Thursday, April 7, 2011

Writing habits--the Good, the Bad, the Ugly

I've been writing for a long time. Nine or ten years, to be exact. But what just hit me is that while I've learned a lot, there is still so much out there that my little writer brain hasn't even touched yet. It made me wonder if we writers ever really stop learning and just start knowing.

*Wait a beat of silence*

I just realized how stupid that was. To know everything would imply perfection, and no one is perfect. Not even if you're J. K. Rowling or Stephanie Meyer or Oprah. Though sometimes I wonder if Oprah might just be some alien from a different planet that's so much more awesome than ours, thus giving her super-awesome-alien powers that allow her to do a million things at once. But that's besides the point. The point is we never stop growing and learning and so I wanted to talk about writing habits; the good, the bad, and the ugly.

The Good
These are things that we should all be doing.

1.) Write Daily.
I don't care if you're tired, or if a new book came out that you just-cannot-put-down (City of Fallen Angels, cough cough). I don't care if your fingers fall off, then you should probably write with your toes. I don't even care if your dog ate your story. Writing daily is essential, see why here.

2.) Storyboarding.
Every writer writes differently, and I would never presume that just because something works for me means it works for you, too. But this works. Trust me. If you find yourself staring at a blinking cursor wondering what the heck happens next, you should probably make one of these. While it wont give you the answers to what happens next, it will keep every single thought you had about your story so organized that it'll make finding out what happens next easier. To make a story board all you need is a white board, sticky notes, and dry erase makers. I could go into all the details and steps but they say a picture is worth a thousand words, so...

and again, every writer is different, so your storyboard doesn't have to look like mine or anyone else. See all the jumbled writing on the right? That's how my mind works.

3.) Cookies, Doritos, and doughnuts. Not necessarily in that order.
Do I even have to elaborate on this one? Tell your body and your personal trainer that it's for "creative purposes" and if that doesn't work, tell them it's "Brittany's orders". And then do five jumping jacks to lessen the guilt.

4.) Family = free cheerleaders.
Give me an A, give me a B, give me a They-have-no-choice-but-to-love-anyway! So don't shut them out. Tell them how your story is going, tell them you love them when they buy you cookies for "creative purposes."

5.) Confidence.
When you get up in the morning, take some time to grab this and shove it in your pocket. Carry this with you everywhere; to the bathroom, to work, to the office. Never let anyone take it from you.

6.) Write Freely.
If you're passionate about it, write it. When it comes to writing, where your heart leads you is probably the right direction.

The Bad
These are things you should not ever.

1.) Compare and Contrast.
Unless you're in English class, you'll want to avoid this. It never turns out well, you will not get a gold star or an A. There will always be someone who writes better than you, and there will always be someone who doesn't. If you focus on either, you will start doubting yourself or your ego will expand to Godzilla proportions. The trick is to be fazed by neither.

2.) Call writer's block, Writer's Block.
If you don't call it by it's name, it does not exist. All the power is in the name, people. Let me tell you why. Once we say we have writer's block, it's like we accept its existence and the fact that we can't change it. So we wait, and wait...and wait for it to leave. But in doing this, we waste precious time and creative juices watching bad reality tv and feeling sorry for ourselves. If we refuse to call it by its name, that means we refuse to give up, we refuse to accept the fact that we're suck. I'm starting a movement to de-name writer's block. I have a feeling this needs its own blog post.

The Ugly
These are worse than the bad.

1.) Hi, my name is Suck.
These are days where your writing sucks and you suck and life and the universe and everything ever invented sucks (with the exception of cookies, Doritos, and doughnuts). There is no cure for these days, you must just Step Away From The Computer.

There's tons more Good, Bad, and Ugly. But I can't think of anything else. Feel free to share if you think of something.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. I'm going to disagree with the compare and contrast statement. Much growth can be had by comparing your works to those you admire. Emulation and practice will help you improve, even if you're never exactly the same (You should never be!)

    I also agree with confidence. Every writer, every leader (And that's what every writer is, even if they haven't accepted the role.), needs confidence to step into the vast echo chamber that is the public consciousness and put their ideas on the line.

  3. You have a point Patrick, a good one, but I think that it goes without being said that emulation and practice will ultimately improve your work. When I say this, though, I think I mean it in a different way than you do. There comes a point in your writing where you start experimenting with your writing and you look to your favorite authors, trying to do what they do. Then, kind of like you're chipping away ice, you start to find your own way.I think that happens unknowingly, and it's a good thing. Because you're learning. But at the risk of pulling their hair out, I don't think any writer should sit down with the intention to compare and contrast their work to that of an author they admire. They would only end up feeling inadequate. I think, instead of that, while reading that book, a writer should ask themselves "What made this book work? Why do I love it so much?" By identifying these in the books they read, they become aware of what it is that makes writing work; thus, being able to translate that knowledge into their own work.

    Yay!! Go confidence!! This is probably the most important thing to have.