Five Habits for Writers That Aren’t “Write Every Day”

A list of five habits to help develop and improve your writing that are different from the usual selections of advice.

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Here are five things I’ve learnt that helped develop my writing.

1. Get Some Exercise

Playing some sports clears the mind. It gives you something to focus on that isn’t your work and lets your subconscious do its thing.

It’s really tempting to keep yourself in-front of the keyboard when a story gets hard but by taking yourself away from your work once in a while, you’re actually laying more groundwork for your return to the desk.

It doesn’t matter what you do. You might want to take a nice walk, play tennis or hit the gym – it doesn’t matter. Personally, I like weightlifting – nothing says “keep your mind on the task at hand” like heavy things over your face.

Charles Bukowski once said, “A good writer knew when not to write.” Find that space and use it well.

2. Get Socialising

Writing is a lonely task, hours spent alone behind keyboard, living in your own world.

As a writer, your job is to reflect the human experience. This is very difficult to do if you aren’t out there experiencing humans!

It could be your local writing group or poetry night, it could be the same group of friends you’ve had from school or the people you’ve met from following habit No.1, it’s just important you spend time around people.

3. Get Inspired

From the news to podcasts and comedy websites, there are plenty of places to find ideas. Make sure you’re keeping up with them.

Your writing doesn’t come from thin air; it is inspired by the world around you. Even if you write about a world completely different from our own, you still work with the original clay of the real world.

I know a number of my stories have emerged from podcasts I’ve put on while doing the washing up, albeit twisted into metaphors for human experiences.

Places like Reddit.com and Cracked.com cover many different topics if you’re looking for a general spark but it’s also worth an eye on more specific content creators. Horror writers may want to check true crime blogs or Sci-Fi writers may find Wired to hold their next story.

4. Get Reading

Is this the same as habit No.3? A little.

To be a great writer, it’s important to understand who came before you. Reading the work of others can inform your stylistic choices and help you add more tools in your writing toolkit.

Find writing you enjoy and figure out why you like it but also if you find yourself reading something bad, finish it and work out why you don’t like it. Have reasons for your opinions so you can come back to the lessons you learn and use them in your own writing.

The wider you read, the better you will become as a writer.

5. Get a Notepad and Pen

Great writing doesn’t happen solely behind the keyboard, it can happen anywhere.

I cannot count the number of lines I’ve lost mid-conversation with friends. It can be a great way of studying people, by taking real things they might have said and expanding on them.

You may overhear snatches of a conversation that lead to a whole story or solve that plot point you’ve been struggling with, or you may find yourself day dreaming on the bus when inspiration hits. Always be ready.

It’s also a great way of building “free floating lines”. I like to keep a collection of lines that don’t have a home yet but I enjoy. One day, the lines will find a place in stories I haven’t written yet but until then, they live, ready for access in my little notebook and not forgotten.

Connor Sansby is a Margate-based writer, editor, poet and publisher through his super-indie Whisky & Beards publishing label.

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2 Comments




  • 2

    Even before I read the article I agreed with the five headings. Walking is a very useful way of getting to places, exercising for free and gives the brain a chance to whirl around with fresh ideas. At aquarobics I have often got caught out by thinking of the next move in my plot and missed the next move in the water. I write my first drafts in long hand anyway, but paper gives your eyes a rest from screens and it is fun to sit in a cafe or on a park bench and scribble.

  • Profile photo of Seb Reilly Seb Reilly says:



    2

    I completely agree, although I interpret the last point differently, as I prefer typing to writing by hand. Instead I keep a dictaphone in the car and record voice memos when I’m away from a keyboard, and have an ever-expanding collection of notes hastily typed into my phone.

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