Cover of "Breakfast at Tiffany's"

Cover of Breakfast at Tiffany's

Last month’s posts featured successful female writers whose accomplishments may seem impossible for some of us to emulate. After all, how many of us twenty-first writers would write and publish one hundred books in our lifetime? Or maybe fifty? Twenty-five? Ten? Writing a book can be hard work, but with motivation and persistence you can succeed. If you examine the writing habits of your favorite writers you would find that their labels for success mimic those of  successful people in other fields. Let’s examine some of them. 

Be Consistent: I’m sure you’ve heard it before. In order to become a writer you must write. Not sporadic bursts of genius when the moon is in your favorite sign, but spontaneous jottings everyday. They may make you cringe when you read them later on, but that’s what rewriting is for. Stephen King writes 10 pages a day every day, holidays included. He is one of our most prolific writers. Joyce Carol Oates also writes every day, whether she feels like it or not.  If you write one page a day, in one year you would have written 365 pages, enough for one novel.

Read widely: You are a writer, but you still need to read. Read voraciously. Don’t confine your reading only to those topics in which you have an interest. If you’re a romance writer, read some sci fi now and then. If you’re a mystery writer, read some romance. It will stimulate your brain to form new pathways that will spark your creativity. And while you’re reading, study some books on your craft. You can never learn enough.

Be passionate: I think one of the things that set successful writers apart from the rest is the passion that comes through in their writing.  If what you write does not come from deep inside you, you will not reach the insides of others. Toni Morrison says, “At some point … I realized there was a book that I wanted very much to read that really hadn’t been written, and so I sort of played around with it in trying to construct the kind of book I wanted to read. ”

Know yourself:  What are your writing strengths? Is it mystery writing, poetry, chick lit or literary prose? When you discover your strengths you can work on improving them. A writer’s conference or writing program where you get to work with a mentor or editor can help you uncover your strengths as well as your weaknesses. A good critique group will also be helpful. 

Consider time: What  is your most productive time? Is it early morning before your household is up, or  late at night when everyone is asleep? What time of day sparks your creativity?  Early morning works best for me, before my mind is cluttered with the demands of the day. Ernest Hemingway, Toni Morrison and Joyce Carol Oates are famous early-morning writers.

Consider place: I would love to have a nook in the woods somewhere with birds chirping and a gentle breeze caressing my cheeks as I churn out my masterpiece. But that is not forthcoming, so instead I position myself near a window where I can see the trees and a red robin now and then. You may prefer a nice, posh office with all the technology at your disposal. If that’s your style, then go for it. But it’s important to have a special place where you go to meet with your characters or your idea.

Consider style: As a writer  you’re entitled to  some eccentricity. Are you most comfortable writing in your PJs, or do you prefer to dress up like you were going to the office? And what’s your favorite writing posture? Sitting cross-legged on a Japanese-style cushion in the middle of the floor? How about lying down, like Truman Capote author of Breakfast at Tiffany’s or standing like Vladimir Nabokov, author of Lolita? Do you prefer soft music playing in the background, or complete silence? Must have a cup of coffee, tea and lemon, water or nothing? This is your world. Create it the way you want it to be and you’ll create a masterpiece.

You may have some unique writing habits that you would like to share with us. Please do so in the comments box below, or just let me know if this article has helped you any.


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