Make it a habit to read work that matches roughly what you hope to write and publish. Read the kind of books you’d like to write, the poems you’d like to write, the articles you’d like to write for magazines. Make it as important as anything else you schedule in your day, and never allow busyness to crowd out the time you devote to consuming other good works.
Here’s a little ray of writing sunshine: It’s easy to assume absolutely, finitely, without question that writing everyday leads to a productive writing career.
To be clear, for some people it does.
But contrary to the common advice that writing every day is essential to being a writer, “no particular work schedule is associated with high productivity. Even working on a regular basis yields a mixed pattern of results” (as cited in Kellogg, 1994, p. 194).
Further research is needed to investigate the question of whether the advice to write every day is sound advice or if it is just a fallacious argument that we think is true because so many say it is.
Take your eyes off the price and put them on the prize. It’s important to write about things that matter to you. Moral intelligence creates authenticity in a writer. Set yourself something in writing that you are willing to reach for and, therefore, take risks for.
“Writing, the creative effort, the use of the imagination, should come first,–at least for some part of every day of your life. It is a wonderful blessing if you will use it. You will become happier, more enlightened, alive, impassioned, lighthearted and generous to everyone else.”
— Brenda Ueland, If You Want to Write
Monday is a good day to start a new writing project. Research, bonafied peer-reviewed research, suggests that we may be more likely to actually follow through with our writing goals, if we start on a Monday rather than another day of the week. Monday signals a new beginning; and a new beginning provides a motivating and meaningful fresh start. Researchers found that this fresh start effect may have a serious impact on our real world behaviors. Essentially we are more empowered and motivated to pursue our goals when we start on a Monday.
“You should write because you love the shape of stories and sentences and the creation of different words on a page.”
— Annie Proulx. Her short story “Brokeback Mountain” was adapted as the major motion picture released in 2005.
Writing is a skill you must practice to hone. If you practice badly, eventually you’ll get really, really good at being really, really bad. You get good at writing by practicing the right things, instead of just writing whatever comes into your head. To write well, you have to internalize the basic sound and feel of good writing—which is something you can do by rote copying of excellent writing models.
To do this: pick a writer you admire. Find some of their work, and copy it, either with pen/pencil in your writer’s journal or on the computer. There is evidence that the mechanical act of copying great models is the key to rapid improvement. Plus, it can be a meditative practice, as it asks us to settle in and be present with the words, which I, personally, love.
I took a poetry writing class during my PhD. I was the only student who had never written poetry. The other students? Heck, one of them had been nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in poetry! To get the most benefit from the class, I needed to get up to speed, fast! My methodology was simple: For writing practice, I copied the works of great poets. Every day, in my writing journal, on the left hand page, I would copy a poem or if the poem was really long, a passage from it. On the right hand side, I would write my own poem using the same style. By the end of the term, I was writing better poems that some of my class mates, and since then I’ve had a poem published and been an invited reader at two poetry readings. Does the method work? You tell me.