If you are anything like me you have four or five books outlined in your head, or even in a document. You may even have started writing one or two of them. I have a good 10000 words down for one of mine. But “finally writing a book” has been on my to-do list for the past four or five years.
I’ve decided that actually getting it done needs me to make some kind of change – a change in my habits and way of working.
The habits of published writers have been dissected and reflected on and so we know that writing is about discipline and that successful writers cultivate the habit of writing. Among prolific writer Henry Miller’s commandments for writing we find:
- Work on one thing at a time until finished.
- Don’t be nervous. Work calmly, joyously, recklessly on whatever is in hand.
- Work according to Program and not according to mood. Stop at the appointed time!
- Keep human! See people, go places, drink if you feel like it.
- Forget the books you want to write. Think only of the book you are writing.
- Write first and always. Painting, music, friends, cinema, all these come afterwards.
I can see I need to work on 1 and 5, but I like 4 too!
I’ve learned in my academic life that the only way to make sure that research papers get written is to schedule time for writing and then to guard that time ferociously. Students and colleagues who knock on my office door when the “I’m writing” sign is up, get snarled at. It also helps to make writing fun and to do it in great surroundings, hence the growth of writing retreats at universities.
An interesting outcome of writing retreats has been the realisation that, while the actual act of writing is solitary, there are lots of supporting roles for other people to play in the process. My academic writing has benefitted from the support of colleagues to egg me on, give advice, suggest new directions, make me stick to deadlines and generally to commiserate during the process. Those who attend retreats are pleasantly surprised at how productive they can be writing in a room full of writers.
While I have academic colleagues on tap, when it comes to the other books I want to write, I don’t have much opportunity to include others in the process. So part of the story of Better is to make those opportunities. I am hoping that Better is going to be habit-forming. I certainly want to use it to improve my own writing habits and perhaps it will help you to improve yours.
Better offers a conducive environment and the company and support of other writers. If you are a writer with experiences to share, or an aspirant writer wanting to establish new habits, come along to our Regular Writer’s Tea on Friday mornings for a chat.