Besides the common personal resolutions like exercising more, eating better, etc., did you make any professional resolutions for 2020?
It can be tough to break with routine and make changes to your writing process. Change can be a challenge, even scary at times. But if it improves your writing, reduces work-related stress, and makes your job more enjoyable, we say embrace it!
As we begin a new year and new decade, we came up with six habits to weave into your writing process to help set you up for success.
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.
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.
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 can slow down your thoughts, forcing you to focus on one thing at a time.
If you’re really stuck, write down the main points of your story on Post-It Notes (fun, bright colors are encouraged, but not required). Outline the story by rearranging the Post-It Notes until you’re happy with the structure. Then, one by one, write what needs to be written for each main point. When you finish a Post-It, throw it away.
Before you know it, you’ll have a first draft.
4. Write bad first drafts.
Perfectionism can be a hard habit to kick.
Perfectionism and procrastination can go hand in hand. If you believe the first draft won’t be perfect, you may put off writing until you absolutely have to.
That’s when you need to remind yourself 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.
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.
6. Know when to quit.
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.
(Note: This is an updated version of a post originally published in 2017.)
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Jessica (Davids) Barry is a former Customer Content Specialist at PR Newswire. She loves cooking with her husband and spends the rest of her free time drawing. Rocky Parker works in Audience Relations at PR Newswire. When she’s not working, Rocky typically can be found cooking, binge watching a new show, or playing with her puppy, Hudson.