three Unhealthy Writing Habits That Cease You Writing (And How To Break Them)

How do you break bad habits? More importantly, how can you break bad writing habits that are preventing you from completing the manuscript you've been talking about for months, maybe even years?

Let's face it: habits are hard to break, especially when it comes to bad writing habits. Writing is a career that requires a lot of self-motivation. In other words, it's the perfect breeding ground for procrastination, distractions, and a world of other bad writing habits that are blocking your writing time.

But there is hope! The best way to break bad writing habits is to first realize that 1) you have them and 2) you need to make the conscious effort to stop. Here are the three worst writing habits – and how to break them.

Bad writing habits have also kept me from writing

Most (probably all) writers are guilty of falling down the rabbit hole with these three habits. I know I am

Especially with the first of my three writing habits to break the list. As soon as I stop for a moment in my writing to Google, you will know very quickly what happens if you contact Google for a response and you get seriously distracted by water bears. I am not joking.

I don't remember now what the "real quick" was for my own novel, but I remember spending an hour learning about these animals. And water bears weren't even in my story!

It is really easy to succumb to the three bad writing habits listed in this post. To save your writing time, I want to teach you what they are – and how to break them.

3 bad writing habits (and how to break them)

All writers are guilty of falling into the rabbit hole with the following three habits. Here's What To Look For And How To Break The Habit:

1. Writing papers that are not your novel

There's a lot of work in a writing career that isn't actually writing. Marketing, website creation, research, newsletters, and interacting with readers on social media or beyond are on the list of things you need to do almost every day to build a successful writing career.

On the path to becoming a writer, it is tempting to take the time you allotted to your manuscript and turn it into time to do anything that has to do with writing.

But that doesn't write.

You can't keep your YA fantasy fans busy with a book that hasn't been written.

There's nothing to post on your website if you don't finish your book. (Blogging is also "paperwork" that feels like writing, but isn't real. You can only blog about how difficult it is to find time to write, especially if you aren't actually writing.)

While research is important, there is no time to write your book either. And there is a very good chance that you will fall into a research hole and never show up.

How to break it

This is seriously the hardest bad writing habit to break. After all, all of these other writing efforts and necessities are work, so it feels productive. Forget that. It's productive – just not the kind of production you need to get your manuscript done.

Your manuscript writing time is your writing time on your manuscript. Period. Then you put your bum in your chair and your fingers on the keyboard, forcing your protagonist into spiraling conflicts that propel them on a journey from start to finish.

That means you have to turn off the internet if it is too tempting. Mute your phone. Close the door to your writing room (if you are lucky enough to have one of these) and turn your attention to the eccentric girl and struggling boy who need it most. Noise-canceling headphones could be a good investment.

"But what about research ?!"

Yes, you have to do some research. But do NOT do it during your writing time. Take some time to learn about the Knights of the Round Table or natural disasters, particularly sandstorms in Middle East Asia.

Regardless of what many writers think, your story has very little to do with research. For the structure of the story, one doesn't need to know which material designers were used to make petticoats in the 17th century. There's no need to come up with the perfect name for the bar your main character loves to visit.

It helps make the story more authentic, sure but required? No it is not.

So do your research, but don't count your research as your novel writing time. And when you need to know the petticoat thing, write it down in your manuscript for future reference. (TK is a great place marker if it helps.)

Pro tip: A good time to research is after your first draft to write your second.

The point is, when you sit down for your writing session, it is time to write your story. Everything else should be kept outside of your writing time.

2. Waiting for the "perfect" writing conditions

There have been a lot of comments on our Instagram posts lately about the perfect writing conditions. We're going to post something about writing even if you don't feel like it, and inevitably someone will say they're waiting for "the same inspiration that started the story" or "for life to calm down".

Look. I get it. When the sun is shining, I'm in a good mood. I have motivation for everything. If it's bleak, I don't. But I live in Ohio and if I waited for the sun to show its face before I started writing, I would write maybe ten days a year. (Okay, that's a bit of an exaggeration, but you get what I'm talking about.)

There are no “perfect” writing conditions. You either write – or you don't.

Life won't calm down.

Are you still waiting for this inspiration? A great way to lose it forever is to wait for it to come back.


A great way to lose your inspiration forever is to wait for it to come back. Write now.

How to break it

You have heard this a million times on this blog and probably every other blog.

Set up a writing routine.

I don't care what your typing routine looks like. You can write naked at 3am and hang upside down from the ceiling as far as I'm interested. What matters is what works for you. When are you most productive? After the coffee? After putting the kids to bed? After performing an incantation asking the gods to fill you with creative spirit? Great. Do that and then write.

And if something doesn't work for you, nothing.

Don't worry about when all the "great writers" write or what they do to get in the mood to put words on paper. You do it. When you find your own production groove, you are encouraged to be consistent.

3. Don't read

The idea that some writers don't read is mind-boggling to me. It's like trying to be a professional basketball player without ever watching a game. How should you learn how to do it if you aren't studying people who have already done it?

I know that you are busy. We are all busy. But reading is a necessity for a writer. It's a serious part of the job. And you should probably enjoy reading if you want to write. If you don't like books, why are you writing one?

Reading can spark ideas, expand your vocabulary, and give you an instinct for the structure of stories.

You have to read

There is no scooting around this. The trick is to make your time reading as comfortable as your time writing.

How to break it


Okay, that was snarky. What I mean is … read.

I've noticed that people view reading as an activity that takes at least as much time to play a game of Monopoly. When you look at it that way, it's a little daunting for a busy person. Just because you can't read for hours every day doesn't mean you can't read at all.

You have more time than you think. What do you do when you take a break from writing or working? What do you do when you wait for water to boil on the stove?

I'm guessing you're pulling out your phone and exercising the muscles. I'm right? If you admitted yes, maybe try whipping out a book (or an audiobook!) Instead. Skip reading the latest Netflix show. Let your new favorite Netflix show be your reward to successfully meet your daily writing goal.

(Note that while reading is a necessity for a writer, neither is writing. See # 1 above.)

Bonus (bad) writing habits

When you think about what it takes to be a successful writer, you can focus on technical writing elements – the way good writers use commas or adverbs or paragraph breaks, for example.

But here's the thing: once you master these technical aspects, you'll become a better writer – but only if you actually write.

Therefore, the main habits that I have focused the most on in this article are those that focus on the lifestyle of successful writers. Seasoned writers take the time to write, actually write during that time (whether they feel inspired or not!), And read a lot.

Would you like some more technical writing tips? I get it. Here are some bad writing habits with articles to help you break them:

When you master these technical writing elements, you can turn bad writing into great writing.

Once you master the three main habits listed above, you can overcome writer's block, master the writing process, and actually create your own writing. This is, to be honest, the first step in producing great writing.

Break a habit this week.

According to psychologists, one of the best ways to break a bad habit is to replace one bad behavior with another, better behavior. Remember to break these bad writing habits in an “if / then” fashion.

For example, if you had to know about petticoat material in the past, you Googled it. Now I want you to replace that behavior by saying, "If I need to know about petticoat material, I'll make a note to look it up later." Then return to writing your manuscript.

I suspect you probably have at least one of these bad writing habits, if not all of them. Pick one and work on breaking it this week.

One last tip! My recommendation, if you have all three bad habits, break the second one on the list first. Think, "If I want to be a writer, I'll do this, this, and that to begin my writing routine." Mine is, "If I have to write, I have to get my tea, go to my writing area, and turn off my phone." At some point, this new behavior becomes a good writing habit.

What bad typing habit are you going to work on this week? Let me know in the comments!


Set a timer for fifteen minutes and write about a character who is trying to break a bad habit. Bonus points if you can make it a unique bad habit! A good example of this is Chapter 1 by bestselling author John Green & # 39; s Turtles All the Way Down, in which Aza Holmes tries to break her bad OCD habit (and you can read the first chapter for free on Amazon).

When you're done, share your writing in the comments. And don't forget to share some thoughts about your colleagues' work!

Sarah Gribble

Sarah GribbleSarah Gribble is the author of dozens of short stories that deal with awkward situations, fundamental fears, and the general awe and fascination of the unknown. She has just published Surviving Death, her first novel, and is currently working on her next book.

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