Seven habits of great writers

Over the years, I’ve met, read and seen interviews with a lot of great writers. And I got to thinking: What do all these amazing writers have in common?

Set up a routine. Whether you’re a morning person or a night owl, making time for your writing is important—especially if you’re scheduling your writing around work or family commitments. Setting up a routine for yourself will go a long way toward making sure you show up on the page regularly.

Set up a space. Do you prefer to work at home at a desk, the kitchen table or on the couch? Or maybe the social hum of a coffee shop or a quiet nook in a library does it for you. Do you prefer to write on a computer; or do you like to start out with pen and paper, and type it up later? As important as making the time is making the space. This is your space, so only you can tell what works for you and your writing.

Read great writers. This seems like a given, but so often we can get caught up in our own writing and editorial work—not to mention life—that we don’t read anything much beyond our own words, texts, emails, or the news online. Reading great writers can help expand your vocabulary, give you a break from your own scribing—and be inspirational too. There’s nothing like coming across a beautifully written piece of prose by a great writer. Okay, you may end up wishing that you wrote it—but you can also be glad that someone else did.

If you get stuck, do something else. Got writer’s block? Go for a walk, go to the movies, meet a friend for coffee. Torturing yourself ad nauseam over a character, idea or plot device will only make you nuts and waste time. Stop thinking about the problem so hard, and give yourself a refresh and reset. Get up, get away, clear the cobwebs and come back to it later.

Go to reading events. Like reading great writers, going to reading events is not only supportive and inspirational, but a good way to meet and network with other writers. Writing can be a lonely, solitary road—and as much as our friends and family love us, they just might not understand why we spend so much time and energy on wordsmithing. So it’s good to get out and hang out with people who get it.

Edit, edit and edit again. Nothing’s perfect the first time around. Write it, then go back and edit. And edit. And edit. Have a trusted friend or colleague read it, and ask for feedback. If you’re working with editor, work with him/her to craft your words to be the best they can be. Try not to be precious or overly protective of your words. If something doesn’t work, it may need to be rewritten, inserted elsewhere or taken out completely. It’s hard when you have to delete a section you were in love with, but if it’s not serving the piece, you need to put on your big writer pants and take it out.

And, above all, write! Even if you don’t believe in that 10,000 hours to mastery philosophy, the most important thing of all is to do it. Sit yourself down during that time, with those tools and in that space that is your happy writing place, and write. You’re not necessarily going to produce a masterpiece right away, but with practice and effort, you can create some awesome work.

Happy writing!

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