10 Habits to Becoming a Better Writer
written by Bryan Hutchinson
For the past few years, my desire to become a published author has become topmost in my mind. Because of that, many of my action plans have revolved around improving my writing.
These action plans have included taking online courses, and I learned a lot from them. In hindsight, I noticed that it’s not the one-time thing that actually helped me become a better writer: instead, it’s the little habits that I didn’t even pay much attention to during the time.
10 Habits to Improving Your Writing
Here are 10 habits that I’ve tested and proven to help anyone become a better writer:
1. Write even when you don’t feel like it.
We writers are quick to blame writer’s block when we are not in the mood to write. These past few months, I’ve tried pushing myself even when I don’t feel like writing, and to my surprise, after the first sentence or so, I can write!
I think this is one of the most important habits that any writer needs to develop, to push past the feeling of blah and just get writing.
2. Be OK with an unexciting first line—at first.
One of the greatest pressures that we writers face is the need to make that first line absolutely perfect. After all, doesn’t everyone tell us the first line has to hook your readers in, or else you’ve lost them forever?
Because of that, I find myself stuck whenever I can’t think of a great first line. One way that helped me move past this is to force myself to be OK with any old first line when I first writing. Then I just make a mental note to myself (or a literal note, typed in bold so I can quickly see it!) to edit that first line after I finish the entire piece, be it an article, a blog post, or a chapter in a novel.
3. Write first, edit later.
Another pitfall that many writers struggle with is the internal editor always forcing us to go back and fix things as we go along. This causes many delays, and sometimes even quenches the creative flow. I learned this important habit from several writing blogs, and I need to force myself to shut out the inner editor so I can just write my first draft and edit later.
4. Don’t be afraid to outline.
In the world of novels, two extreme writing styles are the plotter and the pantser. The plotter outlines everything, while the pantser just writes “by the seat of his pants.” I’m a fairly organized person, but I usually don’t have the patience to outline, and perhaps mistakenly think of myself as a pantser.
To test out this “theory,” in my current project of writing a nonfiction book, I tried outlining. To my surprise, it made writing the contents so much easier because I already know what I’m supposed to write about in every chapter!
5. Time yourself writing with undistracted attention.
I stumbled across this trick when I started writing for someone who asked me to use time-tracking software. Because I was timing myself, I was forced to focus on the task. Cal Newport, in his book Deep Work, explains how focusing on a task, instead of the constant multi-tasking that this information-rich generation does, actually helps us have more creative output.
I believe focused attention is one habit that writers really need to develop, and if it calls for a set time to do that, by all means, try it yourself!
6. Write different genres.
As writers, we may have specific genres that we enjoy writing about. But I’ve found that trying out different kinds of topics or styles can give a much-needed break, which helps recharge my writing all over again.
I suppose it’s strange, that having a writing career, I still write to relax!
7. Read, read, read.
Think of writing as exhaling, and reading as inhaling. Reading helps us writers feed on other people’s ideas and styles, and I believe it’s one habit that we need to keep cultivating.
For myself, I enjoy reading both nonfiction and fiction books, to relax after a long day of writing.
8. Practice touch-typing
I’m glad I already know how to touch-type, and relatively fast, so I can generally type out my thoughts as they come. If you don’t know how to touch-type, it may be a good time to learn how to do so, and keep practicing to improve your typing speed.
9. Keep learning.
Although I did say that the little habits I develop throughout the day gave me more results, as writers, we still need to keep learning. I’ve found that taking classes or finding a mentor to give direct feedback on my work is a great way to keep learning and improving.
10. Don’t despise small beginnings.
Lastly, one habit I need to keep cultivating is appreciating the little things. Are you “only” in Chapter 1? Don’t complain, instead celebrate it! The more I celebrate little victories, the more encouraged I am to keep going.
When you look back months, or years down the road, you will find that these 10 habits pay great dividends in helping you improve not just as a writer but even as a whole person.
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