Top 5 Habits for Writers
I can't remember which writer first said it, but BIC stands for the #1 most important rule for any successful writer: BUTT IN CHAIR. If you don't do that, you'll never get anywhere. A blank screen cannot turn into a published anything. (And as an addition to this, remember what Heather said in the comments last week, if you don't SUBMIT, you'll never get published.)
2. Be curious.
My level of curiosity is rather funky compared the average person, but probably not compared to the average writer. Once it even got me the question, "Are you a nurse?" The answer: Um, no. I'm just weird and like reading about ways the body can die or get ill . . .
(I blogged about that one HERE.)
I say that if you're going to write, you need to have a bit of that child's wonder left in you, the part that goes, Why? How? Where? What if . . .
No matter the genre (serious non-fiction, personal essays, fantasy, whatever), you need to think about life in new ways. Mystery writers may listen to a news story about a crime and not just think that wow, how sad; you can see the wheels in their head turning. What was the victim thinking and doing? What the heck was going on in the perp's head and what made him snap? Did he plan the crime? How will the cops will proceed with the investigation?
Mystery writers will have curiosity about different things than fantasy writers, who will use a different lens again than a romance writer. But the idea is the same: ideas are everywhere, and we just need to pay attention.
Here's a wild idea: What if your hair color could change with your mood?
(One possible answer: check out Brandon Sanderson's Warbreaker.)
3. Thicken that skin.
Easier said than done, but oh, so necessary. If I can't handle honest (useful!) criticism, such as the kind I get from my critique group, I can't progress. I can't see the holes and missteps in my work. And when I get an editorial letter or have a call with my editor . . . pull on that skin!
Bad reviews are another animal; somehow they can wriggle under the toughest skin in spite of our best efforts. I know of a few authors who refuse to read reviews, even if they know they're positive. They just can't go there, or they'll drive themselves crazy.
4. Play nice; help others.
I cannot count how many people have cheered me, supported me, pointed me in the right direction, and more. This industry is one where the idea of "pay it forward" is huge. One big reason for that is the size of the industry: it's pretty small, relatively speaking, and the Internet has shrunk it considerably as far as how connected it is.
That means playing nice in the sandbox. Help others when you can. Don't be a diva. Don't talk smack about someone who upset you. If there's an industry where karma is alive and well, giving you exactly what you already gave, it's right here.
5. Enjoy the ride.
Another one that's hard to do, YES, even after you get that contract. No matter where you are on your journey, the road will have bumps and jolts. The trick is remembering to look up at the scenery and enjoy the ride in spite of the potholes.
Sometimes, part of that is stepping back and simply having fun with words and forgetting about that deadline or the next promotional thing you're supposed to do or whether you'll sell well.
It's remembering to have fun, oh, writing. Remember that little thing? When you drafted and made up scenes and characters and dialogue? Oh, yeah.
Sometimes it's important to simply let the other stuff (queries, rejections, edits, deadlines, promotion, and oh, so much more) get in the way of that single joy that got you started in the first place and remember how great it is to CREATE.
What are some of the most important habits in your trade?