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8 Tips for Breaking Bad Writing Habits

To be a successful writer, you need to identify and break your bad writing habits. These tips will help you achieve your writing goals – whether you want to sign on with a literary agent or write more regular blog posts.

Before the tips, a quip:

“A professional writer is an amateur who didn’t quit.” – Richard Bach.

If you have the bad habit of giving up on article pitches, book proposals, or novels – then you’ll never be the successful writer you dream of! These eight tips for breaking bad writing habits will help.

If your bad habit involves writing skills, read When Good People Write Bad Sentences: 12 Steps to Better Writing Habits by Robert Harris.

8 Tips for Breaking Bad Writing Habits

1. Determine what you want to change. To break a bad writing habit, you need to know what you want to accomplish. Do you want to get an agent, a publishing contract, or a writing assignment from a magazine? “Start fresh by getting clear about what you want,” says psychologist Kenneth Herman, author of Secrets of the Sofa. “What do you want to accomplish or attain? If nothing was holding you back from realizing your dreams, what would make you happy?”

2. Examine your current approach. Say you want a book publishing contract (I know I do!) What are you presently doing, and is it taking you closer to or away from your goal? “Don’t stay with what has been safe and comfortable,” says. Dr Herman. Be ruthless when you look at your current approach, and eliminate the obstacles to creating healthy writing habits.

3. Make a specific plan. What’s the next step in your writing career? If you want to a publishing house to accept your book proposal or manuscript, then figure out the exact steps that will get you there. Being vague and dreamy will not help you break bad writing habits!

4. Seek practical solutions. Don’t beat yourself up for not writing every day. Don’t compare yourself to “better” writers. Instead, find out what you have to do to achieve your writing goals, and do it. There is so much information in writing books and on the internet – we really have no excuse for not pursuing our writing dreams! Read 8 Habits of Highly Effective Writers for more practical ways to establish good habits.

5. Ride the horse in the direction it’s going. If your bad writing habit revolves around procrastination, stop fighting it. Instead, “ride the horse in the direction it’s going.” This means figuring out the source of your procrastination. For instance, the thought of wasting my time and energy creating something that never gets published bugs the heck out of me – and leads to procrastination. So, I establish “back up plans” for my projects (eg, if a magazine doesn’t assign an article based on my query letter after a year of pitching, then I’ll publish it on my blog, or offer to a magazine that doesn’t pay well or at all).

6. Try different things. “If we continue doing the same things, we will get the same results,” says Dr Herman. To break a bad habit and achieve your writing goals, you need to try different things – don’t just keep doing the same thing over and over (such as setting a goal of 2,000 words a day or 5 query letters to editors a week). He says, “If what you try does not work out – then try again! There is no such thing as a failure. Failed attempts are simply practicing to get things right.”

7. Find your tribe. Here’s a tip from a life coach: “Get supportive folks in your camp,” says Laura Berman Fortgang, author of Take Yourself to the Top. “Join a group of like-minded folks, team up with a good friend, hire a coach or otherwise include people who want the best for you and will keep you on track.” If you know someone who wants to break bad writing habits, ask him/her to be an accountability buddy. Check in with each other regularly to make sure you’re on track. For ideas on finding your writing tribe, read 8 Networking Tips for Writers.

8. Reward yourself. This is the best tip for breaking bad writing habits: celebrate your successes! Rewarding yourself regularly keeps you energized, motivated, and more likely to stay the course. Read The Best Gifts for Writers for ideas on treating yourself.

For more info about Dr. Kenneth Herman, visit Secrets from the Sofa.

What bad writing habits do you have – and have you overcome them? I welcome your thoughts below…


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9 thoughts on “8 Tips for Breaking Bad Writing Habits”

  1. Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen

    Thanks for your comment, Gina — how exciting, that you and your writing partner are editing your novel! A writing partner is a fantastic way to stay disciplined and break those bad writing habits….I look forward to hearing how it goes….
    .-= Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen´s last blog post ..Stop Harassment at Work – 9 Tips for Dealing With More-Than-Difficult Coworkers =-.

  2. Helpful article. It seemed I was coming up with great ideas and then thinking about those ideas instead of finishing my current project. Now I am simply writing down the ideas so I won’t forget them, but I don’t dwell on them. I am saving them for the future. I think you are right on target about making a plan. That’s what my co-writer and I have done and we are now in the editing process of our novel. As for my solitary efforts, I have been undisciplined. Thanks for a great article. It sets my feet on the right path.

  3. You’re welcome, Philip — I hope they help you become a successful writer 🙂
    .-= Laurie PK´s last blog post ..A Freelance Writer’s Spreadsheet for Invoices and Payments =-.

  4. Ah yes, Catherine….that critical inner voice will paralyze you every time! The trick is to see it as a bad writing habit — and not the truth of who you are as a writer. Good luck with your action plan.

    I, too, need to create a well-defined action plan. My writing goals are a little too airy. I need to break them down into those small, achieveable steps that goal gurus are always talking about.

    And thanks for the thought about bad writing periods, George! Like with anything, I guess our writing habits go through good and bad stages. The trick is to survive a bad writing stage without letting it destroy your goals or motivation.

    Interesting — thanks, you guys!
    .-= Laurie PK´s last blog ..8 Tips for Breaking Bad Writing Habits =-.

  5. Laurie,

    I think most writers go through periods of bad writing habits. Some folks get it figured out and others can’t seem to ever get past the barrier.

    I like the idea of changing things up to get things moving again. If you’ve been writing in the morning, switch to late at night. If you’ve been writing in the same room for a while, move the whole kit and kaboodle up to the kitchen table for a week.

    I think I read somewhere that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over, expecting different results. I guess that’s an off shoot of what Dr. Herman said.


    .-= Tumblemoose´s last blog ..Is your writing blog a success? =-.

  6. Great article! Thank you for writing it. I was inspired to tackle one of my bad habits by letting go of the critical voice and starting a plan of action. Only have three things on it but they are big things, now I need to break them down.
    .-= Catherine Franz´s last blog ..A Movie You Must See! =-.