20 healthy writing habits
We all hit points where our writing feels like it’s starting to stale. The piece of writing we are working on is beginning to stutter. The brilliance that was pouring from us is starting to trickle. Time to switch gears. Here are 20 ways in which you can combat that space of feeling stuck and making sure your writing is moving along and you are looking after yourself in the process.
1. Deadlines- Working towards a deadline is really useful. Whether it is a deadline for the end of the day, the week, the month- work towards it like it is the most important thing you have to reach. It is particularly useful if you are part of a writing group and you have a monthly deadline, this will force you to write regularly and adjust quickly to having deadlines.
2. Schedule- create a writing schedule. Give yourself a realistic schedule to work with. How you design this is your choice but make a workable daily timetable and stick to this. If you want to write all day and achieve certain milestones, a schedule is the vehicle to make this happen.
3. Write in sprints- we can write all day and for some this works better. You may however need to write in sprints instead. You could write in sprints every hour or two and stick to this within your writing schedule. You may need to for example, spend time in your schedule, editing, drafting, planning, etc so set aside time to write without compromise.
4. Side projects- if you are just writing, this may drive you to a place of frustration. You need to inspire yourself where you can. So, it is important to have things going on peripherally that you are stimulated. Try working on a blog post, newsletter, or copywriting project- literally anything to help re-focus your brain. If you don’t have any other projects at that time, try journal writing or free writing to just write.
5. Edit other work- if you have hit a wall with your current project, pick something in the relics of your work, or another side project and edit this instead. Working on a different piece of writing can be the creative stimulus you need.
6. Delete and restart- sometimes trashing the work is what needs to be done. Even if you have written a page of work, if you know it isn’t the right material and you are only becoming increasingly frustrated, delete and restart for a new beginning. Welcome the blank page.
7. Read- peel yourself away from your laptop or whatever electronic device you use and bury yourself into a book. It’s beneficial to get time away from the screen and it is inspiring to read the work other writers and shift the way you were thinking about an idea.
8. Same genre- read other works in the same genre to inspire you. So if you are writing a fantasy novel let's say, read fantasy in flash, micro fiction, in comics or graphic novels, in poetry. Allow another person's approach in the genre you are writing in to inspire you.
9. Observations- without having an idea in mind, open your journal and commit to observationally writing. You can write this in a more factual or descriptive manner but write what you see, what you are doing and how you feel.
10. Write by hand- sometimes we need to just go back to the basics and write freely in our journal, a scrap piece of paper, your notepad- to write for yourself rather than what you are working on, which will inadvertently connect you back to your work.
11. Consume other forms of art- if reading isn’t doing the trick, listen to some music, contemplate the lyrics, watch a movie, listen to the radio- tune into other modes of art and creativity.
12. Prompts- writing prompts are a great way of giving you the nudge you need. You can find single sentence prompts to story openings, statements, the end of the story- there are thousands of prompts for the taking. Pick a few perhaps and try writing a page for each and see what you end up with.
13. Plan- plan your writing before you start. You don’t need to excessively plan but you can create rough ideas of your story's components. You can shift around with your plan and write different parts at different stages. It will all eventually come together.
14. Free writing- start your day with free writing. Either write immediately even if you have to start with 'I woke up 20 minutes ago and am now at my desk trying to write, the street looks...'. As it is free writing, don't edit as you go. Once finished, go back and highlight what you like or stirs something in you. What can you now do with that writing?
15. Draw- we don’t have to be an artist to make visuals. Try drawing what you see within your story- this might be a building, an object a character is holding, a landscape, the emotion of a character- use the form of a graphic novel and panels to sequence these ideas.
16. Dig deep- ask yourself what precisely needs fixing, and if you don’t know this is a legitimate question too. Write down the questions or statements you have about why you are stuck. i.e. my character's motivations aren't clear, should the antagonist appear at this point? Ask yourself out loud and until you can answer it, keep asking yourself. Or write down a stream of consciousness and don’t stop until you feel you have expelled everything you needed to- confront what is wrong and face it head on.
17. Walk and discover- leave the hub of your workspace and go for a walk. For some, switching off and just walking and allowing the placidity of this action is the remedy. Try noting down some observations or something you find interesting. For example, a woman taking out the rubbish and think of her story- who is this person? Is she the manager of a powerful cooperation? Write a short story about this person, talking about them and believing the fiction you have created around them. Repeat it and see how much of a collection you can create by simply going outside.
18. Unfinished- leave something unfinished intentionally. Always have something you can work on so that if you need inspiration, distraction or motivation from other work- you can immediately continue working on another piece which will illuminate the sustenance you knew you had, you just needed to redirect it.
19. Don’t strive for perfection- Forget perfection in your first draft of anything. Reshaping your writing is part of the process and writing is full of redesigning the story so don't be dismayed by the editing, it is a labour of love after all.
20. Embrace the frustration- sounds counterintuitive, why would you want to embrace a negative feeling? But perhaps it isn’t negative. Frustration is a useful energy source, and it can lead to wonderful things, just be patient with it and allow it to transform.