3 bad writing habits (and a 4th one from me!)

Reading time: Just over 1 minute

This is my weekly installment of “writing about writing,” in which I scan the world to find websites, books and articles to help other writers. Today I discuss a blog post about bad writing habits…

I am obsessed by habits. I know they make it easier to do just about anything, even stuff we don’t enjoy doing. (BTW, habits are so much more effective than willpower because they are self-sustaining. You don’t have to force yourself to do the work if you make the habit small and easy enough.)

For all these reasons, a recent headline on the Write Practice website, caught my attention. It read: “3 Bad Writing Habits Preventing You From Writing (And How to Break Them)”

Eager to learn the three bad writing habits that Sarah Gribble had identified, I read with interest. Here are the three no-nos that she selected:

1. Writing Work That Isn’t Your Novel/main writing project: Bingo! I totally agree with this one. It’s easy to while away hours of time working on email, social media, marketing etc., while letting your most important project languish on the back burner. Instead of doing that, devote the first five minutes of your day to your most important writing. Even if you accumulate no more than 100 words, you’ll still be 100 words ahead of the game.

2. Waiting for the “Perfect” Writing Conditions: Eureka! Far too many people believe they’re too busy, too stressed, too tired to write. Unless you’re the parent of very young children or you’re attending to someone who is very sick, you can make the time. Writing just needs to be a higher priority. To achieve this noble goal, be sure to do your writing first every day — before other tasks or obligations get in the way.

3. Not Reading: Huzzah! How can someone calls themselves a writer if they don’t read a great deal? Resolve to spend at least 20 minutes reading every single day of the week. Yes, put it in your schedule!

One other bad habit that Sarah failed mention, though, is one that dogged me for decades but that I finally broke more than 10 years ago:

4. Editing WHILE you write: To solve this problem (which makes writing more painful and time-consuming than necessary) I have one trick that works almost immediately. Start writing in 3-point type. It will be too small for you to read and if you can’t read it, you won’t be able to edit it. While MS Word will not let you go below 5 pt by default, you can manually override that limit by typing a 3 in the box at the top of the screen. And I offer some additional tips here as well.

January is an excellent time to re-evaluate your habits. Which ones are working for you and which ones need adjustment? Focus on habits rather than resolutions and you’ll be well ahead.

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