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If I were to write a post about good writing habits with the usual angle, I would tell you to get up early and start writing. I would tell you to have a system in place for curation and social media broadcasting that involved reading your RSS feeds and sharing the best. I would tell you to take part in conversations on those same blog posts and social media feeds. I would tell you to read more books, for that is where your ideas come from.
This is not that post.
This is a post about successful writing, not platform-building or blogging or building an audience. Though there is overlap, they are not exactly the same. You had better be able to write if you’re going to be successful at any of those other things.
I enjoy reading interviews with writers where they talk about their writing process. Their responses surprise me, and I learn less about writing formulas and more about the differences each person brings to the craft.
E.B. White wasn’t a big reader. Hemingway wrote early in the morning, stopping before he had written all that he could. Kurt Vonnegut advocated vigorous exercise. Jodi Picoult doesn’t believe writer’s block exists. Maya Angelou writes in a hotel room with just a Roget’s Thesaurus, a dictionary, and the Bible. Barbara Kingsolver gets up too early and has to be pulled away from her writing desk. Nathan Englander turns off his cell phone and avoids social media. Karen Russell doesn’t care about word counts. A. J. Jacobs loves to use outlines and writes while on a treadmill.
Do you see a pattern here? It’s that there isn’t one.
The main thing these successful writers have in common is that they write. And, despite the differences in how they go about it, they all have formed a writing habit that comes down to:
Some did this through setting, or time, or place. Some did this through physiology with food and exercise. Some did this through asceticism. But they all, in whatever shape or form, did it. Through trial and error, they found what worked for them.
You might not be looking to write a novel, but you still need to be able to write and produce quality content regularly. If you’re a blogger, you’re a writer. So yes, this means you.
But how do you apply what these writers are saying about the process to yourself?
I’m not an early morning person. In fact, my creativity kicks in full steam after 11 pm. Instead of taking advantage of that, unfortunately, I’ve spent years trying to fight against my natural strengths. Why? Besides the fact that the working world requires you to get up early and go to bed reasonably, and the most common message I’ve heard is that early morning is when the work gets done. I don’t know if early morning people have a tendency to write the self-help books that proclaim this while us night owls stay silent, or if that really does make up the huge majority of the world.
We are not all the same. Early mornings are ugly, dead times for some. If your writing happens midday, or late at night, so be it. If you know how and when you can write and not get distracted, that’s how and when you should.
The best way to figure out what works best is to work. Write. Notice what you gravitate to. Notice what causes you to trip up, and make adjustments. You don’t really get a rulebook before diving in; you must dive in, and figure out your own rulebook.
What are the daily habits of successful writers? They write daily, and make it their habit.
October 29, 2013
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