There’s nothing quite like finishing a story, actually typing “The End” when you pound out that last, sweat soaked word. You either want to lay your head on your keyboard and cry, or fling yourself out of your chair and do your weird happy dance (the one that you hope nobody but your cat ever witnesses).
The problem is that getting to that point can be a challenge.
As writers we have all kinds of terrible habits that keep us from reaching “the end.” How many of these habits do you have? I’m sure you have at least one (I know I’m guilty of at least three of them).
Bad Habit #1 – You keep rewriting and revising the beginning until your story is perfect before moving on. If it’s a novel, you’re probably still stuck on chapter one or two and if it’s a short story, maybe you’ve got the first few paragraphs. One of my writerly friends has re-written chapter one of her current novel at least five times. It’s taken months…and she’s still not past page 5.
In one of my favorite writing books, Bird by Bird, the author Anne Lamott gives writers permission to “write shitty first drafts.” It’s great advice, just get your ideas and stories out. Then, when you’re all done, go back and revise.
Bad Habit #2 – You stop writing your story when it gets hard. Those hard moments can be the best moments in writing because they push you to get better. Keep going. Power through the hard part, even when you don’t know where you’re going. Like Dory, just keep swimming…
Bad Habit #3– You refuse to give yourself a deadline. Deadlines work. Why? Because they make you actually write. Think about school – you really don’t want to write your research paper on…whatever random topic has been assigned, but its due…tomorrow. So what do you do? You sit your butt down in a chair and you write it, even if you don’t know what to say, even if you aren’t feeling inspired, even if your first paragraph stinks. You keep writing until it’s done…because you have a deadline.
If deadlines work for you for school, apply that same principle to your writerly life.
Bad Habit #4 – You suffer from the “shiny new story” syndrome and start a new project every time you get stuck on your current project. How many beginnings of stories have you written? Beginning a story is always the fun part. Creativity runs high. Amazing ideas crash around in your head, pushing your fingers to get them out and onto paper. It’s so fun! But if you’ve only got story beginnings and never any stories that actually end, you’ve got a bad writing habit. Don’t start another story until you finish one of your current projects.
Bad Habit #5 – You wait to write until inspiration strikes – sometimes that’s about as likely as lightning striking. I’m guessing you are a char-free individual without any lightning bolts marking your forehead. You’ve got stories inside you, and the only way to get them out is to put your butt in the chair and start writing because more often than not, that’s when inspiration strikes. Think about it – Thomas Edison’s inspiration came while he was working in his lab. If he had waited for inspiration to strike before they worked, we’d still be still be sitting in the dark waiting to be struck by our stories.
Now You Try
1)Choose your worst bad habit when it comes to writing. If its on the above list great. If not, share it in the comments below.
2) Get out a piece of paper or open up a file on your computer.
3) List three concrete steps you’ll take to begin overcoming your bad habit.
In the comments below, share your three steps and then commit to them. Often when you make your plan public, you’re that much more likely to follow through.