Bad Writing Habits and How to Break Them

Bad Writing Habits and How to Break Them - cozycreativewriting.wordpress.com

We all have bad habits when it comes to writing, since we’re all human.

I have bad habits, you have bad habits, even the best selling authors who have magically made millions off of their work have bad writing habits.

But that’s okay, since there are ways to get rid of bad habits.

Here are a couple of very common bad writing habits, as well as several ways to get rid of them.


The Basics of Habits

Before I go into some common bad writing habits, and the ways to break them, I’m going to go over the anatomy of our habits.

Habits are made up of 3 parts:

  1. Cue
  2. Routine
  3. Reward

I’ll explain using the habit of checking social media alerts.

The cue is what triggers the habit. For example, a habit of checking your social media alerts has the cue of a small ding or a vibration on your phone. When you hear the notification you move onto the routine.

The routine is the act of checking what the notification is about. Maybe someone commented on your work, or someone you’re following has tweeted.

The reward is feeling like you’ve participated in something and haven’t missed out. Social media thrives on ‘the fear of missing out’ or FOMO, and makes you feel rewarded when you check on things.

Replace Instead of Break

Instead of breaking habits, it’s better to replace them with better ones. Humans are, after all, creatures of habits and routines, so replacing a habit is easier than entirely breaking one.

As such, I’ll be offering 3 different replacement habits for each bad habit.


Bad Habit #1: Procrastination

Procrastination is a habbit that plagues many of us, especially those of us with perfectionistic tendencies.

This is because procrastination is often used as a defense mechanism. As a perfectionist, I know that my work won’t be perfect, but I’ll also be disappointed when I make mistakes. Procrastination offers a protective barrier.

If I write, I’ll have to face the fact that my writing isn’t perfect.

If I don’t write, I don’t have to face that reality.

Procrastination is awful because no one has perfect writing skills. Everything has flaws in it, so it’s better to work and see the mistakes than it is to avoid things and pretend that they could be perfect.

The pattern for this habit tends to be:

  1. Cue: Knowing that you should write
  2. Routine: Doing something other than writing
  3. Reward: Avoiding the harsh reality that’s made up of mistakes

Replacement Habit: Schedule Time to Write

The first place to start is with the cue.

Instead of telling yourself that you should write, try telling yourself that you get to write. Change your mindset of seeing writing as a difficult task and instead visualize it as something you have a drive to do or a privilege that you have.

Changing the way we view writing can change the way we treat writing.

Make the cue of your procrastination habit different by scheduling some time for writing and seeing it as something special, a privilege, like a vacation or fun outing. Don’t focus on the potential mistakes, instead focus on the potential fun.

This replacement habit can look something like this:

  1. Cue: Knowing that you get to write (because you’ve scheduled time for writing)
  2. Routine: Writing, and enjoying it as a fun activity
  3. Reward: Writing on time, following your schedule

By following a writing schedule you can also use your perfectionistic tendencies to your advantage. Instead of focusing on the quality of your writing, you can instead focus on achieving consistent progress by following a schedule.

Replacement Habit: Write Without Inhibitions

For this replacement habit, I’m going to focus on changing the routine of the procrastination habit:

  1. Cue: Knowing that you should write
  2. Routine: Writing without inhibitions
  3. Reward: Making progress on your writing

By replacing the routine of procrastinating with a routine of writing without inhibitions, you’re overcoming your own perfectionist tendencies. In combination with the other replacement habits, you can make great changes to yourself.

For this replacement habit you’re going to need to change your mindset during the routine.

Part of the reason why writers aren’t productive when they write is because they’re so afraid of making mistakes that they just don’t write, or don’t write as much as they could. When writing, turn off your inner critique and just write without care.

It can be difficult to do so, but the results are worth it.

Replacement Habit: Reward Yourself for Writing

Lastly, here’s a replacement habit that focuses on the reward. As humans, we have a tendency to go for the options that have the most amount of reward for the least amount of effort. Increasing the reward you do get from writing may be enough to overcome your own procrastination habit.

One way to do this may be to give yourself little tokens for writing, kind of like tokens you get at a carnival. You can exchange these tokens for rewards, and better rewards require more tokens.

For example, one hour of writing (or 1000 words if you prefer word count goals) could be worth 5 tokens.

When you reach 25 tokens you could treat yourself to a nice coffee. 50 tokens can earn you a movie. 100 tokens means getting a vacation day. So on and so forth.

If your rewards are tempting enough to stop the habit of procrastination, this is what your writing habit will begin to look like:

  1. Cue: Knowing that you should write
  2. Routine: Writing
  3. Reward: An awesome prize that you reward yourself

Bad Habit #2: Getting Distracted

If you don’t procrastinate much, you may have the bad habit of getting distracted instead. Different distractions have different parts, but this is generally how I get distracted while I’m working:

  1. Cue: A sound from or an image of the distraction
  2. Routine: Engaging with the distraction
  3. Reward: A break from work, a chance to engage with something else

Distractions are terrible productivity killers since they prevent you from accomplishing work. Fortunately, there are things you can do to prevent distractions from bothering you.

Replacement Habit: Remove Distractions

One habit that I’ve developed is removing distractions just before I start working. It only takes a few seconds, since I keep a fairly tidy desk.

This is what my habit looks like:

  1. Cue: Prepare to begin work
  2. Routine: Clean up distracting papers, messes, clutter, and other distractions
  3. Reward: Fewer distractions while I write

This habit not only removes distractions, it also keeps my desk fairly clean and clutter free!

Replacement Habit: Write Down Distracting Thoughts

If you find that your thoughts are a major distraction for you while you write, keep a notepad and pen beside you while you write, so that way you can write down the thoughts that would normally distract you.

While this habit will take a few seconds each time you need to write down your thoughts, it will also keep your brain from focusing on and obsessing over whatever it is that has your attention.

Here’s what this habit looks like:

  1. Cue: Think about something distracting
  2. Routine: Write down your distracting thought
  3. Reward: No need to obsess over distractions

Replacement Habit: Work in a Quiet and Productive Place

Lastly, a good replacement habit is to work in a more quiet and productive place.

Humans like to mimic the behavior they see around them, so if you’re in a place where others are hard at work and being productive, it’ll probably increase your productivity as well.

One way to do this is to find one of those offices or studios that you can rent out. Another option is to write at a library, since it’ll be quiet there. Just don’t get distracted by all of the books!

While this habit isn’t doable for everyone (myself included), it may help if you find you get distracted because of where you write.

Here’s what this habit looks like:

  1. Cue: Prepare to begin writing
  2. Routine: Go to a quiet and productive place
  3. Reward: Productive writing time

What bad writing habits do you have? Let me know in the comments, as I may be able to help you out.

If you enjoyed this post, or found it helpful, please leave a like or share it on social media.

I blog about writing every Wednesday, so check back next week for some new content. Or if you have an interest in studying tips, tricks, and advice, check out my other blog Study Buddy Blog

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