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Writing Habit Hacks

How to Create and Maintain Smart Writing Habits



Kate Krake

Copyright 2016

It's time to stop calling yourself an "aspiring" writer.

You Are A Writer.

Own It.

Live It.


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Take The Write Turn: A Writer's Call to Arms

A Manifesto from The Write Turn


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Contents

If it’s good enough for Stephen King….

PART 1. WRITING HABIT BASICS

PART 2. HOW TO FORM A WRITING HABIT

2.1 Define Your Project

2.2 Your Sacred Writing Time

2.3 Triggering Habits

2.4 Tackling the Writing Process

2.5 Non-Writing Writing Habits

PART 3. HITCHES AND HACKS

3.1 Habits Are Hard Work

3.2 The Seven Hitches of Writing Habits

Hitch One - Crises of Craft

Hitch Two - Crises of Confidence

Hitch Three - When Life Derails Writing

Hitch Four - Focus and Procrastination

Hitch Five - Energy Management

Hitch Six - Time Management

Hitch Seven - Uncertainty of Goals

Writing Habit Hacks Workbook

Writer's Resources

About the Author

The Write Turn

If it's Good Enough for Stephen King…

"I have a glass of water or a cup of tea. There’s a certain time I sit down, from 8:00 to 8:30, somewhere within that half hour every morning. I have my vitamin pill and my music, sit in the same seat, and the papers are all arranged in the same places. The cumulative purpose of doing these things the same way every day seems to be a way of saying to the mind, you’re going to be dreaming soon."

Stephen King


"When I’m in writing mode for a novel, I get up at 4 a.m. and work for five to six hours. In the afternoon, I run for 10km or swim for 1500m (or do both), then I read a bit and listen to some music. I go to bed at 9:00 p.m. I keep to this routine every day without variation. The repetition itself becomes the important thing; it’s a form of mesmerism. I mesmerise myself to reach a deeper state of mind."

Haruki Murakami


Ernest Hemingway was an early riser and ticked off 500 words a day. A man famous for his alcoholism, Hemingway claimed he never wrote under the influence.


Truman Capote did all of his writing lying down with a cigarette and a cup of tea. As his writing day progressed, he’d replace his tea with sherry and later martinis.


Phillip Roth does all of his writing standing up at a lectern in his writing studio, facing away from the view so as not to get distracted. Joyce Carol Oates writes in the morning, before she eats breakfast. Vladimir Nabokov wrote standing up, writing on index cards.


A writing habit takes on all forms and practices. The thing these authors have in common is that they write consistently in a manner that’s particular to them.

What’s your writing habit going to look like?


Welcome to Writing Habit Hacks.

Writing habits may eventually become second nature but forming a habit is a learned skill. This book is the toolkit you need to hack your life and learn that skill. For good.

With this book, you're going to learn how to create a writing habit that works with your particular style of creativity, a writing habit that fits in with your lifestyle and a writing habit that lasts.

In Part 1 of this book, we look at the nature of habits and the types of behaviours we need to learn in order to create effective writing habits.

In Part 2 we get into the nuts and bolts of creating a writing habit. You'll find your writing time and work out exactly how much time you're going to need to apply to your habit regularly. We take a look at actions and processes that can trigger habits and how you can hack other areas of your life to help get your writing habit underway.

Part 3 of this book is essential. When we start to form writing habits, we can guarantee that just about everything is going to try to ruin our efforts. In Part 3 we go through seven areas of writing and life that are the biggest threat to maintaining writing habits. Once we identify the problems, we then look at ways to overcome these obstacles and keep our writing moving forward.

Take a deep breath.

Let's get writing.

PART 1

WRITING HABIT BASICS


"Good habits are worth being fanatical about."

John Irving

What is a Habit?

Understanding the fundamental nature of habits and the different types of habits we form is key in creating a real and lasting writing habit, and making that habit really work for you and your writing goals. So, let’s start with the basics.

A habit is:

…a pattern of behaviour.

…something done often and regularly, sometimes automatically, sometimes intentionally.

…a lifestyle.


Aren’t Habits Boring?

How many times have you heard "creature of habit" used as a negative thing? We’re told that living with a set of ingrained behaviours means we’re lacking creativity or missing out on opportunities to experience life. We think of following habits as being stuck in a rut. Habits are boring.

That’s not entirely true.

Forming positive intentional habits is a simple and highly effective way to get more out of life.

Forming a writing habit isn’t forcing yourself into a boring life of systematic, uninspired behaviour. It’s giving yourself the permission and the opportunity to pursue a creative goal, something you might not otherwise have the energy or opportunity to do.


Different Types of Habits

We all live with different types of habits. There are habits like cracking your knuckles or rolling your eyes, little physical ticks we do without thinking. We also have lifestyle habits. These are things like the types of food we’re accustomed to eating, our physical activity levels, a disposition to reading.

Intentional habits are practices we actively choose to introduce, usually for the sake of bettering ourselves. Healthy eating, going to the gym, drinking more water, reading more, writing every day.

Lifestyle habits can start off as intentional habits. It’s when practising an intentional habit becomes second nature; we don’t have to think about it, it’s just something we do as part of who we are.


You Are Your Writing. Your Writing Is You.

A friend came to visit me recently. She knew me from a long time ago when I lived a far less healthy life than the one I do now.

"Are you still on a health kick?" she asked, noting the contents of my pantry.

"I’m not on a health kick," I said. "I just don’t eat crap."

Healthy eating was once a choice for me, a means to an end I wanted to achieve (losing weight). My initial "health kick" was something I did to form the basis of an intentional habit. Years later, I’m no longer interested in losing weight, I’m only interested in eating good, wholesome food every day. So that’s what I do. I don’t think about it. I don’t battle with it. It’s just who I am. It’s my lifestyle because I once intentionally made it a habit.


This is exactly what this book aims to teach you to do with writing habits - to intentionally perform a regular writing practice and create a process that becomes ingrained into daily life so much that it simply becomes who you are and what you do.

Once writing becomes a habit, it ceases to be something you must struggle to do (though the writing still may be hard). With a writing habit, you are your writing, your writing is you. Writing is just another normal in your life like the way you get to work, the way you raise your kids, the types of dinners you look forward to eating every night. It's just your life.


"Just write every day of your life. Read intensely. Then see what happens. Most of my friends who are put on that diet have very pleasant careers."

Ray Bradbury


What is a Writing Habit?

A writing habit is not:

…a long established pattern of thought that one day you’d like to write.

…waiting until you have enough time to start writing.

…writing one day, not writing for the next month, writing on another random day.

…planning to write tomorrow or whenever.


A writing habit is the regular process and practice you go through to get your writing done.

If you want to form a writing habit, then you must write, actively, regularly. That’s all there is to it.


Writing Habits Are the Key to Every Writer’s Success

Writing can be a tough gig. The work can be really hard and it can take months, even years, to finish a single project.

A writing habit makes the whole process easier, more reliable, more predictable and definable.

A writing habit ensures the words still get made, the project still moves toward completion, even if that movement is a slow plod and you’d rather be doing anything but writing.

A writing habit gets books written.

Unfortunately, acquiring a writing habit rarely a simple process of saying, "OK, I’m going to write 1000 words every day until this book is complete."

Forming intentional habits, making them stick, seeing them through to the point where the habit becomes automatic is a difficult skill to learn if you don’t set yourself up for success.


"Writing is like breathing. It's possible to learn to do it well, but the point is to do it no matter what."

Julia Cameron


The Three Phases of Habits

Whether we’re talking healthy eating, exercise or writing, all intentional habits take on three distinct phases. Understanding these three phases and being mindful of which phase you’re in helps you to recognise the patterns of your own behaviour and helps keep you on track when procrastination tempts or things get too overwhelming and you feel like throwing in the towel.


Phase 1: The Honeymoon

Look at me! I’ve got this awesome new writing habit and I’m a writer and I’m going to write thousands of books and get millions of readers and I’m so awesome and WRITE ALL THE WORDS!!!!!!!!!

I love this phase.

This is the beginning. Your ideas are new and interesting. Your energy seems endless. Your motivation is high. Nothing, no one will ever stop you. You are a writer!

Enjoy this phase. It’s fleeting.

How long the honeymoon lasts will vary from writer to writer. For me, it’s usually about two weeks.

This is the shortest phase of the habit process and it’s not going to last, so make it count. This is the time to go big, but not too big. Take all of that energy and push it to your limits but remember to keep some in reserve. Refer to the section in the next chapter, Start Small to really understand why.


Phase 2: The Push

Your energy is lagging. You’re questioning your ideas, your motivation, your potential, your value.

This is the hardest phase of forming a new habit. You’re tired. Your writing is starting to get tangled and messy. Self-doubt is starting to creep in.

You might want to quit. You might have already started to justify to yourself why you should take a rest from writing tomorrow. Welcome to Phase 2.

The Push Phase is where you’re going to need to push yourself and pull out every trick in the box to keep you writing.

It’s where you’re going to need to honestly know yourself, your hopes, your dreams, your motivators. Phase 2 is where you’re going to need to ride yourself, struggle through when you feel like you just can’t keep going, and it’s also when you’re going to need to give yourself a break and practise some genuine self-care and take a rest.

This is a good time to try short goals like word sprints or weekly challenges - these little devices can pep up your motivation when all you really want to do is close your laptop and never think about writing ever again.

Yes, Phase 2 sucks.

But getting through Phase 2 gives you the greatest, most valuable reward - the satisfied self-knowledge that yes, you CAN do this and you have formed a strong writing habit.


Phase 3: The Rest of Your Life

Form a writing habit, check. Next? Sorry, it doesn’t work like that. Habits are not a thing you tick off a To Do List.

Phase 3, the regular, day to day living practice of your writing habit is the real habit. It’s not full of shiny new energy driving you on, it’s not slogging through when the rest of your life is starting to press on the edges of your good intentions. Phase 3 is when you just keep on living and doing and being and writing. Some days it’s hard, sometimes it’s energetic and easy. It’s not new, it’s not a struggle that you must force yourself to keep doing, it’s just what you do. You’re a writer. This is you writing. This is your writing habit.

Life will get in the way. Sometimes your writing habit will get overturned and you’ll have to teach yourself again what it is to have a writing habit. That’s when you’ll need Part 3 of this book, Hitches and Hacks.

Back to Phase 1 we go….

See you on the other side.

PART 2

HOW TO FORM A WRITING HABIT


"Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on."

Louis L'Amour

2.1 Define Your Project

So, we’re now clear on what writing habits are and the kinds of ebbs and flows of energy and motivation you’re going to expect as you make your writing habit a reality. Let’s get started and make you a writer!


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