I used to consider myself a fairly good writer until my content writing teacher Rhea gave me the wake-up call – I was all over the place with my first writing assignment. I realised then, that writing is tough, and good writing is even tougher. As Maya Angelou, American author and poet, says “Easy reading is damn hard writing”.
Before I go on to the five daily habits, it is essential to understand what content writing entails. How you plan to tackle the serious demands it will make on your time and effort? It is only then, that you will come to truly appreciate the need to acquire these habits.
My Initial Struggles With Writing
I had taken it easy with my writing assignments, and suddenly, I found myself lagging. I began a rigorous routine – getting up early, spending eight to nine hours writing and editing, with breaks in between. I finally caught up and learnt an important lesson – writing is a serious business.
With that first writing assignment, I spent many hours and days writing and editing, but somehow, I was not happy with the way it was coming through. I was just not able to get the flow right. Rhea came to my rescue. She asked me to forget whatever I had written until now, telling me to start writing the article afresh. That did the trick. Another vital lesson learnt. If you get stuck in a writer’s block, throw everything in the dustbin and start with a fresh page.
I realised the importance of a set of daily habits through my struggles. A successful content writer must adopt suitable habits and lifestyle that allows him to write creatively. Here is a look at some must-have daily habits.
1. Plan Your Time – Create a Daily Routine
Every activity, business or leisure, calls for a certain level of discipline. When you look at highly successful people in any field, they have one thing in common, they go about their jobs adhering to set routines. It is no different with content writing.
Famous writers, past and present, also follow a strict routine. Ernest Hemingway, an eminent novelist in the 20th century, used to wake up early and start writing by sunrise. Maya Angelou, a renowned American Poet, had an interesting routine. She used to check into a hotel room every day by 6:30 AM, write till 2 PM, then go home and edit what she had written. Pulitzer Prize nominee Barbara Kingsolver gets up at four o’clock to start writing.
You will notice that most authors start their writing early in the morning. That’s because they want to do the most important things first, when there are least distractions. They also plan the rest of their day, dividing it into activities that suit them.
Getting into a routine to write at a particular time every day allows your creative juices to flow. It’s important to find your own groove and apportion time as per your convenience.
2. You Must Write Regularly
A sportsman practises daily and a soldier trains regularly. The desired outcome of both is to hone their respective skills. Similarly, a content writer must write regularly to fine-tune his craft. Writing for the sake of writing helps unclutter those ideas that jumble in your head to create a meaningful dialogue.
I am not saying that you write a perfect piece when doing it for yourself. Just set aside some time to pen your thoughts. Write about whatever comes to your mind. If you are short of inspiration, just write about the last time you had diarrhoea.
Khaled Hosseini, the author of The New York Times bestselling book The Kite Runner, says – “You have to write every day, and you have to write whether you feel like it or not. Perhaps most importantly, write for an audience of one — yourself”.
3. Make Reading Your Second Nature
Books are known to be our best friends for a reason. Reading makes your mind active and stimulates your thought process. It helps develop a flair in your writing and communication, acquainting you with the perfect usage of grammar and prose.
Sir Richard Steele, the 18th-century Irish author and playwright aptly sums up reading as “Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body”.
As a content writer, it becomes essential to know what and how others are writing. Which topics are trending? Be it the newspaper or a book or content on the web, you read it with a different perspective as a content writer, appreciating the writing style for its good and not so good elements.
Put aside some time to read on a daily basis. Read varying content to understand how the writer has approached the context of a subject. Or even better, try to improve the piece in private by adding your bits. It will polish your own style of writing.
4. Be Physically Healthy and Active
American writer Kurt Vonnegut used to walk a few blocks and swim for half an hour every day. He used to do push-ups and sit-ups all the time. Acclaimed Japanese author Haruki Murakami takes time out to run for ten kilometres or swim for fifteen hundred metres or do both when writing a book.
We are all familiar with the adage “A healthy mind lives in a healthy body”, often told to us during our childhood. It stands true and applies to all, content writers included. A physically fit and active lifestyle is a fertile ground for generating ideas – the bedrock of creativity. It invigorates your writing mindset. Physical well-being also means adequate sleep and rest. And a rested mind is a powerhouse of creativity.
5. Learn to Switch-off – Be One with Yourself
Nathan Englander, an award-winning short story writer has this to say – “Turn off your cell phone. Honestly, if you want to get work done, you’ve got to learn to unplug. No texting, no email, no Facebook, no Instagram. Whatever it is you’re doing, it needs to stop while you write”.
On the other hand, some writers like Elwyn Brooks White used to thrive in busy places with lots of activity. He was able to switch himself off from all distractions. In an interview to The Paris Review, he talks about it saying “My house has a living room that is at the core of everything that goes on: it is a passageway to the cellar, to the kitchen, to the closet where the phone lives. There’s a lot of traffic. But it’s a bright, cheerful room, and I often use it as a room to write in, despite the carnival that is going on all around me”.
You have to find your own ideal way to switch-off. Each one of us has different triggers to get into that state of solitude, with only you and your story for company.
In conclusion, some habits just form over time like reading the newspaper at breakfast every day. On the other hand, some habits need to be acquired to meet a particular goal. For a content writer, the need to imbibe these habits becomes imperative. They regulate your life and create the right environment – thus allowing you to ease into a balanced writing regimen.
“Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going.” – Jim Ryun, American Olympic athlete and politician.