habits of writers

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.

Move Your Mind, Too

This morning I was reading one of the five million newsletters I subscribe to and the topic was about moving your body.    It was yet one more call to exercise regularly and talked about how establishing this habit is easier than you think, because our bodies are made to move. Dummy_wooden_white_261078_l

I'll second that.  I know I feel much, much better when I'm getting out every morning to walk.

But it got me to thinking about how important it is to move your mind, also.  Especially for writers.  I've been facilitating a discussion group for my church around the book Birthing A Greater Reality.  The book is dense in places, which is a nice way of saying that sometime I've really got to concentrate on it, more so because I'm leading a discussion of it.

At first I struggled a bit.  But now I'm totally loving it, because I really have to concentrate when I sit down to read it.  I take notes in the margins, I underline, I look up concepts.  I move my mind. 

And I'm pretty sure that our minds are made to move just as much as our bodies are.  Because the more I stretch my mind, the easier it gets to plow through dense material.  The more I focus and concentrate, making notes in the margins, listening intently to the Sunday messages on the material, the more my mind wakes up and engages with the world. 

How Writers Move Their Minds

Does that almost sound kinky?  Just a brief aside, never mind.  Here's my list:

1. We write.  Duh.  But with the crazy demands of our lives it is very easy to forget that writers write and that we actually need to practice our craft once in awhile.  Or every day.  And that we write to discover.  That we write to move our minds.

2. We read.  We read anything and everything from cereal boxes to blogs to novels to non-fiction books.  The best way to teach yourself how to write is to read anything you can get your hands on.   And read tons of examples of what it is you want to write–my friend Linda, for instance, has set herself the challenge of reading 100 YA novels in order to teach herself about the genre.

3.  We discuss.  We communicate with other writers, in person or via the internet or phone and talk about writing.  There's nothing more energizing and interesting than a group of writers gathered to talk shop.  Because "shop" includes just about everything under the sun.

4. We think deep thoughts.  Because all of the above foster deep thoughts.  Well, actually mine tend to be shallow at times (especially after I've watched too much trashy TV), but who cares, at least I'm thinking.

5.  We go within.   By giving our minds a rest through meditation, prayer, or whatever works for us, we actually allow our minds to move with more ease and less effort.

What have I missed?  How do you move your mind?  And how does it impact your writing?

***Another way to move your mind is to feed it images, which you can do via a vision board.   Sign up for my newsletter and receive my free Ebook, Jump Start Your Book With A Vision Board.  The form is to the right of this post!

Photograph by float.

My Life If I Weren’t a Writer

My daughter came over for breakfast on her way to work today.  I actually got a good little writing session in before she appeared, but as I was cooking bacon at an unusual hour the thought occured: this is what non-writers do instead of worrying about writing first thing in the morning.


So I starting thinking.  What would my life be like if I weren't a writer.  Here's what I came up with:

  • I'd drink coffee, read the paper and eat breakfast first thing in the morning, rather than taking my coffee to my office with me to write.
  • I'd read for pleasure only, instead of constantly studying to see how other writers do it.
  • I'd watch movies without straining to pick out the plot points and mid points.
  • During the summer, I'd have a suntan from being outside, instead of inside writing.
  • I'd actually make sense when I talk to the grocery clerk during my first outing of the day, after a long day at the computer.
  • I could truly relax, instead of constantly thinking, I should be writing.
  • My desk would not be littered with ideas written on scraps of paper.
  • I would have no desk.
  • My hair would not stand on end from me pulling at it when pausing to search for the right word.
  • I would never have traveled to Nashville and many other interesting places.
  • I would not know the best and most interesting people in the world, both in-person and online.
  • I would not know how to make sense of my life.
  • I'd be dreadfully bored.  And even more dreadfully boring.

This is just a beginning list, off the top of my head. How about you?  What would your life be like if you weren't a writer?

Photo by kiamedia.