Every writer is different, that much is true because most good books are different too, but these habits will set you up for success whether you’re a snowflake-method genius, a seat-of-the-pants one-drafter, or a meticulous and Machiavellian character killer.
- Scheduling; ok, so this is boring but it works. Set time to write and stick to it; even if you write very little, building this habit will mean that you always sit down to put something on the page at a set time every day, week, or fortnight. Not everyone can 9 to 5 their writing career, but you should prioritise its place in your life schedule if you want to take it seriously.
- Forgiveness; this is a good attribute in anyone, but in a writer it means getting into the habit of forgiving yourself for not being perfect. You cannot work 23 hours a day, you cannot get it all right first time, and you should not hold it against yourself when this becomes apparent. If you castigate yourself for every human weakness you’ll lose motivation and give up!
- Planning; you may not need or want a detailed spreadsheet, but a little planning will go a long way to ensuring that you don’t have to cull a fifth of your book, or even scrap the whole thing. Remember exams? Writing those essays in two hours? Think of that and even jot down the bare bones of a progression before you begin writing, and you’ll find writers block is a lot less likely.
- Archiving; “waste not, want not” as the old adage goes. Save scrapped scenes and ideas in a separate folder and trawl through it for ideas when you’re stuck. You might find the perfect scene to add to your current project, or you might just get an idea. Not every idea has to pan out into a publishable novel or short story to be valuable!
- Silence; don’t air your ideas to the world before you have a first draft. I used to think this was bullshit, but the sheer number of good ideas that have evaporated after I tell all to a curious friend of relative would make anyone shudder. I could have been a Laureate by now… or at least able to buy Pilgrims Choice cheddar without declaring it a “splurge” and feeling guilty about eating it.
- Self-care; (oh-no, here she goes again, I hear someone cry) Self-care is a is a big thing for me; I write about it fairly often in round about ways. I do this because I believe it’s a habit everyone should develop. Your writing, your craft, your art, even your children do not supersede your right to basic self-care. In fact, all of these things and all of the people in your life will benefit if you learn to prioritise taking care of yourself. Contrary to an old and vile stereotype you need not be a wasted (malnourished), wasted (drunk), depression ridden hermit in order to write well. In fact, you write more coherently, more skillfully, and with more precision when your body and mind are in a good place (shocker, right?)
- Goal Management; those who set and stick to personal deadlines as much as they are able to are the writers who you will find getting published in magazines, journals, and in book form. Not necessarily because they have twice or thrice your talent, but because they approach their writing with professionalism and determination.
Treat your writing like a beloved career rather than a Job, or a hobby and you might find that you start to find success more and more often.