When I was in middle school, I had a favorite notebook. It had a cover of deep blue with geometric shapes and circles on it — and it was the perfect size for my hands.
Although I never kept track of how many notebooks I went through, that blue one seemed to last the longest. Partially because its cover felt softer than any other notebook’s surface; but mostly because this was the one where I started keeping track of my writing habits — habits that continue today. But apart from me, what are some other writing habits that other writers tend to have?
Writing Habits if You Are a Writer
1. Keep a to-do list.
I’m not sure when exactly I started doing this, but ever since I adopted the habit, it’s hard for me to imagine myself going without it. My list contains anything important that I have to accomplish that day — including writing assignments and chores. It also includes the days of the week, so I know what tasks are for the next day or week. Finally, most of my lists include reminders about what book(s) or movie(s) to watch/read next (I use Goodreads for this. I have it set to show me books I haven’t read yet).
2. Write Monday through Friday.
On weekends, I take a break from writing — but I don’t think I ever would have started the habit of writing every single day if that wasn’t my “normal practice.” On the days when I do have time to write, my brain is still pretty scattered and unfocused at the beginning of each day (and any day can be like that). By putting in a fixed amount of time each day, I can train myself to focus on writing each morning.
3. Always start with a plan or outline.
Whenever I start a new story, I always have an idea of what I want to happen — but never a detailed plan. So before I sit down to write, I make sure that I have my story fully planned out. If there are any holes in my plot or character development, those will show up immediately.
4. Write in longhand first.
I used to type all of my stories and articles directly into Word. But ever since my handwriting improved over the years (I used to be really bad at it), it’s been really useful to write ideas and outlines by hand — especially for brainstorming parts in stories that need more detail than just an outline can provide.
5. Draft out the first chapter before moving on to the next.
I know some people prefer writing the second chapter first — but since I have a tendency to include too many details in my writing, I usually go for fluidity by writing out each new part of the story in chronological order. Sometimes, I wonder if it would be better for me to write each new chapter and write down a set of different possibilities for how things could play out, but that seems like more trouble than it’s worth. Writing out each character’s role would be my best bet — that way they can all link together naturally.
6. Find a Place to Write That Inspires You, Even if It’s Only for 5 Minutes at a Time
This is more a side effect of my writing habit than a habit itself. Whenever I write, I keep my book in one of two slots: the desk/table in my bedroom or the couch in my living room (the latter being the most common). However, I also have a third spot that’s a little more surprising: wherever I am at the time. For example, right now I’m sitting on an exercise ball at my grandpa’s house — and he just turned on his radio so that I can listen to some music while working.
7. Make it possible to write on different devices (i.e., different devices/platforms).
I mostly write in Google docs, but I also use Evernote on my computer and another app for notes on my phone — all of which make it possible for me to spend time writing wherever I might be. My other main concern is making sure that my writing apps are always up-to-date — so if they stop working (or I have questions/concerns), they’re easy to replace.
8. Keep track of what you’ve written before looking at a completed story.
Sometimes, I’ll write something and accidentally delete a large chunk of it. Or maybe the story is getting off track and I need to go back to the perfect spot to start from (which is easily made possible if I just keep a note of where that is). Either way, knowing where each new story starts helps me catch my mistakes quickly — whenever they might occur.
9. Use multiple media for planning out your stories (i.e., musicals or visual arts) .
Sometimes it’s useful to see how a story plays out in other forms — like in musical or visual arts form. This is somehow a new habit for me, but it has helped greatly on days when I don’t have time to actually write.
10. Keep a notebook with you wherever you go.
Whenever I do things like take a shower or go for walks, I have my notebooks with me — so that every time I get an idea, I can write it down (or just think about it). It works really well as a way to keep my creative juices flowing; all thanks to this habit of always having something on me that can be used to write out thoughts and ideas.