Your phone alarm buzzes on the bedside table. 6:30 a.m.
Before you get out of bed, let’s freeze frame right there. What are you about to do?
If you’re like everyone else, you’re dreading the day ahead. You think how mind-numbingly boring work’s going to be. Then you will yourself out of bed to get on with it.
If you’re not like everyone else, your day will start off a lot differently. Instead of dread, you’ll feel energy flow through you. The fire in your belly is stoked. You can’t wait to start writing. You know the moment pen touches paper (or fingers touch keyboard), powerful, pulsating prose will flow.
This can happen every single day, starting tomorrow. All you have to do is master five habits of highly successful writers.
“A life of discipline is better than a life of regret,” is a pearl of wisdom most attributed to the late Jim Rohn. When you think about it, that’s really what good habits are about: discipline. Anything worth doing — staying fit, being a better partner, improving your writing — comes down to what you do, day in, day out.
Uncommitted writers who write when they feel like it have bursts of inspiration that inevitably fizzle out. They blame their circumstances or make excuses, and they don’t have what it takes to be a successful freelance writer or published author.
Disciplined artists produce refined beauty. All admirers see are the fruits of their labor: the gravity-defying, breath-taking leap across the stage, the masterful strokes across the canvas or the tale that transports you to a different time and world.
What they don’t see are the stubbed toes, embarrassing, empty exhibitions or the publishers’ rejection letters.
I’m not going to lie to you: these habits are hard to keep. But if you can stick to them, you’ll be surprised at how much your writing can improve.
1. Exercise your body
I don’t need to tell you why exercise is important. Do it first thing in the morning to start the ignition and rev your engine. Your brain works better when your body’s working well, so if you want your writing to improve, get some exercise.
I’m not asking you to run a marathon. Sit against a wall and reach for your toes. Do push ups. Do squats. Do Tai Chi. Do something. Do it for five minutes first thing in the morning and do it every day.
2. Exercise your brain
If exercising is your physical warm up, free-writing is your mental warm up. It’s difficult to hit the ground running (or hit the paper writing, in this case), so this is a great technique that can dissolve stubborn writing blocks.
There are a couple different free-writing techniques. You can write what comes to your mind, or you can write what comes out of your mouth. You can do Morning Pages or follow writing prompts. It doesn’t matter what type of exercise you choose. The point is to write something to get primed and focused before you write anything meant for readers’ eyes.
3. Ask your subconscious
Every writer comes across gargantuan writer’s blocks that just won’t budge. Maybe you’ve arrived at an important point in your story. Maybe you’re writing sales copy for a client and don’t know how to keep to keep the persuasion strong.
Make a habit of communicating with your subconscious — it could be just what you need to unblock your writing.
Some writers will literally ask their subconscious out loud what they should do. Obviously, they don’t expect a voice to speak back to them, at least not immediately. It’s really about bringing the issue out into the open where it can’t hide. You can also do this by writing in a journal, taking a walk to ponder the issue, or chatting with a trusted friend.
Next, go about your daily routine. If your subconscious is ready to tell you how to solve your problem, it’ll pipe up on its own accord. Setting the problem aside for a while can lead to clarity or a fresh perspective.
4. Schedule nothing
It’s tempting to keep your schedule jam-packed. A busy writer is a successful writer, right? Wrong. Yes you’re a writer, but primarily, you’re a creator of ideas. Ideas come to you when your mind is empty. That’s why it’s important to schedule time just to exist.
Even if it’s just half-hour a day, shut everything off and go outside. This is one of the best writing habits you can cultivate.
5. Make new contacts
While writing itself can be immensely fulfilling, let’s face it: we’re all in it to get some recognition. That’s why it’s important to meet as many new people as possible to grow your network.
It doesn’t need to take place in person. Reaching out online counts, too. You could send a fellow author you admire an email. You could send a guest-blogging pitch to one of your favorite sites. You could respond to a blog comment. Connect with others every day and success will find you.
Surprised that only one of the five habits relates specifically to writing? Writers can love writing so much that we forget true success as a writer involves many people and activities beyond our words on the page.
How many of these habits can you commit to doing every day?