Building a Writing Habit

Building a Writing Habit

I like to set aside an hour or two every day for reading and writing. Throughout the winter months, things were going great. I scheduled time to research and write blog posts, I participated in several book clubs, and I was able to maintain a digital journal. But in early March, I moved 1,000 miles away and took on new work and established new routines—and completely abandoned my good habits.

I think all writers struggle with this at some point. Even when you feel like you're bursting with things to say, it can be hard to find the grit and determination to sit down and write on a regular basis.

If you're in the same boat, I encourage you to check out the articles below. They inspired me to get back in the saddle, and I hope they will do the same for you.


Zen Habits | Write Daily →

How does a daily writing habit make a difference? "Writing clarifies your thinking." The article lists several other reasons, but that one that strongly resonated with me. When I am overwhelmed by my own thoughts, writing is the one thing that helps me find solid ground again.

The Huffington Post | 8 Steps to Starting a Writing Habit That Sticks →

Every article I found listed "make writing a priority," but this one lists it twice—and then follows up with the very important advice to write down why you want to write daily. Clarifying the motivation for a goal makes it much easier to stick with it on the tough days.

Jeff Goins | The ADHD Guide to Building a Writing Habit →

I do not have ADHD, but I think the advice in this article can be applied to anyone who has struggled to focus on a writing project. I like to do some of my weekly writing at the local library or coffee shop, so I especially love the idea of having a dedicated writing bag with all of my gear together and organized and ready to go. That would eliminate one of the biggest mental hurdles keeping me from getting out the door.

TheWriteBurgessTaylor | Building Your Writing Habit →

My favorite advice from this article is to create a writing plan. As I said before, I stopped writing because my life got unusually busy, but I also stopped writing because I didn't like the topic themes I had chosen for March or April. I knew I didn't like the themes when I created my annual blogging calendar in December, but I hoped the issue would solve itself. (Does that ever happen?) To avoid that problem in the future, I now have a monthly reminder to look at upcoming themes and change them if they no longer appeal to me. Knowing what I want to write (and when) eliminates another huge mental hurdle.

The Minimalists | Creating Daily Writing Habits →

This is the quote I will be pinning to my computer every day for the next three months or however long it takes me to get back into my routine:

Sit in the chair every day: even if you don’t write, plant yourself in the chair daily for a few hours and eventually the words will come.
— Joshua Fields Millburn

Elevenses: Favorites for February 2016

Elevenses: Favorites for February 2016

Welcome to Elevenses, a monthly round-up of my favorite articles and resources related to language, writing, editing, and freelancing.

C82 | Between the Words →

Several of my copy editor friends shared this Medium post about punctuation in novels, which led me to the gorgeous Between the Words poster set. I want to cover every available wall in my townhouse with this amazing artwork, which visualizes what novels would look like without words—just the punctuation. (Read more about the project in a Wired article from January 2016.)

Diana Urban | 98 Book Marketing Ideas for Authors →

If you read my recent blog post about tools for self-publishing and wanted an even more extensive list about how to market your own book, please check out this article. Diana gives advice for every stage of the marketing process, from book cover design to author websites to social media campaigns.

Jeff Goins | What Nobody Tells You about Being a Best-selling Author →

While I do love irony, this link is not intended to be a contradiction to the previous link. Instead, it is a valuable reminder to be careful how you define success for your project—whether that is a self-published collection of poems or a traditionally published book. Aiming for a "best seller" list may not be the best goal for you or your readers.

CMOS Shop Talk | Libraries and Books for Young People →

This interview with a librarian, Louise Brueggemann of the Chicago area, genuinely lifted my spirits. I cherished the time I spent in my local library as a child, and I hope that future generations continue to find value and joy in their own libraries. "As communities’ needs change, libraries change to meet those needs. I believe that the future of libraries is bright."

You Don't Say | Three Journalistic Tics You Can Safely Drop →

Sometimes, it's okay to break the rules. In this case, it's encouraged. These tics are rather subtle ones (in my opinion), so I am rather excited to look for them in my own writing and to keep them in mind for future editing projects.

Mobile Apps for Writing and Editing

Mobile Apps for Writing and Editing

I work from home, and I have what is possibly the most uncomfortable desk chair in the world. Because of that, I spend less time in front of a computer now than I have in years, and even though I plan to upgrade the chair eventually, I have secretly appreciated the motivation to stand up and move around.

So while I still do my final writing and editing work on a laptop, a lot of my preparation—jotting down notes, collecting research, outlining drafts, etc.—is done using my phone or my tablet.

I wanted to share a few of my favorite mobile apps for writers and editors. (These are all available on iOS because that's what I'm familiar with, but I would love recommendations from Android users. Leave a comment, tweet at me, send a smoke signal, etc.)

Organizing Ideas, Notes, and Research

Squarespace Note

If my brain won't turn off as I'm trying to sleep, I open Squarespace Note, type out whatever thoughts are jumbling around, swipe up, and relax. I have my "swipe up" setting configured to email me whatever content I just typed, which makes the app like a virtual Post-It note but always legible and always in the same place (my email inbox, not the crevice between my bed and my nightstand). The "swipe up" feature can also be configured to send to Evernote, Google Drive, Dropbox, or a Squarespace blog; you can even have multiple destinations and mix and match on a whim.

Great for: Notes to self
Price: Free
Download: iPhone/iPad, Android

MindNode

The MindNode app is a recent addition for me (and only because Starbucks offered it as a free download), but I can already see how useful it will be. Normally, I shy away from mind maps and other forms of brainstorming that can't be neatly contained on a single index card, but the MindNode app gives me the tidiness I crave while encouraging flexibility and creativity. It's a great way to outline a story, create a diagram of the audience you want to reach, set goals, etc. Read this article from The Sweet Setup for a more comprehensive review.

Great for: Brainstorming, outlining
Price: $9.99
Download: iPhone/iPad

Microsoft OneNote

The OneNote app has replaced Evernote for me as my go-to place for storing and organizing notes and reference materials. In large part, this is because the colored, horizontally-aligned tabs of OneNote make a lot more sense to me than the never-ending clusters of document titles in Evernote. Because I can visualize where my content is stored, the process of organizing and then later retrieving my information is a lot easier (and more pleasant). I keep my blog post ideas in OneNote along with quotes from books, articles, and podcasts. Because OneNote syncs across all my devices, I can add to those notes from my mobile devices and then use them at my laptop when I'm ready to write or edit.

Great for: Storing and organizing notes and reference materials
Price: Free
Download: iPhone/iPad, Android, Windows Phone

Writing

Byword

There are many great mobile text editors on the market, but Byword is my personal favorite. (It's also The Sweet Setup's favorite Markdown writing app for the iPhone.) It syncs flawlessly between multiple devices, so I can start a document on my phone whenever inspiration strikes, work on it from my tablet while I'm waiting for a meeting to start, and then put the finishing touches in place from my laptop. It is simple to use and gives me access to formatting features, document search, word count, and more, yet it is cleverly designed to get out of the way when I need to write without distractions.

Great for: Distraction-free writing
Price: $5.99
Download: iPhone/iPad

OmniOutliner

The Omni Group makes phenomenal apps, and OmniOutliner is no exception. Their description sums it up perfectly: "a start-to-finish writing app." I particularly like OmniOutliner for long-form writing, when I know I will want to add structure to a document and rearrange it as the piece develops. Work with the document as a whole—highlight, indent, search, format, and style—or split the piece into sections for better focus. Again, there is plenty of power and flexibility within the app to do what I want, but none of it gets in the way of the writing process.

Great for: Long-form writing
Price: $29.99
Download: iPhone/iPad

Proofreading and Editing

Merriam-Webster Dictionary & Thesaurus

As a proofreader and copy editor, I spend a lot of time referencing a dictionary (I frequently mess up the number of double consonants in "millennium") and a thesaurus (maybe "loquacious" isn't quite as good a fit as "elaborate"). Merriam-Webster is highly regarded among professional writers and editors, so I greatly appreciate the work they've invested in creating and maintaining quality mobile apps.

Great for: Verifying and correcting spelling and word usage
Price: $3.99
Download: iPhone/iPad, Android, Windows Phone

PDFpen 2

If I want to do serious mark-ups on a digital manuscript, I will save the document as a PDF, open it in PDFpen 2 on my iPad, and trade in my red pen for a red stylus. The app allows me to draw directly on the PDF, so I can cross out an unwieldy paragraph and make a note about it in the margin without needing a printer, paper, or a pen. This has become my preferred way to do the first round of edits when I can't work on a paper copy, since the physical act of doodling helps me recognize big patterns (frequently crossing out a certain phrase, fixing capitalization on a certain word, etc.). The app has many other features, like text editing and password protection, making it a great investment for anyone who works with PDFs.

Great for: Marking up digital manuscripts
Price: $19.99
Download: iPhone/iPad

I hope these apps help you with your writing and editing! Leave a comment if I missed anything or if you want to talk more the apps I listed.


P.S. I currently have availability for copy editing jobs or proofreading jobs.

Elevenses: Favorites for January 2016

Elevenses: Favorites for January 2016

Welcome to Elevenses, a monthly round-up of my favorite articles and resources related to language, writing, editing, and freelancing.

The Guardian | Back to Prep School →

This is an endearing article on the use of prepositions, including a brief study of how prepositions get assigned to phrases ("bored by," "bored of," or "bored with"?) and a lighthearted reminder about the importance of choosing the right preposition.

The Write Practice | How to Avoid Bad Writing →

"Awkward writing is common, and I believe that it’s actually a good sign. Awkward writing means that you are writing and have begun to silence your inner critic." The advice in this post is intended for inexperienced writers but has value to anyone who enjoys writing or editing. It really does help to read what you wrote out loud, and it really does help to pursue plain language by shortening sentences, using the active voice, etc.

 I cherish my local library (and the librarians who make it such a pleasant place to visit).

I cherish my local library (and the librarians who make it such a pleasant place to visit).

Mental Floss | 11 Ridiculously Overdue Library Books →

I have lived my entire life in fear of having an overdue library book, so I am thoroughly surprised by how much I enjoyed this article. (Also, I am very grateful to my own local library for having a $10 cap on fees.)

Gadgette | Oxford Dictionaries Sort-of Apologizes for Laughing at Feminists →

Start with the original story and then read the article linked above. The issue at hand is obviously a complicated one that cannot be summarized in two short essays, but the situation reminds me that I am very grateful to have the opportunity to discuss the importance of language (and that English is a living language that can be revised as our culture grows in empathy).

Copyediting | What Is Proofreading? →

Before I entered the world of professional copy editing and proofreading, I might have used the two words interchangeably—or defined copy editing as "advanced proofreading." In fact, I still have work to do in differentiating between the two services on my own website, but this is the exact post I will be referring to as I make those changes.