A to Z Challenge 2013

Monday, April 27, 2009

Old Habits Are Hard To Break

I've been absent from the blog/writing world for quite a few days, and I'm not too happy to admit it. As you can tell from my last post, I started playing World of Warcraft again. That in itself is not necessarily a bad thing, except for when one allows it to become a focus of all activity. When I first began this writing journey, I told myself I was going to be committed to working on it all the time. I even joined a writing challenge a few weeks ago, and I stuck with it for quite a while. But as the title says, old habits creep back in fairly easily. I fell off the proverbial wagon with a bone-jarring thump, and I've just barely managed to pull myself back up.

To keep this blog about the craft though - as opposed to just my own writing - this experience begs the question. How do we go about pruning away our old habits and developing new ones, particularly with writing in mind? Any author will tell you that writing is a hard task, and I would agree with the sentiment that writing is even harder for those of us who choose to write. We agonize over every turn of phrase, stumble while searching for the perfect word, and painfully edit our own work before sending it out into the world. It's fun and not fun, all at the same time. Entire worlds can come alive with our work, and sometimes we feel like the world we create will never be completely finished.

There are also the category of writers for whom writing is not a deeply ingrained necessity. For this group, writing is not "in the blood" but rather something we strive to do through sheer force of will. I cannot say whether writers who must write have it any easier, but I can say that choosing to write rather than needing to write is one of the most difficult tasks I've come across. So how do we as writers form new writing habits? I will share with you a few things I've learned (and continue to learn), and hopefully at least some of it will help.

Rule #1 - Write. Write some more. Write again. The point here is to not stop writing, no matter how many distractions there are.

Rule #2 - Do not edit while you write. One of the hardest things to do is to write without going over and over the words, searching for that "perfect" one.

Rule #3 - Once you've finished the story, go back and edit thoroughly. Given the massive number of possible authors in the world, you don't want to send out something thats half baked.

Rule #4 - Persistence coupled with knowledge is paramount. You want to be persistent, never giving up on finishing your writing projects. If you don't couple that with knowledge however, your writing skill will never improve. Continuing to write without improving your skills through knowledge means you are not getting better. But giving up without learning how to write better is just as bad.

Rule #5 - Find a balance in everything you do. This last one is important, particularly because we all have busy lives with many things going on. Too much of any one thing is not good. Too little of any one thing is not good either. This includes writing. It also includes everything outside of writing.

Its quite possible that we've all heard these things before. Sometimes we need to remind ourselves however, chant the rules like a mantra as we sit down at the desk. And be ready to forgive yourself if you fall off the wagon. Mistakes serve the best purpose when we learn from them.


KLo said...

Your rules are right on target!

I just wish I was able to follow them ;)

Lost Wanderer said...

I have the same problem as you. I tend to get caught up in my interests, neglecting everything else. But I am hoping that this time, writing regularly will stick.

Discipline is just a matter of sheer will. It's damn hard, but we all have to find a way to make it happen for us.

Icy Roses said...

Oh yes. Good rules. I try to not go back and reread things until I'm completely done. Otherwise, I have an intense urge to edit.

Also, writing is a habit that must be maintained. I find when I skip a few days because I'm busy, it's much harder to get back in the swing of things.

Roderckdhu said...

I have two tools that always help me, that I learned through work. I write technical papers and white papers in my profession and they are often deadline driven. My first tool is the clock - I set aside a fixed time and I back the schedule in based on the number of hours I think it is going to take me to do it (about thirty minutes a page). Second, I plot - even non-fiction, perhaps especially non-fiction. Then, once I have the plot down, I follow the plot with discipline. I often edit entire sections and sub-sections complete out of the finished work, but I write them anyway.

Casey McGill said...

I have the opposite problem. I can't stop, no matter the other things I need today. I like being wrapped up in my characters world and when I'm not writing about them, I'm daydreaming about scenes. So far I've been able to fool my teachers into thinking I'm actually taking notes...
I'm just ready to graduate so I can stop balancing it all and just go for it.