Okay, are you rolling your eyes after reading the post title? Hey, I think writers’ habits are fascinating. I’ll share mine here and then list a few well-known writers’ habits.
First mine. I don’t write long fiction, and I don’t write every day. To begin, I pore through my notebooks for ideas, then when I hit on something, I start writing by hand or by typewriter, letting it flow, and toss in all kinds of junk from whatever is going on in my life. One of my biggest stumbling blocks is my tendency to be “clever” and “quirky” at the expense of writing a good story which uncovers another universal facet of “the human condition.”
I sit at a writing desk in a room where I can’t see a computer. That way I don’t jump into my shamefully addictive behavior of going online and losing myself for hours. I can reward myself by going online AFTER I’ve written for a few hours. But sometimes writing does go easier on a word processor, so I’ll turn on the laptop and start copying what I have of a first draft onto the screen. That’s like knowing a bottle of Jack Daniels is on the table next to you if you’re an alcoholic trying not to drink. But that’s how it goes for me.
It’s preferable to finish the first draft of a story rather than giving up or starting the next draft, but sometimes I get dry and need a refreshing drink of inspiration in order to finish. So to get unstuck I read good literature which I pull off my bookshelf. Sometimes the writer’s voice will creep into my writing. But that’s okay in a first draft.
Maybe it’s a reflection of my disorganized mind, but my first drafts are a complete MESS. I write so much in margins and every available white space that I can’t read what I wrote. Then I have to go back and make sense of everything. And by that time, I’ve usually moved past the old trajectory, so I have to completely re-think my characters and their story. It’s important to keep in mind that it can take months, even years to write a short story, so that keeps things in perspective: I’m going for quality and depth rather than clever superficiality.