Say Goodbye to Your Worst Writing Habits of 2010

by Suzannah Freeman

Group of people waving goodbye

Every writer has his or her own worst writing habit. You know, that little pet peeve you can’t seem to get rid of?

While there may be other poor habits in the mix, it’s that particular one that’s holding you back from really getting stuff done.

As we say goodbye to 2010 and welcome 2011, what writing habit are you ready to give the final wave?

Here are our worst offenders and how we’re going to overcome them:

Jennifer Blanchard

When 2010 first started out, I was on a roll. In less than three months I wrote and published my very first Procrastinating Writers eBook. It was a goal of mine for almost a year. Things were finally looking good for me on the writing front.

But then something happened. Something awful and productivity-killing.

I started developing some really bad writing habits.

I was suddenly waiting ’til the last minute to complete things and making excuses for why I couldn’t write. And these habits kept getting worse.

By the time the summer came around, I was over it. I didn’t want to write another word.

That’s when I realized a habit from the past had come back to visit me once again: I was (as usual) taking on too much.

I was freelancing and working full-time and running the Procrastinating Writers blog and writing my weekly PW newsletter and trying to spread the word about my eBook and finishing up my Holistic Health Coaching certification and, and, and…

And I was exhausted. I was burned out because I had let myself get that way.

I took a 6-week break from blogging to try and catch my breath, but then I jumped right into a laundry list of writing projects once the break ended and found myself right back where I started.

So in 2011, I am going to (once and for all) bid farewell to my worst writing habit. Here’s how I’m will stop taking on too much:

  • Learn to Say ‘No’–This is something I preach, but very rarely follow. I tend to take on too much because I say ‘yes’ to every writing project that comes my way. In 2011, I’m going to take a step back and really evaluate each writing project as a whole before I commit to it.
  • Discover True Passions–One reason I take on too much is because I’m interested in so many different things. A fear I have is limiting myself and getting stuck doing something I hate. So I often have more things going on than I can really handle. In 2011, I’m going to make it my business to discover what I’m truly passionate about so I can focus on those areas and let go of everything else.
  • Choose Quality Over Quantity–In the past I thought it was a good idea to have lots of things going on, that way I never got bored. But in the past, this has also led me to take on too much. In 2011, I’m only going to work on the writing projects that are related to my passions and my life goals. I’m going to aim for simplicity in my writing life, so I am able to get more of the important things done.

While getting rid of this nasty habit is going to be a challenge, it’s something I know I can and must do. It will help me relieve stress, keep my overall sanity in life and stay focused on the things I love.

Suzannah Windsor Freeman

2010 was an extremely busy year for me. I established some very good writing habits that I know will help my productivity in 2011, but I also developed some pretty nasty writing habits that I know can hold me back if I don’t overcome them soon.

My very, very worst habit last year was being unable to break a writing routine that simply wasn’t working anymore.

I’d just had my second child only weeks before the beginning of 2010, and so my schedule necessarily revolved around him. Constant middle-of-the-night feeds messed up my internal clock so much that I found myself with an interesting ability to work on my novel at three a.m., or very early in the morning before the rest of the house was awake. But, I was unable to write much during the daytime.

Every few months, my baby’s schedule changed and I found it difficult to mentally switch my usual writing times. For some reason, I just couldn’t program myself to write in the afternoon or evening, and I couldn’t seem to write with any noise in the background whatsoever.

What am I doing to overcome my worst writing habit of 2010?

  • Get more sleep. Baby has been bunking in our room since birth, but we’ve recently moved his crib into his big brother’s room. It seems to have helped him sleep more soundly, which means I get more sleep and feel more refreshed during daytimes.
  • Use a time tracker. While I have very little extra time in my schedule, I do know there are moments when I could be doing something more productive. I’ve tested out a free time tracker application that allows me to keep a record of how much time I spend on a variety of tasks to keep me honest about how much I’m really writing. It will also help me to identify the times of day I’m most productive so I can adjust my schedule.
  • Take on fewer writing commitments. Sometimes I expect too much of myself, so this year I’m going to cut myself some slack and refuse to take on more writing/blogging commitments than I can handle.

Because we just celebrated our baby’s first birthday, I know I will naturally have a little more time for writing in 2011 than I did last year. I can’t wait to make this year my most productive yet!

What are your worst writing habits of 2010?

Today’s Challenge: Identify your worst writing habit to be overcome, and devise a game plan stating exactly what you will do to break that habit in 2011.

About the Authors: Jennifer Blanchard is the founder of Procrastinating Writers, a blog that offers guidance for writers who struggle to get started. She is co-founder of the Better Writing Habits Challenge.

Suzannah Windsor Freeman is the founder of Write It Sideways, a blog where writers learn new skills, define their goals, and increase their productivity. She is co-founder of the Better Writing Habits challenge.

  • My worst writing habit is not feeling I can take on projects that really are worthy of me. Instead I do freebie things which leave me burnt out and far from satisfied or appreciated by myself or the people I work for. I’m working on a way to work on that.

    • Yes, writing for free can be tricky. Sometimes it’s great for experience and exposure, but you need to balance it with paid writing, too.

  • My worst writing habit is that I write late, late, late into the night – letting myself get swept away in the story – and then I lose sleep from the rest of my life.

    This year, I’m keeping regular hours, and putting my writing goals as first priority instead of last.

    • Changing your writing schedule is so difficult—I know from experience! And sleep is so important.

  • My worst writing habit is that I don’t have a writing schedule. It makes it hard to get things done. I have no organization about projects I want to work on, how to balance it between my day job and be order to still have a life. I find myself doing things last minute and completely burned out. So my main goal for 2011 is to get organized and create a writing schedule I can stick to that allows me to still have a life.

    Here’s how:

    1. Write down all my writing projects I want to work on. I have limited it to only 2 which is building up my blog and writing my first non fiction book

    2. Organize times and days on which I will write on each project. Mondays and Wednesdays will be dedicated to blogging and Tuesdays and Thursdays will be dedicated to working on my novel. Fridays I will use as a study day to brush up on my grammar skills (I really need help in that area lol)

    3. Make sure I used Saturdays and Sundays as days to rest my brain. I tend to over think and over work myself and even though I love writing I think it is important to take a break often because sometimes my best ideas come when I’m being lazy hehe 😉 I just don’t want to overworked myself like I usually do.

    • Focusing on just two projects this year is a good idea. Your organization plans sounds great!

  • Jmsimpson

    My problem is that I’ll do everything else but WRITE. If there’s anything else hanging over my head at work, I will do that first. If someone else asks me to do something, that’s what gets done. Meetings take a large part of my day, as they do for so many other people. My writing assignments go to the bottom of the list because I know I can’t complete them in short chunks of time.

    What I’ve already started doing, is setting aside writing time in 2-hour blocks. If I know I have to get an assignment done, I’ll block out time on my schedule BEFORE it gets eaten up by meetings or other projects. That way, I can have a bit more control over my week and my schedule. Still doesn’t work all the time, but on Thursday I blocked off two hours to complete a script for a project, and sat down, shut out the world and got down to writing.

    • Yes, balancing work and writing is tough. I feel the same way about having a young family to take care of!

  • Yes, writing for free can be tricky. Sometimes it’s great for experience and exposure, but you need to balance it with paid writing, too.

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  • Anonymous

    In my crazy sports journalism world, I’ve grown accustomed to writing articles/posts in a short span of time. When it comes to “me time”, I have trouble working on projects that take longer than 30-45 minutes to write. Even with homework assignments and longer papers, I write as fast as I can. If I have an idea that requires days, weeks, or months of work, I’ll probably push it aside. I’m following the 31-day challenge on my site, so my latest post delves a bit deeper (http://www.writerbucks.com/following-the-writing-challenge-the-bad-habit/). But it’s sure frustrating.

    • I love that you’re following the challenge on your blog. What a great idea! Interesting that you’re used to working quickly and have to learn to slow down. Thanks for sharing 🙂

  • I’d say my worst writing habit is not creating time to work on MY projects. I write for our business, so I am good at focusing on that. And I do freebie work with little drama. Always I am thinking about how I will get to my stuff, as soon as the other, more important stuff is done. So I’d like to create a habit, a framework, that can be changed, but not until I actually have the habit firmly a part of my life.
    I liked the idea of setting aside two days for the blog and two days for the memoir I’m in the middle of for two years. So I will start with something simple.

    • I find it hard to work on my novel when blogging demands and other responsibilities sometimes need to come first. I feel your pain!

  • Getting started is one of the hardest parts of doing something! Of course finishing is probably just as difficult 🙂

  • It’s called TimeEdition. My husband installed it so I don’t know much about it, but I”m sure you can just download it for free. It might be Mac only, though. Good luck!

  • Anonymous

    There’s a free timer available on the web at: http://www.ticktocktimer.com

  • Eporter70

    My worst writing habit is not writing at all–in other words, not clearing a space in my day to devote to writing. I work an 8 hour a day office job, with a 1/2 hour commute each way, and then have a household to co-manage w/ hubby. The kids are old enough to fend for themselves but they usually want a mom ear to bend.

    My plan is to take off at lunch time at work –11:30am to be exact, head out of the building to the nearest coffee shop, kill the internet connection and work on one piece at a time. My reward for finishing piece #1 will be the ability to move on to piece #2.

    • What a great plan! More people should take advantage of their lunch breaks when it comes to writing 🙂

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  • I get an hour lunch, so that is when I usually work on my writing. I have a very small creative writing blog on Posterous where I post items from my submissions to various writing prompt sites.

    Also, I occasionally post to my blog about freeware that I set up for a computer user group.

    In addition, I edit the monthly newsletter for the same group, and edit the program for a regional group’s annual conference.

    I wish I had more time to just write, but make do with what I have.

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