6 Habits of Successful Writers

In today’s post we’ll be discussing habits that can help support your success in your writing career. Let’s look at successful writers and learn from them.

What Is Success?

But before we delve into the advice giving let’s take a moment to reflect. Why? It’s important to consider what you think it means to be a successful writer.

Does it mean being a New York Times bestseller author? Or having a book published? Does it mean being able to earn an income from your writing? Or does it mean feeling like you’ve improved your writing craft?

Success in writing can mean yes to all of those questions, or none of them. Take a moment to set some goals for what you’d like your writing to mean for you. What would it mean for you to be a successful writer?

Taking a few moments to do this will help you apply the general habits we’ll be discussing in todays post, to your writing.

There’s no ‘one-size-fits-all’ when it comes to writing. But these habits are great places to start and many writers can vouch for their validity.

1. Write Regularly

There’s a reason people say ‘practice makes perfect’. You weren’t surprised to see this one on the list, were you?

There’s no magic button to push that will improve your writing. Though many a writer has wished there were.

Good writing, successful writing (not always the same thing, but often closely related) takes practice. There will be lots of bad drafts, awkward sentences and stray commas ahead of you.

But writing regularly enables you to make steady changes as you see what is most effective in your writing. Have a blog post take off? Attempt to replicate it. Have a character that readers love? What is it about that character that you did well?

Set yourself up well and make a considered effort to write regularly. For most full-time writers (those who make a financial living off writing) this means every day.

No, you don’t have to be writing the next greatest novel – but it’s important to put pen to paper (or fingers to keypad) and practice with words on a daily basis.

Your practice doesn’t have to be public, and the amount of time is up to you. This time is for you and your craft.

Some ways to write regularly?

  • Write in a journal.
  • Write a short story
  • Start a blog
  • Get into letter writing
  • Play with word magnets (here’s some cool ones)
  • Use a writing prompt program (like this one)
  • Work on your novel

For me personally, I’m a big fan of incorporating a few of these into my week (though I don’t yet have word magnets). As a freelance writer and editor – words are my job, and I love it! It means I have hours a day dedicated to writing.

Not everyone is in my position, so find what works for you. There is a big debate around whether you should ‘write everyday’ and there are valid reasons people struggle with that pressure. While I’d encourage you to consider a daily habit, so long as it’s regular that’s great. I like to have weekends away from writing to recharge!

Just don’t leave weeks, or even months between writing anything at all.

A writer who waits for ideal conditions under which to work will die without putting a word on paper.

E.B White

Famous writers who wrote regularly?

SO many! But here’s a few

  • Anthony Trollope
  • Stephen King
  • Henry Miller

2. Get Critique

Writing, for the most part, is something we do alone. Just us and a page or a blinking curser on the screen.

But it doesn’t have to be like that all the time – and in fact, you may be missing out if it is! You can gain valuable insight into writing by getting critique.

Finding writing buddies or critique partners can also encourage you. No one knows the struggle of killing off a loved character, like another writer. Finding it hard to fit writing into your life? So do many people, so it’s nice to have them to talk to when you need some help.

Looking at our own work and spotting the areas for growth is sometimes hard! That’s why we need another set of eyes. Find someone who can read your writing and discuss how you could improve.

Where do I find writing buddies?

  • Instagram
  • Facebook groups
  • Writing groups (check your local library)
  • People you know
  • Conventions

Some famous writing buddies?

Even those who are considered successful attribute much of their success to their fellow writers. All of these writers have had success both individually, and as a result of their collaboration with others.

  • C.S Lewis & J.R.R Tolkien
  • Jay Kristoff & Amie Kaufmann
  • Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman
  • John Green & Maureen Johnson

What about the professionals?

Getting critique from writing buddies prepares us to be for critique from those in the writing industry. Reviewers, editors, publishers and readers will have something to say about your book at some stage. It’s a good idea to have a trusted someone to look over the writing before then.

Paying for a beta-read or edit can be helpful as you grow your writing.

3. Don’t Wait for Inspiration

If only inspiration could be summoned at will. The concept of ‘writers block’ is one most are familiar with.

But if you’ve talked to those who have been successful in their writing, they typically write their way through a problem. Or come up with an alternative solution.

For the ideas to show up, you need to be there. I believe you can train your mind to be receptive and build habits that will help you make the most of inspiration.

Because yes, inspiration can come at strange times – that’s why shower white boards exist! Or in my case, the notes app on my phone… But most of the time, inspiration doesn’t hit us on demand – this can mean you wait around and nothing comes!

Instead, stretch yourself creatively to encourage ideas. Maybe it’s working on a different project for a little while, or writing in another style. Keep your mind engaged in writing while the problem works in the background – you may find it comes quicker to you that way!

I don’t believe in writer’s block. Think about it — when you were blocked in college and had to write a paper, didn’t it always manage to fix itself the night before the paper was due? Writer’s block is having too much time on your hands. If you have a limited amount of time to write, you just sit down and do it. You might not write well every day, but you can always edit a bad page. You can’t edit a blank page.

Jodi Picoult

4. Self Care

This point isn’t one that often comes up. But it’s okay to take a break. You need to care for yourself.

Writers are often seen as eccentric, emotionally erratic people sitting in their trackies (sweatpants for non-Aussies) drinking too much coffee and crying over fictional people. But it’s not healthy.

Yes, some people might produce writing in that condition – but at what cost? And is it really worth it?

Writing is a wonderful aspect of life, but to enjoy it to the fullest, you need to care for all other aspects of your life too.

Take the time to give yourself a ‘writers check-up’.

  • How do you feel emotionally?
  • When did you last hang out with friends or family?
  • Are you connected spiritually? (For those who may be religious)
  • How’s your physical health?

Once you’ve done a take of the situation, think about what you can do to improve, or continue to foster healthy a writers life.

Some ideas?

  • Ask yourself when will I exercise today? What will I do to get moving? (Don’t ask will I, that’s too easy to say no to!) Go for a walk around the block or do a Youtube workout.
  • Schedule a ‘wellbeing day’ – Take yourself on a date to do something you enjoy. Go to a gallery, or get a drink in that fancy cafe you’ve been stalking on Instagram. Do something you enjoy, and do it regularly.
  • Catch up with loved ones – movie night anyone?
  • Turn off your screens! It can be freeing.
  • Put on clothes that make you feel good. Put the trackies in the wash.

Famous writers routines?

5. Establish Your Routine

Find what works for you and do it regularly. Incorporate into your routine practices that develop your writing.

Maybe your routine is based on weekly, fortnightly or monthly cycle. Perhaps your day could be structured differently to be more productive.

Productivity in your routine doesn’t have to mean the words are awesome. But they’re there, and each one of them is helping you improve.

I write a lot of material that I know I’ll throw away. It’s just part of the process. I have to write hundreds of pages before I get to page one.

Barbara Kingsolver

6. Read

Reading is a wonderful thing! Reading the words others have written broadens our vocabulary and understanding of different genres.

Spending time to read is invaluable writers.

What should I read?

Whatever you can! But I would say that reading can have different purposes. Reading for enjoyment for example, is quite different to reading for critique.

Both have a role to play in helping your writing improve. Reflect on what you’ve read and discuss with others what makes books great (or not so great).

So whether it’s a book on writing craft, or a cozy mystery, pick up a tome and turn those pages.

Read, read, read. Read everything — trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You’ll absorb it.

Then write. If it’s good, you’ll find out. If it’s not, throw it out of the window

William Faulkner

Happy Writing!

Thanks for reading today’s post! I hope you found it useful. Do you have any writing habits you’ve established? Tell me about your writing habits in the comments on this post!

If you’d like more book, writing and editing content – feel free to subscribe! Or come say hi to me on social media @stephhuddlestonwriting

Hi! I'm Steph, a freelance writer for hire based in Australia. I'm an avid reader and love all things bookish! My blog is all about the written word.

One thought on “6 Habits of Successful Writers

  1. I love that writing regularly is #1, and that point #3 serves to hammer that point in even more. A lot of writers only write when they’re inspired—which sometimes is less than once a week—and I find that terribly lacking if you want to be an actual writer. Thanks for this awesome list, Steph!

    Like

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