What do successful writers do every day?
Then write some more.
Okay, I’m being funny. Sort of. Because it is true. If you want to be a successful writer, first you have to write. I know it sounds obvious, but I know plenty of people who like, as the saying goes, to have written. Or they like all the trappings of being a writer. But they never seem to get to the actual writing. Don’t be that person. Write as often and as much as you can.
And then start thinking about some of these other things that successful writers do. These are what I refer to as foundational habits, activities that support your writing:
They take care of their brains. Meditation, anyone? I know, you don’t want to. But you should. (For the record, I am not the sort of writing “expert” who tells people exactly what to do. I believe that every writer needs to find what works for them and then do it. But when it comes to meditation, I am rabid. Because I believe it can help everybody.) Just try it, okay? And if it really isn’t your thing, then find other ways to keep your brain in good shape. I have a friend who loves doing cognitive exercises. I’m a fan of crossword puzzles. Read things outside your comfort zone. Be a lifelong learner.
They take care of their bodies. We writers sit a lot. And that’s bad for us. Set a timer so that you will get up often. Move your body every day via walking or running or going to the gym. (I’m a lifelong walker, but at the moment, I’m a slug because I’m having hip surgery in November and I have a lot of pain when I walk. I miss it. I can feel the difference inactivity makes in every way.)Drink a lot of water. Eat healthy foods. Yeah, that habit you have of eating Cheetos while writing? Not the best idea. Your writing will thank you if you substitute apples or carrots of baby tomatoes or something.
They take care of their businesses. Unless their name is John Grisham, they don’t expect anybody else (read: publishers) to do their marketing or social media for them. And many of them actually enjoy it. Because it is a chance to interact with readers, see what their fans are thinking, get feedback. After all, we write to get our work out in the world, right? So don’t moan and groan about it. Find a way to get into it. After you’ve done your writing.
They take care of their mindset. Successful writers don’t moan and groan. I know. They’re successful, so what do they have to complain about, right? But here’s the deal: the most successful writers I know are also the most positive. They find a way to turn around negative thoughts in themselves and others. I’m convinced this attribute is key to their success. So if you find yourself bitching about how hard it all is, just stop it.
They take care of themselves. Successful writers take care of their habits. They don’t write while drunk, or drink so much that they can’t concentrate for their headache the next morning. (I’m not being judgmental here. I love my glass of wine in the evenings and look forward to it all day. But I know from long experience that over-indulging is going to make it very hard to concentrate on my writing.) They figure out a writing schedule that works for them and then get to it, without indulging in procrastination. (And I am the Queen of Distraction, so I feel your pain on this one.)
They give themselves time off. Yes, Stephen King is rumored to write every day. But, from what I’ve read, he also has a life full of family and friends and travel and fun. And you need to, also. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. And Jane a dull girl. Besides, going out in the world gives you something to write about. And your brain and your body needs a break as well. (See above.)
They express gratitude every damn day. Remember that being a writer is the best job in the world, and we are lucky to get to do it. Millions of people want this job, and you have it. You’re not outside digging ditches in the freezing cold or roofing in the heat. You’re a writer, and you’re writing. And it is the best. A simple feeling of gratitude will impact your writing in ways immeasurable.
Charlotte Rains Dixon is the author of the novel Emma Jean’s Bad Behavior (Vagabondage Press, February 2013), and articles published in magazines such as Vogue Knitting, The Oregonian and Pology, to name only a few, and her short fiction has been published in Somerset Studios, The Trunk and the Santa Fe Writer’s Project. She earned her MFA in creative writing at Spalding University in 2003, and has been teaching and coaching writers ever since, both privately and as an adjunct professor at Middle Tennessee State University’s Write program. She’s been blogging about writing, creativity, and motivation at charlotterainsdixon.com since 2007. She is repped by Erin Niumata at FolioLiterary. Visit her website at charlotterainsdixon.com and her travel site at letsgowrite.com.
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