I’m stuck. Where does the story go from here I wonder. I write often. But I haven’t written anything down in a half an hour. I stare at my notebook and twiddle my pen in search for an answer. I have been writing this story for a while. Working through revision after revision, adding dialogue, removing scenes and sharpening the language. The goal is to get to the moment where my story is in its finest form. I look at the wall next to my desk. The words “writing is my fire” is written in red marker on paper taped to the wall. It’s my daily reminder to pursue my passion. I posted this note as a positive affirmation. I read it everyday. It is one of my many writing habits.
Until recently I didn’t think about my writing habits in a meaningful way. My thought process was simple: I have to write. Period. How my writing went from thought to creation was either luck or an act of God. I knew what I didn’t like about writing. I often felt like I thought about writing more than I did it and when I wrote it wasn’t enough. Both were symptoms to a crucial writing habit – procrastination. At best, I’d do something entirely different like web surf. At worse, I twiddle. The moment procrastination became concentration, I wrote furiously like my life dependent on it. It was this fire to write that I have to recreate.
I read Andre Dubus’ The Habit Of Writing in it he writes about his writing habits that help him produce on average three stories a year. Intrigued, I discovered like myself he wrote in longhand and then typed it. It was a method I developed after it was suggested at a workshop. Writing in longhand prompts me to produce while typing I often edit as I go. However, I wasn’t familiar with vertical writing the idea of digging deeper to discover a story instead I wrote to finish. He borrowed an idea made popular by Ernest Hemingway to stop writing in mid-sentence. It is a trick to recapture your train of thought to write. I read my work often aloud to catch grammatical errors but he takes it one step further by reading his writing into a tape recorder. His writing habits were similar to my own and some were techniques I am curious enough to try.
One of my writing habits became clear in a writing workshop. I cherish critique partners. Writers who read each others’ work to raise probing questions to aid the author to a more polished story. Joining a writing community has enriched my writing and reading experience taking me outside my comfort zone from the way I write to the authors I read.
When I look at my habits of writing I know what works. I scan often sitting on a topic before writing it. It can lead me to a prompt to develop a story. I’m a morning writer. When I wake up early 4 or 5am I’m able to create with no distraction. I often find a writing space, which is usually the last place I wrote or a place I only go to write as to create a bond not to break. I’ll do different kind of rewrites, I call them resolution or revolution. Resolution is when I go through my writing looking for ways to improve the language of my writing: grammatical, syntax, flow. Revolution is when I attempt to answer questions raised from readings of my writing. Giving my work a moment to breath before committing future revisions to the computer. These methods aren’t written in stone. But it limits the twiddle. When followed I’m ready to write again. The fire to write returns to produce writing I’m proud of.
Here are the writing habits as a list:
- Write often
- Create a positive affirmation
- Work through procrastination
- Write in longhand before typing
- Explore different writing techniques like vertical writing
- Stop writing in mid-sentence to continue writing when ready
- Read writing out loud to catch grammatical errors
- Utilize critique partners to facilitate feedback
- Be apart of a writing community to grow as a writer
- Use prompts to develop stories
- Find your writing comfort zone i.e. writing in the morning
- Revise, Revise, Revise
- Write furiously
Rashaun J. Allen is the author of A Walk Through Brooklyn & In The Moment. He has been featured in several publications such as: The Chronicle, The Troy Record, Albany Student Press & UA Magazine. Find his books at www.Royalbluepublishing.com.