Welcome to a new series of blog posts titled “Authors’ Tips – A to Z of Writing”. Authors Devika Fernando, Preethi Venugopala, Reet Singh, Ruchi Singh, Adite Banerjie, Saiswaroopa Iyer and I — will be posting on a multitude of subjects related to writing.
Topics will be chosen alphabetically and each week we propose to cover at least one or more subjects characterised by the Alphabet of the Week.
Here I am to talk about Habits of Successful Writers. I’ll start with a famous quote by Doris Lessing.
“There are no laws for the novel. There never have been, nor can there ever be.”
In other words, there are no rules that every writer MUST follow. Yet, the Internet and books are full of writing rules and tips that prove handy for procrastination. Stephen King tells us to read a lot. Reading is research and learning for us. Ernest Hemingway suggests that writing is all about bleeding at the typewriter. And of course, there is an abundance of advice about writing style. For example, King warns us against using too many adverbs. He says that’ll take us to hell.
There are others who swear by the 5am rule. Or earlier. Wake up and start your day with your words, they say. For us night owls, that rule can be painful. Another famous piece of writing advice suggests that we need to write every single day of the year to be a real writer. Again, that may not be an easy goal for some of us.
Some writers like to aim for a certain number of pages or word count each day. I do that too. So whenever I am working on a first draft, I make sure that I get down at least 1000 words each day. Some authors prefer to aim for a chapter a day or count their productivity in terms of hours worked rather than the output. Like Charles Dickens, who would stick to a strict schedule including his daily writing sessions. Some say that the famous Tolstoy kept his study locked from all sides to prevent anyone from disturbing his precious writing time. Forced isolation to get the job done was his method.
Fast forward to 2019, you will come across all sorts of members in the writing community if you monitor writers’ habits on social media. I’ve come across many who write every day and are proud members of what they call the 5am Writers’ Club. And then there are those who prefer to get the day’s work and chores out of the way before settling down for a writing session while the rest of the world sleeps.
For a writer, our place of work is very important. Some full time authors have a cozy writing room with desk and peace and quiet. Others have a desk in their bedroom where they try to write in sprints. There are also some like me, who find themselves typing away to glory in mostly quiet coffee shops. Not on weekends or evenings when it gets too noisy, unless noise-cancelling headphones are your thing.
Good mental and physical health are a part of a successful writer’s life too. Even with the old stereotype of creative people being depressed and/or suicidal, I see most writers, especially full timers, building a schedule that lets them fit in time for self care and fitness. Daily walks, running, a sport, Zumba classes — anything to keep your brain and body well. Every time I get back from a walk or the gym, I feel more energised and ready to write the next bit. With writing being a sedentary job, this is a good habit to acquire.
In addition to all this, I find all writers, including the bestsellers, dedicating time to marketing either daily or weekly or hiring an assistant to make sure that the author brand is built as the writing gets done. Book marketing is a major part of the successful writer’s life.
In a nutshell, you need to pick the time and place that works for you but you must be consistent. You need to read. You need to write. You need to market yourself and your books. And you need to take good care of yourself to be successful.