What does it mean to have healthy writing habits?

Three things you can do every day to build creative confidence – in under five minutes.

Every day this week as I approach my desk, the first thing I do is not switch on my laptop. It’s lift the ball of two rolled up socks I’m keeping on the lid.

I stand on one leg, socks extended ahead of me, and turn ninety degrees to the side. Then I turn back to the middle, then the other side. Then I do the same thing on the other foot.

What does this have to with writing habits? Not a lot: it’s more to do with dyspraxia, hypermobility, my more-than-usually-wobbly left ankle and the orders of my physiotherapist.

But it’s been a great reminder of how to improve, maintain and enjoy a healthy life as a writer.

Like this workday-morning physio, it takes less than five minutes and it would be the easiest thing in the world to ‘just miss today’. That’s why I keep my socks on my computer: so I have to lift them in order to start work, because I know once they’re in my hand I ‘might as well’ do the exercises.

If you’ve been to a Workout at the Writers’ Gym or any of our other events, you’ll know that just like the physical gym everything we do begins with a warm-up. It’s that “firstest” of first drafts, where we think on the page so we can see what comes out, without putting in roadblocks in our heads and trying to edit what we haven’t written.

The big thing about a creative warm-up is the same big thing about a physical warm-up: it’s not about how it looks. You’re not inviting the audience. You’re doing it for you, to be healthier and happier in everything you’re warming up for.

So here are three ways to beat the procrastination/perfectionism goblin (yes, perfectionism and procrastination are just the one, same creature that knows perfect was never on the menu) and each of them will take you less than five minutes:

1.        Transcribe your thoughts for one minute:

It’s enough time to build up steam and not enough time to give yourself any expectations. So ‘What the hell’, the brain and muscles think, ‘away we go.’

2.        Give yourself a deadline you believe in:

a)        What if you were being paid to finish that first draft? Not the final one. This one. The first one. What if someone was handing you five hundred pounds at the end of the day – or week, or three hours from now – not to have something ‘perfect’ or even ‘ready’ but a first draft?

b)        Or if a deadline of time and money doesn’t speak to you, how about a deadline of a fellow writer? I tell my beta readers when to expect the next instalment of my current project not so much for them as for me. When we abandon the perfect, we arrive in the possible.

3.        Separate the warm-up from the exercise routine:

No matter what your ‘real’ project is, no matter how important or urgent it is or how much you love it and want to get it into the world, pick a prompt from a bag (you can cut out the ones below, or make your own) so the warm-up is expectation-free and pseudo-efficiency free. Let it resemble the ball of socks on my computer: it’s not important for itself, that little exercise. But like any one brick is not a wall, it’s building something that is.

Cut-out-and-keep Writing Prompts:




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