After the year we just made it through, it can be tough to think of any goals other than “Don’t be 2020.” But deciding to break bad habits or start good ones can be a great way to start off a new year on the right foot.
These are some writing habits that we like to remind ourselves of at the beginning of the year. We know it’s easy to say you’ll start doing one of these and then drop it within a month. But practice makes perfect, so we’re sharing them again.
Try incorporating one or several of these small but meaningful practices into your writing process this 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.
Here are a few options:
- Start a post.
- Purge a stream of consciousness.
- Convince an imaginary someone of your point of view.
- Craft a haiku.
- Recall a dream.
- Write down a few things you’re thankful for.
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.
And trust me, I know that video calls lost their novelty by April of last year. Sending an email, Slack message, or just not turning the camera on are always options. Until we can safely chat with colleagues in person again, let’s make due (or enjoy it, depending on your love or hate for working from home).
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 the 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. Those thought processes can also lead to writer’s block, which is a whole other issue.
You need to remind yourself that even the best writers write first drafts — some of which are surely 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. 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.