When it comes to writing – like most things in life – practice makes perfect. Okay … maybe not perfect. That’s too much to expect and I doubt it exists anyway! But practice certainly makes us much better writers, and that’s enough to be getting on with.
So what are your writing habits? Do you write only when the mood hits and your muse is smiling? Or do you sit down, day after day, and produce?
There’s no doubt the first method can lead to greatly inspired and passionate work. The problem is, it may take forever to finish. You might not even get there. It’s hard to keep up a frenzy of excitement and if the all-consuming urge starts to dwindle, so does your writing.
The second method, however, will help you see the distance. Regular writing gets results, even if you’re not in the mood. Bit by bit, your skills improve. You will write that story or that book. Often motivation builds as you go and you’ll find yourself in the zone, even when you least expect it.
Here are some thoughts to help you develop good writing habits. Let me know if they work for you!
Find your writing space
This doesn’t have to be the proverbial attic overlooking a lake. Ideally, you will have your own space in which to write. A spare room or a quiet corner. It’s not crucial, but a dedicated space you use only for writing can help you feel focused when you go there. However, with laptops and tablet computers (or even pen and paper!) you can make any space your space.
Perhaps the most important consideration is noise. Some people need quiet. Some like to listen to music as they write, and find it inspires them. Others thrive in noisy environments, and do their best work in bustling cafes.
I must confess I need quiet. It can make things difficult at times – such as when the kids are home from school. Or when the dog next door won’t stop with that hysterical high-pitch bark … like now, for instance … But I can’t let that stop me. I do my best to block out distractions. If necessary, I get up and move – grumbling all the way, of course!
Work out your schedule
Because I’m a full-time writer, I basically write all day while my kids are at school. Admittedly, some of this time is spent stuffing around and making too many coffees, but I try not to overdo it. If I have a tight deadline (which is often) I’ll fit in some extra hours in the evenings or on weekends. When my children were very young, I’d get up at 4 am and do a few hours before they woke up. It’s great that writers have these options, but I suspect it has permanently screwed up my body clock. I usually wake around 5.30 now, like it or not. A 7 am wake-up is a luxurious sleep in…
Ask yourself how much time can you set aside for writing. An hour a day? Maybe two? Weekdays or weekends or both? Decide how much time you can dedicate, and how you can fit it in around your other commitments. Do you work best in the morning or at night? You might be able to get up a bit earlier or do some writing before bed – whenever your creative juices are most likely to flow.
Some people manage to write on the train or bus on the way to and from work. Others sneak in their writing fix during their lunch break. Parents of babies and toddlers have to be more flexible and write while their children sleep or nap.
Set your daily goals
Some writers set themselves time-based goals. That is, they will write for a set amount of time and then call it quits for the day. The next day, they pick up where they left off. Others set themselves a word goal. They won’t stop writing until they bash out 1000 words, for example, no matter how long it takes.
Again, decide what suits you best. Word goals are good, but some days it can take a very long time to reach that goal. If you have the time, that’s great, go for it. If you don’t, simply do the best with the time you have set. Don’t beat yourself up if some days are less productive than others. It’ll all balance out in the end. As long as you make writing a habit rather than a sporadic activity, you’ll reach your goals.