Updates: I want to thank Nicole Evelina for her generous birthday give-away; I had the good fortune to receive some non-fiction books about druids and arthurian mysticism because of it, so check her out! In other news, Jane Dougherty is doing a free weekend promo for Enders. Also, NaNoWriMo is Coming. Potentially, there might be some NaNo-related posts in the coming weeks.
Habits define a person’s lifestyle.
How a person undergoes the processes of habit forming, sustaining, or breaking defines their perceptions within that lifestyle.
For a writer, being aware of daily, weekly, monthly, seasonal, and yearly habits contributes to the development of their creative projects. Of course, one could go further than yearly habits, but that takes some time… literally.
Now, I don’t believe that being conscious of a fiction writer’s lifestyle entails the habit of “write daily” and ends there.
Daily practice is a common and straight-forward step for most humanly possible skills (and some not so humanly). If you do something every day, your mind is going to become aligned to that activity. This goes for math, video games, jogging, etc. A similar understanding is “Just Do It”; of course if you do something, you’re doing it and it will develop.
Beyond these understandings that “daily, actual practice improves ability”, there are other ways to support creative development as a fiction writer. A quick,
biased example is making a habit of writing from prompts.
Imaginative prompts like fiction prose starters, or concept art, can bypass technical limitations, internal criticism, and explore the creative unconscious without concern about the initial idea. It also strokes that “muse”. This, however, can be obtained through many activities, as long as the creative well is being passively filled by an external something that is internally inspiring.
Other possible habits: making sure there are ready-to-go pens/pencils and notebooks, ready-to-go laptop, remembering to back-up and save work, store and organize notes, reflecting on past work and potential future work, journaling progress, revisiting conceptual themes, blogging (*wink*), taking a morning walk, drinking water, and so on.
Many types of habits can support a writer’s development, but whether these habits will improve ability depends on a writer’s self and situation.
It’s important to keep in mind that there are few objectively right/wrong habits when it comes to being an artist; it may be the very habits that artists stubbornly keep quiet about, which drive their craft to become something of notice… these habits are called eccentricities by others.
Finally, another habit, that is occasionally discussed by writers, is having a reading habit. Distilling the idea of what habitual fiction reading means for me; it is analyzing the essence of influential authors through their styles and form to figure out which specific techniques evoke resonance and which evoke dissonance.
Developing craft through vigilant manipulation of habits is driven by a writer’s personal intentions; does a habit need breaking? a new one needs creating? both at the same time? What current habits support? Which detract? Do all habits generally apply to everyone? Of course not! Habits should be unique to the individual and what they wish to “do” as a writer.
If a writer’s intention is to finish a book and sell it, then habits might be based around finishing the manuscript, finding an agent, learning the hoops to jump through and the correct tricks to display.
However, if the intention is to create a work of art and share it with as many people as possible, then habits may be very different.
Intentions can vary because they tend to be the combination of a person’s life, conscious thoughts, unconscious emotions, cultural framework, and spiritual perspective. Depending on the person’s situation, the manifestation of intention (a.k.a. A habit) can become warped and doesn’t accurately support or display the artist’s actual intention. Likewise, if an intention is not being realized, discerning between habits can provide a refreshing avenue for change.
Being consciously aware of personal habits can be empowering for artists. It allows a way to process and develop creativity by paying attention to how the holistic self responds to additions or subtractions in a general activity pattern.
My own habits are under constant, personal examination because I’m still settling on focusing my energy, with writing, but as well with non-writing personal goals. For instance, I deal with chronic pain due to occipital neuralgia and thus, many of my habits revolve around making sure my body is at optimal functioning and taking care of stress levels. Allowing for relief in habits like meditation, yin yoga, gardening, night walking, and so on influence the pattern of my writing-specific habits.
There is a certain environment created by a ‘productivity’ mindset and sometimes, it is not conducive to the act of writing (or healing). But every day unless designated as a rest day, I find the time to sit down, or while walking, or taking a bath, or eating, whenever, wherever I am, I make an effort to write something.
I don’t focus on writing daily as a goal though because for the brief period of time when I practiced such a habit, my writing diminished in quality and my style rapidly became stilted, thus revoking all enjoyment from the process itself. So, I don’t make it a goal, instead my passion naturally carries me to the work of writing. If I am impassioned by my story/novel, I will write. If I am unenthused, I usually write something else to search for a new passion.
NaNoWriMo is a bit different, since it is a wordcount goal game made in the name of pleasure and enjoyment. Still, I didn’t participate last year. I needed the break though, since I had a number of concepts developing concurrently. Moving on…
Lately, my daily manuscript “goals” (in this context, goals are guidelines for consciously practicing a new habit) have been to finalize at least one plot/character decision that will progress the story’s development and to make a concentrated effort to write as much as I can on my current project (which I’m still excited for, but I’ve got a hard 2-3 months and 150+k words ahead of me).
Active contemplation is a habit in itself regarding thought-based work about how my stories will be presented, how they will continue, how they will end, start, sustain, and so on. For each fictive world, there is a folder, two+ notebooks, papers, and a binder to store these constant developments; note organization is a new habit of mine, but has been serving me well in the last year.
For further exploration on this topic, here are Links about Writers and Habits from around the Web; Develop Effective Writing Habits, The Minimalist’s Writing Habits, Super Sad, True Habits of Highly Effective Writers, Habits of Effective (non-fiction) Writers, Forming Good Writing Habits, 15 Habits of Great Writers (Blog-orientated), 7 Habits of a Highly Effective Writer, 10 Good (brusque) Writing Habits, Fix Your Writing Habits (Technical Tumblr community), Better Writing Habits, 5 Good Habits for Writers, How to Develop Better Writing Habits, 10 Self-Limiting Habits Successful Writers Don’t Have, Creating Healthy Writing Habits, Blooming Twig’s Writing Habits, The 6 Essential Habits of Highly Successful Screenwriters, How to Kick Bad Writing Habits Painlessly (Analytical Writing), Writing to Discard; an essential habit for writers, Creative Writing Habits of Iron, Learn from the Greats; 7 habits of amazing writers, The 7 Habits of Successful Writers, The 9 Weirdest Writing Habits of Highly Effective Authors, What the Sleep Habits of Famous Writers Reveal About Their Productivity,
‘Nuff 4 ya?
– Dominika (September 30)
TL;DR; see below.