Capitalize on Your Habits to Write Your Best Book

On Throwback Thursday, we’re looking at excerpts from past posts on Live Write Thrive.

Today’s post is from  How Your Habits Help You Write a Book by Alex Strike.

Writing is not an easy process at all. I’d realized it once I tried to write my very first article on the topic of gambling. Yes, the topic is not the best and noblest one, but even something seemingly easy to write about posed a problem for me. Have you ever tried to describe the rules of playing blackjack in a way that it would be interesting even for people who had never heard of this game at all? Believe me, it is not easy.

And now, when some of my friends try to persuade me that every person can write, I just smile and do not even try to change their minds because it would simply be a waste of time. To understand the process of writing, one should try writing at least something.

Now that I have more than a hundred articles published, I’ve changed my mind about writing, and I can’t imagine how I could have lived without it before. I’ve started my first book, and I use everything that can help me to write faster and better–even my habits.

It’s surprising how your habits help you write! Do you want to know what habits you can use to improve your writing? Well, I will try to explain it to you.

Are You a Visualizer?

I am. When someone tells me a story or a situation that happened to him, I can imagine and visualize it at once. Just try to imagine yourself sitting at the computer and typing the next chapter of your future book. Can you see how your story is being born word by word? This is a great technique to wake up your muse and start writing. Just try it. I am doing it right now actually; I am writing these words and see myself typing them.

Well, I agree that it sounds a bit strange, but it really works.

Are You a Time Manager?

Have you heard of Stephen King? Sure you have. He has a habit (well, he developed this habit) of writing a thousand words every day. A writer should always find time for writing if he wants to start and finish his book. One should be a good time manager to arrange a day in a way to find time for everything (work, hobbies, spending time with family), including the process of writing.

So having a habit of managing your time every day can help you a lot. You will definitely finish your book … in time.

Are You a Perfectionist?

I am. And that is why it was really difficult for me to develop the habit of acceptance. I wanted my articles and stories to look perfect from the very beginning, and that is why I thought a lot about every sentence and phrase to use, but that was my main mistake.

Try to accept your writing as it is. Writing is a process, so, just write as if you were talking to your friends and telling them a story. You will always have time to proofread your writing and make all necessary changes afterward. The habit of acceptance can help you more than you think: it will save your time on writing, as you will not sit and think on every sentence for hours.

Are You Easy to Distract?

Nothing can be worse for a writer than distractions! And if you are easy to distract, then get ready to fail with finishing your first (and only) book. Develop the habit of ignoring different kinds of distractions (birds singing outside the window, for example, or your kids watching TV in the room next to yours), as they are the killers of your inspiration if you pay attention to them.

When I write, the only thing I hear is music in my headphones. And when the members of my family see me in these headphones, they understand that I am “out.” I turn my phone off, forget about my social networks and e-mails … Well, a cup of coffee still distracts me from time to time, but it inspires me as well, so, this is not a problem at all.

Are You a Reader?

You can’t be a writer if you do not like reading. Believe me! (well, and Stephen King too, as it was he who described this in his book On Writing). Try to develop a habit of reading every day, and discover new authors and their styles for yourself, as they can easily inspire you on writing your own masterpiece.

I read every day, even if it is just one page of an ebook. Try to schedule time for reading every day, and you will soon see how much easier, faster, and more pleasant the process of your writing becomes.

And One Bonus Tip from a Crazy Author

Always open your mind to new ideas even if they look totally crazy at the first sight. You can find inspiration everywhere: music, children, nature, new billboards in the streets, movies, your neighbor, etc. Your future protagonist can come to you in dreams or say you hello in the queue of a supermarket. The main thing is not to pass by him.

And (what is even better): write your ideas down once they appear! Yes, even if it happens at night. Just have a pen and a notebook nearby. Believe me, you will forget your cool ideas once you’ve woken up the next morning. Yes, writing all ideas down can become a very good habit of every author as well.

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  1. All of the above I’m happy to say, especially the last tip – on go my headphones, I write in perfect bliss to Mozart, Handel, et. al and my plot unrolls, the characters running along trying to catch up.

    1. Thanks for the comment, Susannah!

      Music is my savior 🙂 And my choice for writing is jazz. It somehow inspires me and makes me write faster and more accurate. Magic!


  2. Hi Alex, good points especially the one about distractions. When I was writing my first two thrillers which were published twenty years ago I found it very easy to focus even though my son was a little boy back then. Now, I have returned to writing fiction, trying to get my third novel published, and even though I am in an “empty nest” and it should be easier there are more distractions today than there ever were back then.
    There is always something to read on one’s ipad, or the phone pings with a text or message or you feel you are missing out on something if you’re not checking your email or social network sites. That is what I find the biggest reason for procrastinating.
    Once I sit down to write, I can switch off usually, but first I have to read all my online newspapers, and my emails and check various sites and blogs, and then there’s always an article to be working on for the website you are supposed to have as an author. Of course that’s writing too, And sometimes I love writing for the website more than sitting down and crafting my novel, but it doesn’t necessarily move one’s book along.

    1. Hi, Joanna!

      Yes, distractions are everywhere today. The world becomes faster, more technological, and… online, actually. When I write, I turn off all notifications from email and social media; otherwise, it’s impossible to concentrate – I want to check inbox right here and now worrying I could miss something important 🙂 Plus, I do not have social media apps on my smartphone: they drive me crazy with dozens of notifications daily.

      Happy writing and good luck with your third novel!


    1. Hi Rayne, I don’t find I can turn this weakness (which is a big one of mine) into an advantage at all. Some habits are hard to capitalize on! For me, the best way to deal with that tendency to be easily distracted is to make it hard to get distracted. I talk about this in some of my posts on procrastination. I find when I really need to buckle down, I unplug. I’ve gone up to a mountain for days to plot out a book where this is no cell service or electricity. I fight it because I want to answer every email immediately. But while this is extreme, you can do variations of this. Go to a park or someplace where there isn’t Internet. Leave your phone in the car. We have become a hugely short-attention-span society now, with over stimulation and distraction at every turn. It’s that “information sickness” that can melt our brains.

      1. Thanks. I just wondered, because the title of this blog post is ‘Capitalize on Your Habits’, so I’d hoped for a creative way to turn the habit into a plus for my writing.
        I guess the title seduced me into expecting something really good. 🙂 #ifonly

        1. Yeah, I get that. The person who wrote this post (not me) suggests using headphones and tuning out distractions. But that’s not capitalizing on a habit; it’s a way to work past or through it. But I’ll share this: I capitalize on my tendency to get distracted by having a lot of projects and tasks going on all at once. I guess I might be a bit ADD. So I’ll maybe work on one thing for an hour, then switch to another. Also, since I know that having a pile-up of emails distracts me, I try to take care of those first thing in the morning and when important ones crop up. That seems to help me “go” with the distraction,” then get back to the immediate task at hand.

          1. Thanks. Switching between tasks (after focussing one each for a apecific time) works for me too. Well, mostly. What doesn’t work for me is getting the email out of the way before writing. The email takes longer than expected and leads to further distractions, and then before I know my allocated writing time is gone. 🙁
            Regarding the title/content discrepancy… hmm, I think this illustrates a title’s power to raise expectations. 🙂

          2. The person who wrote this post (me) didn’t tell (and didn’t plan to tell) anything about capitalizing on habits 🙂 The original title said “How Your Habits Help You Write a Book”, and there was nothing about capitalizing in it.

            So, I believe Rayne was confused by the edited title that, as we can see, attracts the attention of a reader but disappoints him afterward by not giving answers he expected to find inside.

          3. Right, the title was my variation in order to separate from the original posting, which is what I do on Throwback Thursdays. While I agree using the word “capitalize” may imply something a little different from “help,” the idea is the same. Your post is about how your habits can be useful (hence, utilized) in the effort to write a book. I think the semantics isn’t really an issue. Rayne had a good question on how a habit of being distracted could help one write a book (capitalizing on that habit to benefit by it). I tried to come up with possible ways such a habit could help a person write a book. Maybe you have some further thoughts on that? All in all, I don’t think the revised title is misleading or promising anything different.

          4. —-
            Interesting… Maybe there’s an insight here about titles work, how they attract and raise expectations for the content, and perhaps this applies not just to blog posts, but to books as well.

            As an avid reader (500 books a year) I’ve sometimes come across a book that frustrated me because the content didn’t deliver what the title promised.

            I remember a book about doing workouts with a chair – some seated exercises, some standing. It was an excellent book, really first rate. But the title was ‘Get Fit While You Sit’ and that was misleading. I wonder if the author had a more relevant title, and someone in the marketing department slapped on a different one they thought sounded catchier. Although the book was superb, as a reader/user I felt angry about being misled.

            Another instance was a fantasy novel, part of a series. The series had been dormant for decades, then the author picked it up again. The title was clearly chosen to jolt all the old fans of the series, promising something we would need to find out about. It turned out that the book wasn’t about that at all. The event promised in the title didn’t happen. Nothing remotely related happened. It was as if a marketing person had decided what title would get the attention of old fans, and imposed that title without considering the actual content.
            I felt cheated, and so did other fans, and our anger showed in our reviews.

            In the case of this blog post and title – the idea of capitalising on my habits drew me in. I don’t know if I would have read the post otherwise. I might have, but not with the same interest.

            Does ‘capitalize’ really say something different than ‘use’? I think in this context it means the same – turning the weaknesses into strengths-, though ‘capitalise’ says it much stronger and thus raises bigger expectations.

            With the word ‘use’ in the title, I might have felt only mild disappointment, shrugged it off and forgotten about it immediately. With the word ‘capitalize’ my disappointment was big enough to write a comment. And I’m writing a long comment now, so clearly the topic has stayed in my mind. 🙂

            Rayne Hall

  3. Talk about distractions! This was a great post thanks Alex. Turn your weaknesses into strengths, make the most of your opportunities when you can, call it what you like, but just do it! Who cares what it’s called? I like these ideas. The best tip for me was to get those social media apps off my smart phone. Reading ABOUT writing is my biggest downfall and won’t get the job done! So obvious! I have an iPad, which I can delve into before bed – reward for reaching my word goal for the day. Thanks again.

  4. Jay you just crystallized what I have been trying to distill onto a simple phrase for decades – ‘Reading ABOUT writing is my biggest downfall and won’t get the job done.’ Thanks. Bob

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