It happened the first time I committed to NANOWRIMO. I became a slightly different person, a more intense version of myself. In looking back at the last two years since becoming a self-published author, I realize how much I’ve changed. Here is a list of ten habits I acquired when I decided to stop writing in isolation and become a published author.
1. Likely the most common habit, I started losing track of the time at night. This is because I was either in writer’s groups on Facebook learning or staying up chasing an idea. When this happens, it means you are catching the spark. Be thankful. It’s not a bad habit. It certainly beats falling asleep in front of a TV show.
2. Getting hooked on a favorite show on Netflix (Hulu, Roky, whatever). Please don’t confuse this with falling asleep in front of the TV. This habit is awesome because a show that can hook me most likely has excellent writers. With subscription services, I can watch as much or as little as I want and not be seduced by endless products or others shows being previewed. One show that inspired me was Mad Men. The main characters were writers; they all lived in a time of rapid social and political change, and many of them underwent great changes themselves. Of course, I binge-watched it and sometimes I was writing while it played. Lately, I’ve taken to re-watching it and leaving it on in the background while I was at my computer editing for my upcoming sequel to Detours in Time. When you re-watch a series, every little nuance becomes more prominent. It’s a good thing, as long as you are not laid out on the couch. I’ll keep this one!
3. Carrying a little notebook around. I started doing this the same summer I was bingeing on Mad Men. I had started noticing that some of my ideas and thoughts really tickled me, but then I would later sit down to write and not remember a lick of them. I’d be at appointments and get these ideas, only to lose them later. The little notebook was helpful to record these, and it also came in handy when I started responding to prompts on online writing sites (a great way to practice writing skills, by the way). Well, I later got a Smartphone after blogging steadily on WordPress and found the WordPress app. I’ve stored a few ideas in my WordPress drafts that I would have otherwise been lost. It’s the digital version of the little notebook… Definitely a keeper!
4. Coffee. I can multi-task best with plenty of coffee. However, I will not sleep well. As a writer, I have learned that it is tempting to let the coffee drive me, but it is not good for my health. This is just me; we are all different. I don’t care what others say, I have to get my sleep. No coffee after 10 a.m. for me. On certain days, I’ll even limit myself to half a cup. This is because my stress levels and arthritis sometimes seem to do better with less coffee. Yet, I have still found time to write and/or edit. I should mention I also have a full-time job that is quite stressful. Calm is a good thing! This is one habit I am planning to always keep in check.
5. Continuing to write while you eat lunch/dinner, etc. I’ve done this. I probably won’t stop. I can see that some stressful times would be more relaxing if I stopped working long enough to eat. It won’t make you lose weight to keep right on working; rather, it will lead to you mindlessly making your way to the bottom of a bag of chips while typing with the other hand. I’m serious. I am seeing a need for balance here. Sometimes it’s worth multi-tasking, other times you just need to take a break.
6. Writing in the morning before work. This is another multi-tasking nightmare, but as long as I can get to work just before I’m due, I will be writing in the morning! That’s when I’m drinking my coffee and the brain juices get started. I’ll type away while my hair is drying. I may end up with only fifteen minutes to write, but something will occur to me that I have to get down in words. One day I’ll be disciplined enough to set an alarm to make myself right for 30-60 minutes in the morning. Maybe… Really, ideas are a horrible thing to lose. This time in the morning can be very valuable. As long as I get to work on time, it’s a keeper!
7. Avoiding anything social because you are working on that novel! It’s too easy to do. The ideas and characters can easily take place of a social life. Again, I think it’s going to come down to an exercise in balance. I’ll let you know if I ever actually achieve success in this.
8. Keeping the cell phone next to you while writing. That cell phone is a distraction. There are times I know I need to separate from that thing. It’s much too easy to reach over and scroll through Facebook or jump into a group chat that actually could go on without me. Separate yourself from the cell phone if you truly want to get some writing done.
9. Only writing first drafts by hand or only typing. I’m sure there’s a reason we all have our preferences. However, when I broke out of it, I was able to get some writing done during NANOWRIMO on a weekend trip. I only got a few hundred words handwritten on that paper, but it was the start of an idea. Getting the idea on paper, whether written or typewritten, means it can’t be lost, and it can lead to so much more. I prefer typing because I can increase the font if needed (always) and change things very easily right away. Be willing to break the habit. You can always return to your preferred method.
10. Neglecting your blog or not blogging at all while writing or editing a novel. This may depend on deadlines, but don’t neglect the blog completely. I decided to blog at least once a week during the busier times in a book’s cycle, especially drafting or editing. What I’ve done lately is just stick to one themed post weekly as part of a blogging community. Blogger’s communities can be very supportive. Weekend Coffee Share became my only blog outlet, but it meant I was still being read and I met new bloggers who participate in the coffee share. Recently, one of them bought my book, Detours in Time while I was at work editing the sequel! Why? Because I mentioned my hard work on revising in my Weekend Coffee Share. Keeping my blog going has helped me identify who my readers might be. After two years, I am still building my author platform, and the blog is just a part of that platform and a writer’s network. I never want to abandon that!
As you can see, there are ups and downs to these habits I have acquired. Not being very social means I have saved some money, only to spend it on graphic design and editing. Eating while working, however, means I have made my way mindlessly through a bag of chips a few times without realizing it. Come to think of it, it’s probably time for me to get up and take a short walk.