Make habits, not resolutions: 6 practices to weave into your writing process for 2018

Writing habits to stick to

My New Year’s resolutions are always the same: Eat better, exercise, reduce stress, write more.

While my goals stay the same, each January I can’t help but feel hopeful. This is the year, I think.

Of course, it’s easier to make a resolution than it is to keep it.

But that’s where we can help.

With 2017 coming to a close, we came up with six habits to weave into your writing process to help set you up for success in the new year.

1. Write daily.

You are what you practice.

With any skill, in order to improve, you have to do it often. It’s rare that great writers just are. For most, it’s a lifestyle — the task ultimately becomes part of their day-to-day.

Carve out a time slot in your schedule every day to write something, and commit to it. Start a post. Purge a stream of consciousness. Convince an imaginary someone of your point of view. Craft a haiku. Recall a dream. Anything.

The practice will help sharpen your writing for when it’s time to deliver something more concrete.

Tip 1: Write regularly

2. Talk out your ideas.

No one exists in a vacuum, so why should you write in one?

Find a trusted colleague or mentor to confide in when you get overwhelmed, stuck, or just want to round out your vision. Explaining your idea to another person can help you rediscover your story from your audience’s perspective.

Tip 2: Talk out ideas

3. Step away from your computer.

If you always write on your computer, try switching to pen and paper from time to time. Writing with a pen always slows down my thoughts, forcing me focus on one thing at a time.

When I’m really stuck, I like to write down the main points of my story on post-it notes (fun, bright colors are encouraged, but not required). I outline my story by rearranging my post-it notes until I am happy with the structure. Then, one by one, I write what needs to be written for each main point. When I finish a post-it, I throw it away.

Before I know it, I have a first draft.

Tip 3: Walk away from the computer

4. Write bad first drafts.

Perfectionism can be a hard habit to kick.

I’ve always thought that perfectionism and procrastination go hand in hand. I know my first draft won’t be perfect, so I put off writing until I absolutely have to.

That’s when I have to remind myself that even the best writers have to write first drafts. Really bad first drafts.

You may not have the right words now, but don’t let that stop you. Write it all down first – even if it’s bad – you can perfect it later.

Tip 4: Write bad first drafts

5. Invite constructive criticism.

Constructive criticism feels a lot like growing pains. Like a dull ache in your shins, it’s more annoying than it is painful. But it signifies something important.

It’s about growth.

The point of all writing is to communicate well with your reader. Everything – including your pride – is secondary.

Tip 5: Invite constructive criticism

6. Know when to quit.

I am the kind of person who will self-edit until I am forced to turn in my work.

While self-editing is important, it’s also vital to know when to let go. At some point, you have to let your writing stand on its own two feet. Trust that you did the best you could.

Or, at least, trust that your editor will make you look great and fix any glaring mistakes.

Tip 6: Know when to quit

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Jessica (Davids) Barry was a Customer Content Specialist at PR Newswire. Newly married, she loves cooking with her husband and spends the rest of her free time drawing.

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