Losing Bad Habits

Bad habits can plague us in any aspect of life. They can affect our health, our relationships, and our finances. They can also affect our writing, sometimes significantly.

I have more than one bad habit that interferes with my writing. For example, I have a tendency to allow social media to distract me when I’m having trouble getting new words down on the page. Unsurprisingly, allowing myself to get distracted doesn’t make getting the words down any easier so sometimes I ban myself from the internet until I’ve met my word count goal for the day. While I haven’t lost that bad habit completely, I do at least deal with it better than I used to.

The bad habit that interferes with my writing the most, however, is my habit of comparing myself to other writers. I often find myself wondering why my words aren’t as beautiful as X’s words or why my stories aren’t as witty as Y’s stories. When I do that, I always end up feeling bad about my writing and myself. That tends to slow down my productivity and distracts me from my goals.

While I probably won’t ever completely lose that habit (although I’d like to), I am at least managing to reduce its negative impact, bit by bit. I know that I will never write like X or Y because I’m not X or Y. We all bring something different to the writing table, and that’s a good thing. After all, if we all wrote in exactly the same way, libraries and bookstores would be boring places to visit. I write the way I write because I’m me and you write the way you write because you’re you. That’s not only okay, it’s wonderful.

So these days whenever I find myself comparing my writing to that of others, I remind myself that it’s perfectly fine that I don’t write the same way as X, Y, or Z. That doesn’t always work 100 percent, but it does help me move forward and that’s what’s important.

Do you have any writing-related bad habits that you’d like to lose?

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Author: Sarah Fox

Author of cozy mysteries. Llama herder when required. Chocoholic always. Music Lover's Mysteries (HarperCollins): #1 DEAD RINGER #2 DEATH IN A MAJOR #3 DEADLY OVERTURES Pancake House Mysteries (Penguin Random House): #1 THE CRÊPES OF WRATH #2 FOR WHOM THE BREAD ROLLS #3 OF SPICE AND MEN (November 2017) Literary Pub Mysteries (Coming in 2019 from Kensington). Represented by Jessica Faust of BookEnds. www.authorsarahfox.com

8 thoughts on “Losing Bad Habits”

  1. Sarah, I love this post. I, too, often find myself battling bad habits, particularly the two you mention. The interesting thing to me is that when I’m successful at dodging things like the distraction of social media or comparing myself to other writers, I’m so happy with what I’m doing! And yet, I still get sucked back into those old habits. Sometimes its just nice to know we’re not alone!

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  2. Great post. Whenever I’m tempted to compare myself, I remind myself of this: I think I’m bad because I’m comparing my blooper reel to someone else’s highlight film. Of course my first draft is not going to look as good as someone else’s published book! As for bad habits, I’m pretty good at the Internet, but I do have a tendency to give in to despair, as in “I’ll never get this done.” I’m working on it.

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  3. Yes, comparing ourselves to other writers. And social media. “Hi, I’m Theresa and I’m powerless over Facebook.” Another bad habit for me is expecting what worked on the last book to work on the next book.

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  4. Oh, absolutely! You have nailed it. Thanks for your great reminder! Another bad habit of mine is un-writing what I’ve already written when I think of another way to say it, which only takes me backwards rather than forward. Ugh!

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  5. Sarah, such a great post, and Mary’s comment (“I think I’m bad because I’m comparing my blooper reel to someone else’s highlight film”) is spot on too. I think it’s writer nature to compare ourselves to others, after all we started doing this partially because we fell in love with someone else’s words, but the comparison needs to be kept in check if it’s detrimental to the process.

    Great topic!

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  6. It really does help to know that you’re not alone and I’m finding that comparing ourselves to other writers is one of the most common issues writers struggle with. Thank you all for the comments!

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  7. Wow, Sarah, this is a great post. Thanks for articulating those two in particular.

    And Sue, I share that tendency. I’ve been known to spend an entire day writing and end up with 1000 or more fewer words when I’m done. The revisions are stronger, usually, but it’s so frustrating to have something shorter after all of that work!

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