Write It Sideways

Are You Getting These 5 Daily Writing Vitamins?

I’ve been thinking a lot about my health lately.

It’s been nearly five months since my second son was born, and I’m still carrying around a few of those extra baby pounds. The added responsibilities of another child have also given me something of an excuse to exercise less.

To get myself back into top form (if I was ever in top form…), I know I need to choose healthier foods, exercise more, and set goals.

This got me thinking about our writing health. What steps must we take to keep our writing healthy and fit?

There are 5 things I believe writers should strive to do daily. Think of them as writers’ vitamins: you won’t die if you don’t get them, but over time, the right dose will help improve your overall writing ability and efficiency.

1. Write

It may sound obvious, but the best way to improve your writing is to practice as much as possible. The thing that’s made the most difference to the quality of my writing is committing to a regular schedule.

You needn’t work on the same piece of writing every day. Try alternating between a novel, short-story, non-fiction article, blog post or poetry. If you like to take a day off each week (for me it’s Sunday), you can use that day to reflect on the rest of your week, and perhaps record your thoughts in a journal.

2. Read

Whether it’s a book, magazine, writing manual or blog, take some time out of each day to read. Not only is it relaxing, but you’ll learn something new about the craft of writing every time you do it.

I like to associate a certain time of day with reading so it becomes a habit. For me, that’s just before I go to sleep at night. I also like to sign out several books from the library at once so that when I don’t feel like reading one, I have several back-ups to choose from.

3. Analyze

I originally subtitled this section “Watch,” but I felt that didn’t do it justice.

When we writers watch television, we aren’t just watching: we’re analyzing. We use it as an opportunity for inspiration, critical thinking, and story deconstruction.

But this is one vitamin on which you don’t want to overdose. Be selective with what you watch (i.e. choose series from which you can learn something), keep your brain switched on, and use the experience to your own benefit.

Check out Larry Brooks’ story deconstruction series on the film Shutter Island for a great example of how to improve your writing by watching movies.

4. Plan

As with anything, planning ahead is a good way to keep yourself  motivated and on track. Before you go to bed each night, jot down your game plan for the following day. What are your goals for the next twenty-four hours? How will you achieve them?

You can also take time each day to mentally plan what you’ll write at your next session–for example, the next scene in your novel or the next article for your blog.

You’re more likely to be successful if you know where you’re going, as opposed to simply writing whatever, whenever you feel like it.

5. Review

I recommend reviewing your performance at the end of every day, so you can see whether or not you’re achieving your short-term goals. It’s all too easy to let things slide for a day, maybe two. Soon a week has passed, and your productivity level has taken a nosedive.

Reviewing your performance can help you identify what’s keeping you from progressing, so you can overcome those obstacles before things get away from you.

On the other hand, if you’re always achieving your daily goals without fail, maybe you’re setting your level too low. In that case. challenge yourself to an added goal each day.

Your Writing Health

Are you getting enough of your daily writing vitamins? The more consistently you write, read, analyze, plan and review, the healthier your writing becomes.

Of course, everyone needs a day off, so don’t feel guilty about taking time to recharge your batteries.

What things do you think writers should aim for every day?

Now that my writing’s well-being looks a little brighter, must be getting back to those extra pounds…