change, but don’t give them up entirely.
3. Slacking On Submissions
Yeah, yeah, so you haven’t submitted anything lately. So what?
If you don’t submit your work for possible publication, you’re never going to be published. I don’t mean you should pump out a novel every month, but you can send blog posts to other sites as guest articles, submit a poem or short story to a magazine, or review a book for someone.
Maybe you’ve finished writing an entire novel or non-fiction book. Are you actively trying to get an agent? Have you worked on perfecting your query letter?
Don’t let slackness prevent you from getting your work read.
4. Getting Stuck In A Comfort Zone
We all have a zone, a comfortable type of writing that comes naturally to us. Maybe it’s the same old storyline you keep rehashing, or you have a particular style you’re not willing to let go of.
It’s great to have strengths, but don’t forget to build on your areas for improvement. Doing the same old thing day after day isn’t going to help you develop as a writer.
Try something new now and again. Mix things up.
We all do it. We check our email a thousand times per hour, get stuck into catching up on our favourite blogs, whatever. Anything that keeps you from getting down to work is getting in your way.
For one week, try being extra-aware of your procrastination habits. Every time you sit down to work but find yourself diverted by something less productive, jot down one word to describe the offender. Email. Twitter. Flickr. You’ll probably be surprised at how often you procrastinate, and being aware of it will help you get back to writing.
6. Neglecting Professional Development
As a teacher, I have to take professional development courses often–mandatory notification, first aid, classroom management–or lose my license and my membership with the school board. Maybe your day-job has similar requirements.
Being a writer doesn’t come with specific demands for you to continually educate yourself, so it’s easy to ignore. After all, no one’s going to come after you with, “Hey! Drop that pencil or I’ll report you to the authorities!”
Still, it’s important to pursue professional development as a writer. This can mean critical reading, taking a writing class, joining a writers’ group, or working with a mentor. At the very least, read a lot and read often.
7. Over-Indulging In Self-Editing
About those two pages of your novel: you could really stand to leave them alone for a while and simply continue with your story. They don’t need to be edited just yet. If you find something really annoying about them, just make a note reminding youself to fix it later.
Excessive self-editing during the draft process is really just another form of procrastination. Get the whole book written first, then you can tear it apart. If you worry about perfecting it along the way, you may never finish.
8. Isolating Yourself As A Writer
We writers like to work by ourselves. There’s something about the solace, the peacefulness of just you and your computer. Alone. Oh, so alone.
I love it just as much as the next person, but that doesn’t mean you should continue to work as an island. Connect with other writers, either online or in person. Build relationships with people you can learn from. At the very least, you might find some sense of support in hearing about their writing experiences.
Also, these connections can be invaluable when it comes time to find a fresh opinion on your writing.
You: A Successful Quitter
The key to quitting any bad writing habit is to be aware of your faults. What’s getting in the way of your writing? Remember to:
- Work to a schedule
- Set and review goals
- Submit regularly
- Try something new
- Stay on task
- Improve your knowledge
- Refrain from editing too early
- Connect with other writers
So be a quitter. Ditch those nasty habits. Get more done.