Peggy Bechko: Developing Good Writer’s Habits


Writers write, right?

Sounds easy. But not so fast.

It takes dedication, discipline and some good habits to see any writer thorough. From writer to writer they differ, but there are many writers have in common.

And there are just some things that need to be said, a reminder of sorts for those of us who get wrapped up in our every day work and find ourselves eating away at time that we’d really much rather have spent writing.

So, a few ideas.

Here’s one: Write on ugly paper because it tricks the brain to really believe that it doesn’t have to be perfect. Really, it does work. And, besides, who wants to write that first draft on nice, clean, expensive final draft paper? And yes, you should print it out; makes for easier and more thorough editing.

Another: Write when you’re tired, write when you’re not, write when you have hours ahead of you, write when you can only steal a few minutes. Just write!

Here’s yet another one. Stop following links and write! Right now. Really. Stop. Do your research, then get off the web, close your browser window. You can’t browse, surf, whatever, and write at the same time. It just doesn’t work.

And related to that take some time to turn off all electronic devices. Cell Phones, tablets, web access on your computer. Everything. Set a time to dedicate to writing and eliminate all distractions and disconnect. You won’t die, really. And with no distractions like text messages, cell phones or games at your fingertips you’ll be able to really focus. It’s one of the best bits of advice I can give. Gads, unhook already.

When you’re writing always remember to repeatedly ask the question “what if…” What if a meteor fell from the sky? What if it’s large enough to flatten a small city? What if a bunch of people in a large building have enough notice to dive into the basement and are trapped there by the explosion? What if one of them is a psychotic murderer? What if, what if, what if. One of the best questions a writer can ask himself, if not the BEST question.

Another great habit to develop is to give yourself a break between writing bouts and be sure to stretch or exercise. Run up and down stairs if you have them. Take a short brisk walk outside. Get yourself an inexpensive stationary bicycle. Do stretches. Physical activity will keep the mind active and sharp. Writers simply sit too much. Think about getting a new standing desk. I have one and move from standing to sitting to standing several times during a work day. Standing keeps the brain moving too.

How about setting a timer? Force yourself to write a story within a set amount of time. The shorter the better, as long as you can create in that amount of time. It doesn’t have to be good, probably won’t be, but get that writing spewed out. You’ll feel better for it and it will almost definitely create something that can be revised later.

Don’t forget to make notes on ideas for where you’re going with a story for tomorrow before you quit for today.

Read great writing. Read bad writing. Read, read, read. Then write, write, write.

Yes, writers write.