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Writing Habits


Once a year, I read the first couple of chapters of Jack Bickham’s “Writing and Selling Your Novel.”  I read the book cover to cover when I bought it more than a decade ago. Now, I stick to the first two chapters.

Every time I read the book Bickham’s advice endures. I always turn to this book when I find that my writing is in a slump, my will to write screenplays is flagging or I’m thinking about throwing in the towel.

In the first chapter, “The Professional Attitude” Bickham discusses the characteristics you must develop to become a professional writer. The second shorter chapter “Work Habits and the Imagination” is more practical. As the title suggests, he lays out the work habits that help you consistently get words on the page.

I hate end-of-chapter exercises in writing books. I usually start them in earnest but then give up a few chapters in. But as Bickham writes, “It’s easy to read right past such suggestions. That’s what an amateur – doomed to remain one – will do.” 


So in the interest of breaking bad habits, I decided to record my answers to Bickham’s prompts at the end of the first chapter.

What about your lifestyle, attitudes or work habits has not been professional?

I’m at my most productive at the start of the day. But lately, I have been putting off writing to the very end of the day when the kids are in bed. By then I’m ready to decompress and already making excuses for myself. A one-hour writing session from 9 p.m. turns into 15 to 25 minutes or nothing at all.
What do you plan to do about it?

I will commit to an hour of writing before I go to work and then write for another hour when I get home. Instead of waiting until the kids are in bed I can write for an hour after dinner between 7 and 8 p.m. I can put the kids to bed and then do less important tasks, like cleaning the kitchen and then relax until bedtime. I could also do more writing on the weekends. An hour when I wake up on Saturday and Sunday is doable if we don’t have anything else planned.

I will commit to one Saturday a month where I do a five-hour writing day, and make a recurring reminder so I stick to it.

I will use the internet blocking app Freedom to block the internet when I am working and move my phone to the other side of the room to eliminate distractions.  

Moreover, I need to hold myself accountable by making entries into my weekly/monthly planner. This is one simple thing I can do every day to track goals, hours and page quotas.

There. That’s wasn’t so bad.


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