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Habits of a Successful Writer

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November 2009
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While attending university, I knew of a friend who had a splendid sense of humour, a sharp mind, an insatiable desire to learn, and exceptional writing skills. His dream was to become a writer, but he never was able to put his thoughts on to paper. Consequently, his dream died, and he became a manager for a well-known fast food chain. I think he still works in this job. If you want to be an accomplished writer—completing writing projects, submitting your work for publication, publishing work, or getting paid to write—you need to learn and practise the habits of a successful writer. Here are 12 writing habits that you should master:

  1. Get into the habit of writing each day. If you don’t write, your writing will not improve. In fact, your writing skills might decline. Find time to write each day, even for 10 minutes. Your writing will improve with practise.
  2. Read widely and deeply. Reading develops your vocabulary, improves your writing, and provides you with ideas, topics, and subject matter to write about. Read poetry, fiction, nonfiction. Read newspapers and magazines. Make a mental note of information that is interesting and a potential topic to write about. Better still, keep an idea journal.
  3. Keep a journal. For various reasons, most writers keep a journal. Some use an idea journal to record ideas for future writing. Others keep a free-writing journal, recording whatever comes into their minds. Many keep a personal journal to record their thoughts, feelings, observations, and experiences about life. There are many types of journals. Find the type of journal that is best for you, and then start writing in it.
  4. Use the writing tools of reference. When you don’t know the meaning of a word, use a dictionary. When you need a synonym, use a thesaurus. If you need an inspirational idea, find a quote in a book of quotations.
  5. Observe the world around you. The successful writer is able to see authenticity and originality in the world, and then write about it. Instead of living in autopilot, be aware of time, place, setting, and people around you. Make note of the extraordinary. Make note of the images you see. Make note of the sounds you hear. Make note of what you are thinking and feeling. Become aware of what is making news and what is popular. Make note of it, and then write about it.
  6. Think creatively to discover new ideas. There are many ways to find inspiration. Thinking creatively is method that you can use to generate writing ideas. There are many techniques. For instance, you can conduct a brainstorming session, engage in mind mapping, write an outline or list of points to write about. You can ask “what if” questions, change your perspective, or challenge your assumptions.
  7. Get into the habit of asking journalistic questions. When you find a topic or idea that you want to write about, ask the following questions: Who? What? When? Where? Why? How? And then write about what you discover.
  8. Establish writing goals. Create SMART goals. (specific, measurable, realistic, and time-based ) First, set specific goals. For instance, your goal might be publish a selection of poetry or an article. Next, create a system of measurement to quantify your goals. For instance, if you want to publish poetry, you might quantify your goal by writing a poem each week. Be sure your goals are realistic. In other words, do you have the time, tools, and talent to accomplish your goals? Finally, set a time deadline. There is no point setting a goal, unless you have a deadline. The best type of deadline is time-based.
  9. Track your writing progress. After establishing your writing goals, check to see if you are accomplishing them. Review your progress each week. If you find yourself falling behind your schedule, determine why and then make adjustments.
  10. Get into the habit of preparation. First, you must conduct research. Find out everything you need to know to write about the idea, subject, or topic. Establish your writing rituals, such as reading the newspaper before you write. thirdly, write in a creative place at a specific time each day. Thirdly, make a list of points you want to write about, or create an outline. Finally, before you begin writing, think about what you want to write and how to write it.
  11. Get into the habit rewriting. Your first draft is rarely the final draft. Use the first draft to get your thoughts on paper. Then begin the process of rewriting, revising, editing, and proofreading. Most good writing is a resulting of extensive revision.
  12. Get into the habit of completing your writing projects. After you have start writing—such as a poem, short story, article—be sure to finish it. A piece of writing has little value if it is incomplete. Successful writers complete their writing assignments. So, finish one writing project before starting another.

To become a successful writer, learn and use these twelve habits.

If you have any comments or suggestions, please post them or send me an email.


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