Want to write your first book? Over the years, I’ve written hundreds of books, mostly for clients, many for major publishers. Initially, I found writing difficult, avoiding it and wasting time. Eventually, I developed habits which help me to write.
Some of these habits might seem weird at first. Experts suggest that it takes repetition and time to develop a habit. When you repeat an action, sooner or later it will become a part of who you are – you’ll develop the habits which make you a successful author.
Here are ten habits you can develop.
1. Develop the habit of visualizing yourself happily writing your book.
“Visualization” is using your imagination. You’re always using your imagination. However, mostly you’re unaware of it. If you think that writing your book will be “hard”, you’re visualizing sitting at your computer, miserable and gritting your teeth.
Why not visualize yourself tapping the keyboard, and being excited that the words are flowing well? You’ll be thrilled with the results if you use your imagination to help you to write.
Take action by: writing a visualization script.
Write a short visualization script. Think about how it would feel to tap the keyboard, and write easily. Can you see this happening in your imagination? Describe what’s happening in your imagination in a few sentences. Your short script will kickstart your imagination.
Visualize at least once a day; twice a day if possible.
2. Develop the habit of managing your time.
Any book takes time to write. Think about how you spend your day. If your schedule is packed – you work, you need time to commute, and time to spend with your family – consider how you could fit in writing time.
Take action by: scheduling time to write, every day.
Many writers get up earlier so they have time to write. Perhaps this would work for you. It’s OK if you’re not a “morning person”, and aren’t wide awake. You’ll find that a dreamy half-awake state is perfect for writing – you won’t obsess about the words.
3. Develop a journaling habit: prime the pump.
A writing journal helps you to write. Create a writer’s journal for your book. Your journal contains all your writing notes: ideas, outlines, and insights. It’s impossible to keep your entire book in your head. Don’t try.
You’ll bless your journal if you can’t write for a few days. It will put you in the right frame of mind to write when you read your journal entries.
Take action by: choosing a journal. Paper or digital?
Decide whether you’ll keep your book’s journal on paper, or in digital form. I keep my writing journals in Evernote (it’s free.)
You may prefer a hardcover notebook, or a looseleaf folder. It’s up to you what you choose. Start your journal today.
4. Develop the habit of acceptance: lower your expectations.
Writing a book is a journey. It’s easy to lose confidence. You’ll avoid stress and writer’s block if you accept each day’s writing as the best you can do, on that particular day.
Just write. If you can talk, you can write. Writing a book is a process. You write the book. Then you review and revise your book. You may go through this process several times. It’s been said that books are rewritten, rather than written.
Accept the process, and be happy with what you write each day.
Take action by: practicing writing without judgment.
Avoid judging your writing. Decide that you’ll develop the habit of acceptance. Today, just accept what you’ve written. You’ve got words on the computer screen, and that’s a huge accomplishment.
5. Develop the habit of eliminating distractions while you’re writing.
Are you easily distracted? When it’s time to write, eliminate as many distractions as you can. Turn off your phone. Close your email, messaging and social media apps.
Create a distraction-free environment, so you can focus on writing.
Take action by: investigating apps which can help.
Many writers swear by apps which put the focus on writing, and eliminate distractions. I use FocusWriter – it’s free, and multi-platform. Find an app you like, and use it.
6. Make it a habit to daydream, and muse.
“Muse” is both a verb and noun. As a noun, it refers to the Muses, Greek goddesses of inspiration who preside over the arts and sciences. As a verb, when you muse on your book, you wonder about it. Musing is a form of daydreaming: you’ll often get ideas and inspiration from a few minutes of musing about your book.
Take action by: daydreaming about your book for a few minutes each day.
You can’t grab inspiration by the neck and force it. You can however sit quietly, daydreaming about your book, and hope that inspiration will happen.
7. Get the idea-capturing habit.
Inspiration happens anywhere and everywhere. It can happen when you muse. It can happen in the shower, when you’re driving, or when you’re playing with your children. It’s elusive. If you don’t capture your ideas as they happen, they’ll vanish like dreams.
Take action by: carrying a notebook, or installing a note-taking app on your smart phone.
Be prepared to capture ideas whenever they occur. Carry a small notebook. I use Evernote on my phone to speak my ideas into an audio note.
8. Make it a habit to set word-count goals.
How long will your book be? Most print books, whether fiction or nonfiction are around 70,000 to 80,000 words. With 250 words per print page, that’s 280 to 320 pages. Decide on your estimated word count, and work out how much you’ll need to write each day to meet your deadline.
Take action by: creating a word-count spreadsheet.
You’ll find plenty of word count spreadsheets online. I prefer to create my own, it’s simple to do. Track the date, your deadline, and how many words you write each day.
9. Make it a habit to read.
Writers read. The more you read, the easier writing becomes, because you’re familiar with words, and how to express ideas in words.
Take action by: scheduling reading time into your day.
Aim to read for at least half an hour a day. Your reading habit will do more to improve your writing skills than anything else, other than writing.
10. Habitually open yourself to experience.
Experiences provide food for your writing.
Take action by: scheduling artists’ dates each week.
Creativity guru Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way, encourages writers to go on “artist’s dates” each week. These expeditions are dates with yourself, to explore and discover new things. You go on your artist’s dates alone, so take your notebook. Observe. People watch.
So there you have it. Ten habits to develop which will help you to write your first book, and the books you’ll write in the future.