By Sian Toop
There is some debate between scientists on how long it really takes to form a new habit, with answers varying between 18 to 254 days. Yet, the new year is a great time to take stock of what we want to achieve, and inevitably, if we set a goal, it means implementing a new habit. As writers, many of our goals include things like ‘write my first novel’ or ‘have my poems published’, so who is better to look to for inspiration other than authors with celebrated success? Below, we will look at some healthy writing habits you can start in 2023 and the authors who inspire them.
Write every morning like Ernest Hemingway
The days are busy, and as aspiring writers, the dream is to have all day every day to write (and daydream) uninterrupted. Writing every morning before the day gets away from you is a great way to guarantee that you get those words on the page. In an interview for The Paris Review, Ernest Hemingway shared his habit of writing at dawn:
When I am working on a book or a story, I write every morning as soon after first light as possible. There is no one to disturb you, and it is cool or cold, and you come to your work and warm as you write. You read what you have written and, as you always stop when you know what is going to happen next, you go on from there. You write until you come to a place where you still have your juice and know what will happen next and you stop and try to live through until the next day when you hit it again. You have started at six in the morning, say, and may go on until noon or be through before that.
No phones for Nathan Englander
The average person spends 4.8 hours a day on mobile phone apps. Now, take a moment and think about how many words you could write in that time. A writer that has eliminated his phone as a distraction is Nathan Englander. When The Daily Beast asked what advice he would give to an aspiring author, Englander responded:
Turn off your cell phone. Honestly, if you want to get work done, you’ve got to learn to unplug. No texting, no email, no Facebook, no Instagram. Whatever it is you’re doing, it needs to stop while you write.
Maintain a routine like Haruki Murakami
Start treating writing as part of your routine. The same as brushing your teeth every day, writing should become something you do every day without fail. A writer famous for his routine is Haruki Murakami.
In a 2004 interview with The Paris Review, Murakami shared his ‘mode’ when writing a novel:
When I’m in writing mode for a novel, I get up at four a.m. and work for five to six hours. In the afternoon, I run for ten kilometers or swim for fifteen hundred meters (or do both), then I read a bit and listen to some music. I go to bed at nine p.m.
I keep to this routine every day without variation. The repetition itself becomes the important thing; it’s a form of mesmerism. I mesmerize myself to reach a deeper state of mind.
There’s no such thing as writers block for Jodi Picoult
If you are naturally prone to procrastination, you may find yourself blaming your lack of ability to maintain a writing habit on ‘writer’s block’. Bestselling author Jodi Picoult believes there’s no such thing as writer’s block and that it’s better to have a full page of mediocre words ready for editing than no words at all:
I don’t believe in writer’s block. Think about it—when you were blocked in college and had to write a paper, didn’t it always manage to fix itself the night before the paper was due? Writer’s block is having too much time on your hands. If you have a limited amount of time to write, you just sit down and do it. You might not write well every day, but you can always edit a bad page. You can’t edit a blank page.
And finally, embrace the first draft, like Barbara Kingsolver
The first draft is never the finished novel, and a great writer knows how to rewrite, rewrite and rewrite some more. In a 2012 interview, Barbara Kingsolver discussed her writing, stating:
I write a lot of material that I know I’ll throw away. It’s just part of the process. I have to write hundreds of pages before I get to page one.