Writing and procrastination might stereotypically go hand-in-hand, but no one has ever written a book by procrastinating. The only way to write a book is to write. It’s a crazy concept—I know. But if F. Scott Fitzgerald procrastinated on The Great Gatsby, none of us would even know such a book existed.
So, how do we reverse procrastination, start putting words on paper, and cross the finish line? Let’s break it down. Here are 10 habits you can adopt to become a highly effective writer.
Become a reader. The best writers are the best readers. Read anything and everything you can get your hands on—especially bestsellers in your genre. Do you plan on writing a self-help book, but haven’t read one in a while? It’s kind of hard to reach your target audience when you don’t know what they’re into. Reading isn’t about copying; it’s about learning and discovery.
Observe your world. Technology has made it so easy to ignore the world around us. We can so easily turn off real life and tune in to our social media feeds or emails, but by doing that, we lose the ability to observe. Some of my best ideas and free-writes come from quiet moments in which I’m watching the world move around me. Sit on a park bench on a beautiful afternoon. What do you see? Write it down.
Set goals. Goal-setting is so important for life in general, but it’s important for writing too. Are you thinking about writing a book? In order to achieve big goals, we need smaller goals to get us there. The standard book-length for non-fiction books range from 60,000 to 75,000 words. But look at it this way: 75,000 words over the course of two months is a mere 1,250 words a day. Sound a bit easier to achieve? That’s because it is easier.
Protect your time. Once you figure out your big goal, it’s time to start protecting your time. How do you protect your time? First off, you have to make time. Writing has to become part of your life, not something you do when you’re bored. It should become another one of your regular habits. Just as you build your work schedule into your day, you must build writing into your day or week. Decide how many times a week you’re going to write. Then, decide how many hours on each of those days you’re going to write. Put these blocks of time on your calendar.
Find your writing space. This one may take some trial and error, but it’s important to find a writing space that works. Maybe it’s a local coffee shop. Maybe it’s the dining room table or a home office. Wherever your writing space may be, it should be a comfortable temperature, well-lit, and the right noise level.
Set and keep boundaries. Just like protecting time is important, it’s also important that family members and friends respect the boundaries of your writing time as well. If you have a block of time for writing on Tuesdays for two hours before bed, it’s important that no one interrupts that time: no dishes, no laundry, no “can you come here real quick.” Shutting off the world for a bit is important for efficient writing.
Take care of yourself. Hydrate, get enough sleep, squeeze in a workout, use prayer or whatever helps you feel calm, clutter-free, energized and focused. When you’re at your best physically, there are fewer obstacles to your creativity.
Get online. Use a website like Scrivener or Reedsy to house your writing. This also gives you a place for collaboration if you want to ask others to help you write, edit, or get feedback on your work.
Keep readers in mind. Some say to write for yourself; others say to write with your readers in mind. The writing process should actually be a little of both. You have to write something you’re going to enjoy writing. Otherwise, you’ll never finish. You also have to keep your readers in mind. Invest time in your writing if you want readers to invest their time in reading your work.
Build a team. This one especially applies to those who want to publish a book: I have yet to meet a writer who can also perfectly edit their own book, design their cover, typeset their entire book, and create a marketing plan. It’s so important to build a team of experts in each field, and it’s equally important to let them do the work they know how to do best. As a writer, your job is to write, revise, and work with an editor on revisions. It’s a partnership that takes both parties to create a positive experience. Build a great team and enjoy the experience, instead of feeling weighed down by stress.
Writing a book is no easy feat. Ensuring you’ve enlisted a handful of good habits can help you cross the finish line. Which of these habits have you already been doing and which ones will you start doing moving forward?