“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”
Habit is a powerful tool in our writing arsenal: The more we cultivate fruitful ones, the greater our chances of accomplishing our goals. I recently came across a valuable Writer’s Digest article called “10 Habits of Highly Effective Writers” by novelist and screenwriter Robert Blake Whitehill. Here’s an overview:
1. Read widely: It will freshen your style, invigorate you, and give you a “deeper reservoir of tropes and details in which to dip your quill.”
2. Take your writing seriously: Track your hours and output if you have to until you gain a sense of what works for you. “One thing effective, productive writers do not do is wait for inspiration. They go looking for it on a schedule,” notes Whitehill.
3. Set and meet goals: Start by setting the bar low, so you feel a sense of completion, then come up with a weekly goal. Commit to a certain number of pages or hours and then honor your quota, no matter what.
4. Find the right space: Whether it’s a busy café, a rented space or a home office, create an environment that’s most conducive to your own personal productivity.
5. Set boundaries: Writing requires time and attention. Honor your commitment to your writing goals by asking loved ones to do the same.
6. Finish: There’s no value in half-finished work. Push through to completion on a draft. Once you have a full story in hand, you can revise and polish it.
7. Keep your story under wraps: Don’t squander valuable creative energy and newborn ideas by broadcasting your work-in-progress. Wait until you have solid first draft.
8. Build a team: Surround yourself with pros who believe in your work and will support it with their own creativity as agents, publishers, and marketers.
9. Respect your readers: Honor the time and mental energy your readers invest by giving them your absolute best. As Robert says so well, “Be sure that your readers’ time feels well-spent, and not a pointless sacrifice.”
10. Connect with readers and other writers: Share your passion and enthusiasm. “Be the author you wished to talk to when you were starting out.”
Great advice for building a successful career. Bravo, Robert — write on!