Ever wonder why you can’t seem to get any writing done? Have you ever sat down to write something for two hours and wondered how it was humanly possible to have accomplished so much of nothing? Have you ever wondered for so long that you forgot what you were writing in the first place?
Sometimes the reason is simply that you have writer’s block. Other times the reason is that you’re being too negative with yourself. And sometimes the reason is simply that you’re too busy attending the funeral for a dead brain.
But sometimes the reason is that writers are artists, and artists aren’t very disciplined. They are so preoccupied with creating that they forget the mundane tasks of life like doing the dishes, folding the laundry, and making a living. Even though those activities are boring, they are necessary, and like it or not, they help us to become better writers. Developing good habits outside of your writing life will undoubtedly bleed into your writing and cultivate better work ethics long term.
Every area of your life is beneficial to grow in, but four specifically help your writing career.
Writers seem prone to health issues. Half the authors I know have some kind of chronic illness. Perhaps the reason is because writers are too busy cultivating a healthy mind to bother with having a healthy body. Or perhaps it’s because all the writer’s block is affecting their health. Or, most likely, all the chocolate they eat from having writer’s block is the real culprit.
Whatever the reason, writers need to take care of their bodies; they won’t get any writing done if they’re in the hospital. Plus, exercise improves our minds and helps us to think clearly, which in turn helps us to write better stories.
Besides the obvious mental and physical benefits, exercise also helps to build up our disciplinary muscles. Exercise and writing can be grueling, monotonous, and exhausting. Setting aside a certain amount of time each day to workout and sticking to it will help us to exert that same discipline in our writing times.
After all, if you did fifty push-ups, writing fifty words oughta be a cinch.*
Unless you’re a bestselling author, you probably don’t make enough from your writing to earn a living yet. Some of you may not have even made enough to earn a non-living yet. So you probably have another job like cooking at a restaurant or working for a cantankerous boss like I do. But even if you have the luxury of joblessness, you still probably have some kind of work to do, whether it’s cleaning the house, taking care of your kids, or helping your parents.
Writing is also a business. Instead of dealing with stupid customers, you have to deal with a stupid brain. Instead of trying to sell new good-smelling perfume that smells awful, you have to try to sell your award-winning book that hasn’t won an award yet. Instead of flipping hamburgers all day, you have to twist plots and fill readers’ orders.
Whatever habits you develop in the work force, you’ll bring back to your writing. If you have patience with your customers, you’ll have patience with your reviewers and beta readers. If you strive to meet your deadlines and do an excellent job, you’ll likely meet your own writing deadlines and write with proficiency. If you are kind and respectful to your boss (not like me), you’ll have the perfect attitude for a good author/agent relationship.
Ask yourself what areas you need to work on at your job. Do you slough off a lot? Do you wait to do tasks until the last minute and end up doing a rushed job? Do you ignore your boss’s recommendations and do your own thing like me? Try being a proficient employee, and you may find yourself becoming a proficient writer.
When was the last time you emailed your friend? Did you remember to answer that text they sent you last week? When was the last time you spent a day with your mom? People are more important than fictional characters. In fact, they are the ones who inspire fictional characters—they are the ones who make you laugh and give you ideas for scenes in your novels. So, if you sacrifice your time with them for something else, you’re also sacrificing a lot of raw inspiration.
Make some time in your schedule for the people (or dinosaurs) you love. You can’t understand how relationships work if you don’t have any, nor can you write about people if you aren’t around them. Everyone is different—they think differently, react differently, feel differently—and as writers, we need to be able to accurately depict those people. What better way than talking with them and doing things with them?
Also, keeping tabs on them and disciplining yourself to answer their emails and texts will help you check off the little things on your writer to-do list.
Two kinds of writers exist—those who do all the writing and no play, and those who pretend they’re writing when they’re actually playing.
Writing and working all the time is bad for your emotional health. People need time to relax and enjoy life. On the other claw, too much fun is also bad for your emotional health, because you’ll feel guilty for watching that two-hour documentary on the art of making successful excuses when you were supposed to be writing.
If you learn how to balance your fun time with your work time, you’ll be a happier person and get more accomplished than you would’ve if you skipped that chill time and wrote while stressed. Each day, set aside some time in morning and evening to do something fun or relaxing (without thinking about work). Take a walk, watch a movie, go to Disney World. And try to have at least one full fun day every other week where you can go almost a whole day being lazy without feeling guilty about it.
On the flip side, set certain hours where you aren’t allowed to watch TV, surf the Internet, etc. and you’re completely devoted to your work.
The Possibilities Are Endless!
Every area of your life is the perfect place to start disciplining yourself—cleaning the dishes, keeping up your blog, eating dessert daily—and the more you exercise that discipline, the easier it will be to develop consistent writing habits.
So please stop looking at me and reading this post and tackle your to-do list today!
For more help with developing good writing habits, check out these articles:
*Unfortunately, this is not true.