If you are a writer, just like with anything, you have probably picked up some bad habits. These habits can be hard to break, and eliminating them all together can take anywhere between 72 hours to more than 21 days. Some long-lasting habits built up over time are even ingrained at our neural level, meaning they can even determine our behaviour or outlook on life.
But this is also the perfect reason to break a bad habit, so you can make room for more successful productive ones. Here are 9 such bad habits, which might be holding you back, and if so, you should try to break them:
1. Not sticking to the writing plan
Most of us are guilty of this one. Never rely on the whimsical character of your inspiration, it will not always be on tap to get you through. Sometimes you have to lock yourself in a room and force yourself to write.
The thing about plans is that if you can promise yourself to follow it without yielding to excuses, you might actually get some writing done. Here are three ways you can make yourself stick to your writing plan:
- Make monthly, weekly and daily goals to control the process.
- Decide how much time (minimum) you can commit to writing and stick to it.
- Do not review a single sentence until you finish, even if you know there are some mistakes.
2. Giving in to procrastination and self-criticism
Procrastination and postponing your writing goals to fulfill other minor errands is another mistake. Often these can appear like writing – researching writing, blogging about writing, social media on writing – but none of this is actually writing.
Believe that you are good enough and you can do it. Turn off the internet, put your phone on silent and just write. I accept this is challenging, but once you get going it can also be very rewarding.
3. Over thinking your novel when you are not writing
We all tend to sit and think about our novels – inspiration might hit you at the oddest of times, when you are nowhere near your laptop/computer. However, unless you make notes – in a notebook, on your phone, on a scrap of paper – all that over thinking is just wasted. By the time you sit down it will be gone, or have changed shape. So try to introduce a better habit of carrying around a notebook (or similar) instead.
4. Writing without enough sleep
When your mind is already dried out, you shouldn’t expect anything special to come out. Sleep deprivation can result in chronic fatigue and even severe depression. When writing a book you should allow yourself from 7 to 9 hours of sleep each day.
5. Giving someone your unfinished book to read
This might sound like a good idea, but it isn’t. Feedback is great, you should get feedback, but only after you’ve finished your first draft completely. Otherwise you might end up completely changing the book, only to find it worked better before, or you have to change it again anyway.
6. Limiting yourself with one place for writing
Whilst I think it is a great idea to have somewhere that is solely for you and your writing to help you get into that space easier, limiting yourself to just that space may mean you have trouble writing anywhere else. It is good to be flexible, so that if you find yourself somewhere new you can still pen a few words without having a breakdown. It’s a useful writer skill to have.
7. Writing too many things at once
Even if you have several ideas for different novels, I recommend you keep a separate notebook or folder somewhere for these ideas, but don’t get too drawn into it without finishing what you are working on first. Dividing your attention between several story-lines can confuse you and make the process of finishing one of these books very hard.
8. Isolating yourself from family and friends
When you are writing a book, it can be very tempting to dive into it and ignore everybody. However, this is not always a good thing, as it can make you feel very lonely and isolated. We need our friends and family for support in those moments when we are not writing, so don’t lock yourself away – take the odd break and chat, laugh, get things off your chest. It will improve your writing time no end.
9. Not eating/drinking properly
You’re in the zone. You don’t have time to eat. You snatch a quick fatty unhealthy snack and keep going. Does this sound like you? Me too! However, this can be counter productive because not fuelling yourself properly means your creative brain won’t be functioning to its highest capacity, and drinking enough water is also key for that process. Allow yourself a half hour break, eat something nutritious and make sure you have a big bottle of water to hand. Then let those creative juices flow!