12 Habits That Will Bolster a Consistent Writing Practice

Brief aside before we get started: Welcome to all of you who have found your way here from BlogHer!  I'm so pleased you are here.  You can navigate five year's worth of content on writing, inspiration, creativity and spirituality through the subject cloud in the right sidebar.  And please stay in touch by subscribing to my newsletter in the form to the right–you'll get notice of classes and book releases as well as a free copy of my Ebook, Jump Start Your Book With A Vision Board.

Everystockphoto_211230_mOkay, back to the topic at hand: what habits encourage a regular writing practice?

First, let's define regular writing practice.  I mean every day.  Or damn close to it.  I know, I know, I hear your excuses and see you making faces at me.  But truly, the best way to sink deeply into your writing, whether you are keeping a journal for yourself or writing a novel, is to connect with your work every day.  If you don't have time to write, read a page of what you've written.  Do whatever you can to somehow stay in touch with your WIP.

And now to get to the habits that I've learned help me to do this.  And yeah, I get that it is difficult to find time for some of these things as well.  After all, if you can't find time to write, when are you going to find time to walk? Or meditate?  Or any of the other things on the list?  I struggle to incorporate these habits into my life, too.  But here's the deal: the struggle is worth it.  Because my writing life and my personal life work better when I do.

So, let's get started.

1. Writing.  I know, duh.  But the kind of writing I'm talking about here is not working on your passion project, but journaling.  Or blogging.  Or writing morning pages.  Personal writing of this nature will help you sort your thoughts, clear the dreck from your brain, and train you in getting words on the page.  It is worth taking the time for it.

2.  Reading.  Once in awhile, someone will come to me and say they want to write.  And when I ask them what they read they say they don't.   Really?  It is impossible to write well without reading a lot.  Like, inhaling words.  Imprinting them in your brain.  Read everything you can get your hands on.  Reading will inspire you to write more and better.

3.  Sleeping.  Our romantic vision of the creative person is that of the mad writer or painter staying up all night, working and then collapsing.  News flash: this is really bad for you.  We need sleep to rejuvenate our bodies and replenish our brains.  Make sure you get enough.

4.  Take Joy.  Find the things you love and do them.  One of my great joys in my life is my family and I spend as much time with them as possible.  Incorporating joy into your life will give you a solid base from which to create.

5.  Admit Bad Habits.  Once you acknowledge your bad habits, it is the first step for them to dissipate.  In the spirit of full disclosure, here's mine: stupid TV. I used to hate TV and railed against it every chance I got.  Then I discovered American Idol.  And The Voice.  The good news is that those shows are over for the summer.  Except I just started watching America's Got Talent.  Truly, it is my pug's fault.  He gets upset if he can't sit on the couch and watch TV with me. 

6. Fuhgeddaboudit.  Take a break from working so hard, or even thinking so hard–most of us creative types walk around in a haze, pondering our WIPs.  But giving your brain a rest from figuring out the plot of  your novel can allow it to present you with luscious new ideas.

7.  Walk.  Julia Cameron recommends walking, not so much for the exercise, though we need that since we sit on our butts all day, but for the creative haze it can put us in.  Creative haze.  I made that phrase up.  Nifty, huh?  Anyway, something about walking shakes up the mental synapses and allows new thoughts to arise.  Take something to write on, because I guarantee you'll need it!

8.  Focus.  When you're writing, write.  Don't check your email inboxes or hit up Twitter to see what's going on.  Use the power of attention to get your writing done.  I like to write in 30-minute bursts, setting a timer.  For those 30 minutes I do nothing but write.  Then when the buzzer goes off I get up and walk around a bit (okay, I check inboxes and Twitter, too) and then return to the computer and do it again.

9.  Be Positive.  It is so easy to fall into the habit of negativity and most people in the world don't even realize they are doing it.  Dare to be different.   Be positive–about your life and your writing. One way to start is by looking at all the things in your life and writing practice that there are to be grateful for–like the fact you have a brain and functioning fingers to tap at the keyboard.

10.  Be Quiet.  Meditation can help with both #8 and #9.  Another thing you can do while being quiet is visualize yourself writing regularly.  According to Jonathan Fields, studies have shown that this kind of visualization really works.

11. Do Something New.  Brendon Burchard talks about the power of doing something new and different every so often.  It can be as simple as driving to work a different way!  The creative brain thrives on new input, so find a way to get some.  Drive to the beach for the day.  Take an Artist's Date.  Read a book in a subject completely new to you.

12.  Retreat.  Over and over again I hear from writers about the benefit of retreating.  You can take a personal writing retreat or go to one where there will be writing guidance. Retreats can be life-changing experiences. (Not lyin', one of the participants at my recent Diamond retreat used those exact words to describe it.)

Okay.  These are my 12 writing-boosting habits.  (And please don't think that I'm some paragon that managed to do all of these all the time, I'm not.)  What are yours?  Let's discuss in the comments.


Photo by ppdigital.  I was going to find a photo of a sun, to indicate the sunny happiness you'll feel when partaking of these habits, but that seemed a bit of a stretch.

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20 Responses to 12 Habits That Will Bolster a Consistent Writing Practice

  1. Patrick Ross 06/05/2012 at 04:18 #

    Great list! Is it a bad thing that I saw the list was twelve, and said “Ugh, do I have to do twelve?” :)

  2. Carole Jane Treggett 06/05/2012 at 07:07 #

    Charlotte, this is a great list,quite comprehensive really. I realize I absolutely need to spend more time facilitating the opportunities to experience more of #4 in my life and try and get a handle on #5. A biggie for me lately is spending too much blasted time on social media! I completely agree with what you say in #9;it’s vital to re-frame the negative self-talk to positive and hopeful and determined, and not get bogged down or derailed by peoples’ negativity around you; oh how I can relate to this!

  3. Charlotte Dixon 06/05/2012 at 07:16 #

    Perhaps you could just choose one or two? :-)  But knowing you, you've already got your creativity habit well in hand so no worries!

  4. Charlotte Dixon 06/05/2012 at 07:24 #

    Carole Jane, I've been spending way too much time on social media myself.  Boy, is it ever a temptation!  I use #8, focus to help me with that–setting a timer to work for a specified amount of time.  Really helps.  Thanks, as always, for chiming in!

  5. Heather Jenkins 06/05/2012 at 09:15 #

    I wholeheartedly agree with #2 and #5! What a great list. One thing that helps me is to leave the house. At home, things like laundry, dishes, Squeaks, Giz, and Snicks (my cats), or the leaning tower of books next to my chair grab my attention. Distractions, distractions, distractions! Hiding out in a cozy booth in my favorite coffee shop helps my time be about the writing and nothing else…except for coffee. And hummus.

    Another thing that helps is when I can sit with my writing buds and verbally journal my day. We take turns purging to clear the air, mind, creative blockage. After an hour of catharsis, we can focus on our stories.

  6. Charlotte Dixon 06/05/2012 at 10:06 #

    Love the idea of verbally journaling.  Brilliant!  I used to go to the coffee shop and write a lot, but haven't recently, maybe because my favorite places are overrun with people working.  I was just taking photos of my cats, Captain and Lieutenant (can't claim credit for their names, they are rescues) working hard–aka curled up on my bed. 

  7. Fear of Writing 06/05/2012 at 15:12 #

    I’m not usually speechless when it comes to leaving blog comments, but ten minutes after reading this I still can’t find the words to tell you how much I love this list. Everything on it absolutely resonates! You must have been on fire while you were writing this!

  8. Charlotte Dixon 06/05/2012 at 15:29 #

    Ahhh, thank you Milli!  You're the best.

  9. Square-Peg Karen 06/06/2012 at 11:59 #

    Ohmyword, I read this whole thing hearing it in your voice, Charlotte – love it! You didn’t miss a thing, such great helps! I’m going to go share it with my pals on FB.

  10. Melissa Marsh 06/06/2012 at 13:07 #

    Terrific list! I love walking so much…there is a park right across the street from our house and I get to see some wildlife and absorb myself in nature for awhile. It rejuvenates me and centers me again.

    I would add one more item: be flexible. Last night, my 12-year-old daughter, who is home from school and bored out of her mind, asked me very sweetly, “Mom, would you like to spend some time with me?” I had planned to write for a few hours, but that stopped me in my tracks. No way could I refuse her, nor did I want to. We played lots of games of UNO and then when it was around 9:30 or so, I managed to write maybe half a page. Better than nothing, and really, the writing needed to come second last night. :)

  11. Charlotte Dixon 06/06/2012 at 14:14 #

    Thanks and thanks, Karen!  Excited to be working with you on our upcoming class–more to come soon!

  12. Charlotte Dixon 06/06/2012 at 14:15 #

    Oh Melissa, that's a good one.  You make such a great point about kids–when they actually want to spend time with you, its a good idea to drop everything and enjoy their company.  You'll never have regrets if you do.  I think you made the right choice.

  13. Charlotte Dixon 06/06/2012 at 14:59 #

    Oh wow Beverly, this is great–and very rigorous.  I'm going to try it, thanks!

  14. Beverly 06/06/2012 at 14:30 #

    I use Greg Martin’s Treadmill Journal http://www.unm.edu/~gmartin/Essays/Treadmill%20Journal%20pdf.pdf. In grad school, he required his students write 18 hrs/week for his class alone. While I didn’t always (and sometimes still don’t) manage that quantity, I learned the benefit of consistent writing practice!

  15. CB Soulsby 06/15/2012 at 09:13 #

    Excellent advice, thank you. I always find walking (or at least getting rid of the option of writing down everything immediately) incredibly helpful. Mentally, as well as creatively. When I walk or swim I not only think about my WIP and collect my thoughts on what action I need to take, I also remind myself why I want to be doing it in the first place! It can be far more productive to do it that way round than to sit at my computer and force myself to do what I’m meant to!

  16. Charlotte Dixon 06/15/2012 at 09:36 #

    I wish I was a better swimmer, being in the water is so soothing and it seems like it would be great for coming up with ideas.  I like walking, too.  And yes, it is a really good thing to get up from the computer once in awhile!  Thanks for commenting.

  17. Jannis 01/27/2013 at 08:01 #

    I spent years hating all the “cliches” that I found gathered altogether in this page, although formulated in such a way that it is difficult even for a Devil’s advocate like me to object…
    I am Jannis, a 25-year-old Greek who has always the way NOT to do what he is suitable for, but other irrelevant occupations instead. I am trying to figure out in which of the two above mentioned categories belongs “writing”. I want to write, but I am too skilless for a novel, too ignorant for a movie script, too lack-of-consistent-story for any genre, in a whole…
    I will make my peace with meditation and focus, but do you actually suggest “reading a lot” for a newcoming wanna-be-writer? Do you believe that the audio-video-fed “Michael Schumacher” brains of my generation can really benefit from driving a slow old-fashioned tricycle like a book (no offense, I mean the book as a kinda static MEANS of ideas dissemination, not the context of it)?
    Thank you in advance and I am sorry for my not exactly flawless English..

  18. Charlotte Dixon 01/27/2013 at 08:05 #

    Absolutely. If you want to write, you've got to read what you want to write to learn the standards of your genre. If you're into electronic media, then read that. The form doesn't matter-reading does.

  19. Cathy Smallwood 06/20/2013 at 06:21 #

    Agreed! I used to be a voracious reader as a kid, then let it slide while at uni, and then when I started my novel, I decided writing was more important than reading someone else’s stuff. And I didn’t want my writing to be ‘tainted’!!
    I had to start reading again to help me establish the genre of my novel, and what makes it unique. In the process, I’ve discovered good ideas, and possible ways to solve problems I’m having in my writing. Also, I’m being inspired by good writing. (and feel smug when I see room for improvement in stuff that’s been published!) Nothing like being honest here 😉
    Being able to download ebooks (mostly from the library) on my iPad makes it super easy to read wherever and whenever, and I can make notes along the way – something I hated to do with a paper book.
    So Jannis, definitely get reading!!!

  20. Charlotte Dixon 06/20/2013 at 06:33 #

    Cathy, I’ve been through stages like that, too, where I decided writing was more important than reading. But then I felt the words dry up, and once I started reading again, out they came. It’s almost like words in, words out–you need to inhale those words in order to have enough inside you to work with! And I’ve heard others say that they were afraid reading would taint their own work, but I think it enhances it.

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