Good Writing Habits

Jun 17, 2014 | Better Writing

The power of habit

Ovid may not have said it first, but he said it a very long time ago: “Nothing is stronger than habit.” If you want to write well consistently, you need to develop some good writing habits to help you. That way you’ll do good things the same way every time and produce a consistently good result.

When you write

Try to write at the same time of day every time. For larks like me, morning is best, with the added advantage that most people have more discipline and energy at the beginning of the day. If you’re a night owl, though, schedule writing time at night. Check out my “When is the best time of day to write?” for more.

Where you write

Try to write in the same place every time. That way, when you go there your brain knows that it’s time to write. Think of it as your writing cave.

Block out interruptions. Whatever else there is in your writing cave, I suggest a door that can be closed firmly.

A pre-start ritual

Most of the people I know who write regularly have some kind of pre-start ritual. One friend brews a cup of Earl Grey tea while he thinks about what he’ll be writing. Another friend takes her dog for a walk. The oddest ritual I know belongs to a fellow who lays out five Oreo™ cookies in specific places around his cave. He eats them in specific order while he writes.

My ritual is far more mundane. I check my reminders, emails, and messages and either deal with them or set a time to do so. Then, with a clear mind, I start my writing session.

A wrapping up ritual

Wrap up your writing the same way every time. I recommend the Firefighter Rule.

Habit Resources

If you want to learn more about making and breaking habits, I suggest Charles Duhigg’s book, The Power of Habit.

Checklists can help you develop habits and also help you do things the same way every time. Check out Atul Gawande’s Checklist Manifesto.

Now it’s your turn

How do habits work for you? What resources would you suggest?