Weirdly, writing habits are hard to write about. Everyone does things differently, and it’s hard — and sometimes dangerous — to describe what you do personally without giving off the impression that your way is somehow the “standard” or “right” way.
It’s much easier to talk about things that don’t work. Like planning too much and unintentionally procrastinating when you think you’re doing yourself a favor. You might think these things are helping you write more or better. They aren’t.
Here are the habits you’re harmfully holding onto — and how to break them.
Planning out everything you’re going to do before you do it
I am a planner. And I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with having a basic outline for what you want to accomplish, writing-wise, in a day. But there are far too many aspiring writers who spend so much time and energy on planning out what they’re going to write — down to the smallest insignificant details — that they have no drive left when it’s time to actually write something.
Have a general idea of where you’re going. At the very least, decide which project or projects you’re going to work on before you sit down to write. But leave the rest up to your creative flow. Spend your energy actively writing instead of thinking about what you’re going to write.
Browsing the internet aimlessly for ‘inspiration’
I know of a few key things that inspire me — mostly music, though there are a few quotes (yeah, I know …) and other go-tos that I rely on when I need to feel inspired. But the mistake many writers make is thinking that if they just “look around” for a while, they’re going to find something that lights the fire underneath them they feel is necessary to have a good writing session.
That, my friends, is how you end up endlessly scrolling through BuzzFeed listicles for two hours instead of writing. Not that I know what that’s like or anything.
Don’t go looking for inspiration when you don’t know what you’re looking for. Don’t go down those dangerous holes that swallow up your writing time. Pick out those one or two key elements that inspire you the most and go straight to those. One song. One quote. Absorb it. Then get to writing.
Waiting until you finish everything else on your list before you start writing
I like things to be done in a certain order. But they almost never get done in the order I would have preferred. That’s because, sometimes, you have to dive into something when you’re feeling motivated to do it. Even if that means putting other things off until later.
One thing you shouldn’t put off, though? You guessed it: Writing.
Even though you think you’ll be able to write with a clearer, more relaxed mind, chances are, that’s not going to happen — not the way you think, anyway. If you wait until the end of the day to write, your chances of skipping it because of exhaustion or some related excuse go up drastically.
Pick a set time to write on a set day or number of days and stick to that schedule. That way, whether everything else on your to-do list has been crossed off or not, you’ll hopefully have a better reason to write anyway, get it done, and not feel guilty about shoving it to the side … again.
Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a 10-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.