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6 writing habits to adopt in 2020

illustration of writing workspace with paper, laptop, and coffee

Besides traditional personal resolutions like exercising more, eating better and not watching Keeping up the Kardashians, did you make any professional resolutions for 2020?

To celebrate the New Year and the new decade, here are six habits to weave into your writing process to help set you up for success.

1. Write daily

You are what you practice.

No matter the skill, to improve your expertise you have to do it often. Note the old joke: “How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice.”

Do you want to be a great writer?

Carve out a time slot in your schedule every day to write something and commit to it. Start a post. Release a stream of consciousness in your journal. Convince an imaginary person of your point of view. Craft a haiku. Recall a dream.

The practice will help sharpen your writing for when it’s time to deliver something more concrete.

illustration of a pencil and paper and a calendar with the words "You are what you practice. So, practice writing often."


2. Talk out your ideas.

No one exists in a vacuum, so why should you write in one?

Find a trusted colleague or mentor to confide in when you get overwhelmed, stuck or just want to expand your frame of reference. Or join a writer’s group. Explaining an idea to another person can help you discover your story from the audience’s perspective.

illustration of two people talking with the words "Talk things out. It'll help round out ideas."


3. Step away from your computer

If you always compose stories using your computer, try instead taking pen to paper. Using a pen is a great way to slow down your thoughts, forcing you to focus on one thing at a time.

If you’re really stuck, write the main points of your story on a Post-it Note (fun, bright colors are encouraged, but not required). Outline the story by rearranging the Post-it Notes until you’re happy with the structure. Then flush out each main point, using the story structure created with the Post-it Notes as a guide. Each time you flush out a main point, throw away that particular Post-it Note.

Before you know it, you’ll have a first draft.

illustration of a computer screen and pencil on paper with the words "Step away from the computer (sometimes). Try pen and paper."


4. Don’t be afraid to write a bad first draft

Perfectionism can be a hard habit to kick.

Perfectionism and procrastination can go hand in hand. If you are determined to have a perfect first draft, you may put off writing until the absolute last minute.

That’s when you need to remind yourself that even the best writers craft first drafts that wind up in the trash.

You may not have the right words in the first go-around, or even the second, but don’t let that be a deterrent. Just keep writing — even if that first draft makes you wince. You can perfect it later.

illustration of a clock and Wonder Woman with the words "Stop procrastinating. Face your bad first drafts head on."


5. Invite constructive criticism

Constructive criticism is a lot like growing pains. While they may not be particularly welcome, they are necessary for growth.

The point of all writing is to communicate well with your reader. Everything — including your pride — is secondary. Embrace the constructive criticism and use it to strengthen your writing skills.

illustration of an invitation and man with the words "Invite constructive criticism. It will help you grow."


6. Know when to quit

While self-editing is important, it’s also vital to know when to let go. At some point, you have to let your writing stand on its own two feet. Trust that you did the best you could.

Or at least trust that your editor will make you look great and fix any glaring mistakes.

illustration of a magnifying glass and paper and a person walking with the words "Self-editing is important. But learn to walk away, without worry."


See the original post on Beyond Bylines.

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