Missed this list of 7 Habits of Highly Effective Writers:

1) Separate the writing and the editing processes. When they write, they write, not worrying about the quality of their work. Writer/director Cecil Castellucci says: “”The best flowers are fertilized by crap.”” Remember this and give yourself permission to write a crummy first draft.

Editing is a job for later. That’s when you’ll have plenty of time to rearrange big chunks of text, monkey around with sentence structure, obsess over word choice and fix punctuation.

2) Focus on the interesting. Effective writers (and speakers) always tell lots of stories. If they have to communicate something “”theoretical,”” they illustrate it with real life examples and anecdotes. They know that human beings don’t just crave food—they are also starved for stories.

3) Tap into the power of metaphor. As metaphor expert Anne Miller likes to say, “”metaphors lead to instant understanding.”” There are at least three metaphors in this article (can you find them all?)

4) Do adequate research. There is nothing more painful than trying to write when you have nothing to say. Effective writers understand that good research is all about asking interesting questions—of themselves, of the books, Web sites and reports they read and of anyone they interview. And this needs to be completed before any writing can begin.

5) Learn from the writing of others. Effective writers understand that they are lifelong apprentices. They learn by reading—constantly. Note: this is not just passive, flip- through-a-thriller-while-sitting-on-the-pool- deck kind of reading. This is active sit-up-and-pay-attention-to-technique dissection—similar to what a scientist would do in a lab. You won’t want to read this closely all the time, of course (it’s work—although fun work, to my mind). But effective writers do some of this every week.

6) Write in small bursts. Creative work doesn’t require oodles of time. That first draft you need to write? It’s best done in dribs and drabs, a little bit at a time. Instead of procrastinating, effective writers persuade themselves to write a little each day, no matter how frazzled and frantic they feel. (Editing, on the other hand, usually needs space, time and quiet.)

7) Read their work out loud. Language isn’t just meaning—it’s also music. The most effective writers can often be found sitting by the computer keyboards, madly whispering to the screen, repeating their words back to themselves. Yes, it looks kooky and co-workers may become alarmed. But effective writers don’t care. They do it because it works.


In the last 24 hours, I got very positive news on the grant application.  It made me so happy, and brought me back to a place of confidence.  And it got me thinking…

Great writers come from a place of great confidence.  The ground beneath their feet is solid, and if it isn’t, they are making it so each step of the way.  The story must be told, and there is a deep belief in the story.  There is a certain amount of “knowing” that must happen, whether it is conscious or subconscious.

However, confidence can be amorphous.  Truly prolific writers give confidence a particular form by writing — they consistently verify their state of confidence through the act of writing.  They “ship” and get their work “out there”.  Writing coupled with serial affirmations becomes a positive feedback loop, reifying the prolific writer’s confidence.

I was taking a quiz to self-diagnose whether or not I am a “serious writer” (I would link it here, but dope! I closed the window).  The quiz has 13 questions, and if you answer ‘Yes’ for all of them, then yes, by God, you are a “serious writer”.  Out of the 13 questions, I got 10 of them.  Of the ones I did not get, one of them asked whether I was part of a book club, a writer’s circle, or group of some sort.  Another one asked whether I published an article, or book chapter, or post once a week.  And the last one asked me if I knew what success looks like for ME (this is a ‘Yes”, but it’s a qualified, course-correcting yes – and each time this question is asked, I take the opportunity to answer it, so it is partially a ‘No’).  All of these three questions got me thinking — I write so privately and alone, leaving myself so vulnerable to what others may think.  And when I do publish, it can be hit or miss.  If I published more, I could be more successful, and be less scrappy.

I immediately RSVPd at one of my local writing meetups.  I also made a resolution to make a daily “ship” that has to do with furthering my writing goals (to start for the next 7 days: draft of my statement of purpose, PhD application essay 1, essay 2, revise statement of purpose, a post on my work blog, posts on my personal blog, posts on my family blog).  These two approaches will help me give form to my own confidence.

Finally, to the million dollar question: Do I know what success means for ME?  To answer this, I first think: Success means luxury to write about my chosen genres, positive relationships with editors, co-authors, and my community, writing regularly and getting it out there, and making a living by connecting and conveying ideas on a daily basis.  Holy sh*t.  Holy sh*t.  Guess what?  I already HAVE THESE THINGS.  This is the part that beguiles me.  Why have I been operating from a place of lack of confidence, uncertainty, and VOICELESS.  Have you ever felt VOICELESS? That’s literally the feeling I’ve been carrying with me for 5 years.  Like the cat got her tongue.  Just this sheer inability to stand on my own two feet – or my own words.  Hiding behind managers, being “busy”, and so on.

On the point of “making a living” – I want to make more money.  Successful writing will bring me more writing opportunities – to the tune of $100,000 / year and lots and lots of time flexibility.  Contractor wants to come by on a Tuesday afternoon?  Sure!  I have to meet my swimming coach from 7:30 – 8:30am?  Sure!  I want to spend the afternoon cooking for a family dinner?  Sure!

So, success to me is feeling the fear and doing it anyway.  Feeling the fear and writing brilliant copy for  work projects, writing compelling presentations, writing essays that move and shake, doing the research I want to do and writing about it in a 100 different ways, making connections and writing about them, meeting people and writing about my meetings.  Just doing it.  I have a platform, I have a stage.

My personal success statement:

To me, success means that I regularly write feature articles, blog posts, academic articles, book chapters, professional reports.  Success is making a plan and doing the work.  To me, success comes from a place of deep positivity, the support of my loved ones, self-love, and confidence. Success is work that is well-received, and success is having the right mentors and coaches to help me make it happen.  Success is doing great research and communicating it well.  Success is telling compelling, clear stories that change the way people see the world. 

After this, I quickly went to some blogs and articles that EFFECTIVELY help answer the question of identifying success as a writer:

  • The 7 Habits of Writing Success school of thought is: writing, focus, reading, learning, redrafting, professionalism, reflection
  • Five Smarter Habits of Great Writers: 1. Write for Others, 2.  Write Something Scary Every Day, 3. Finish Shorter Pieces, 4. Test Your Skill by Submitting for Publication, 5. Disregard All Advice

Talent is natural ability. For a writer, it means facility with language and/or skill at storytelling. It includes imagination and as in other fields, it involves being able to suss out one’s own niche. What particular things are you, as a writer good at?

[Response: I am good at interdisciplinary narration. I am good at writing out the story versus telling the story.  I am good at descriptive writing.  I want to work on impromptu writing and storytelling.]

Knowledge has to do with the mechanics of storytelling, sentences, the way a reader’s mind works and how to get out of that way, and so on. There are a whole string of elements that can be learned about writing. You can find a bunch of them on Chuck Wendig’s website, terribleminds.com. You can learn them by taking a course. You can read books about writing.

[Response: I am good at academic and formulaic writing, but I want to get better at creative writing.]

Experience comes from writing and from reading. Because you need to have been a reader in order to understand both what works generally as well as the way your own mind works in terms of words. You need to write, a lot. I don’t remember the exact number of words or stories he mentioned, but Warren Ellis once told me you have to write so many bad words or stories to get to the good ones. So experience is, in a way, first writing stories that don’t work. It’s like trying to make a map of cool places when you don’t have GPS or Google. You have to walk the streets and make notes. You have to explore.

[Response: Yeah… I need to write more and read more. :)]

Passion is your innate drive to pursue your creative work. It is what Jung talked about when he said that writers had been known to abandon their entire lives in order to write a story. It’s what people mean when they say they ‘have to’ write. It might be that a writer feels she has never been good at anything else. It’s very strong, this passion. It confronts and defeats obstacles. It doesn’t listen to nay-sayers. It’s a river carving its way inland from the ocean of your subconscious. Without it, all the talent and knowledge in the world will not get you there. It’s because of this element that people follow their bliss, pursuing creative work although it means living on the edge financially. Or when they have other demands on them, such as family and responsibility, they continue to pursue their creative work in spite of it not being the easiest or most lucrative thing they could do to make money.

[Response: This is me.]

 “The life-changing message of ‘On Writing Well’ is: simplify your language and thereby find your humanity.”

Twice a day, place your hand on your chest and say out loud “I choose to become a successful writer. I have the attitude of a successful writer.” This is a declaration, not an affirmation.

Carolyn encourages us to consciously visualize the successful writer’s life we want to have in the future in detail, including what we’ll wear, if that’s important to us, what friends we’ll have, where we’ll live, and more. That kind of visualization is important, I think. If we don’t put some thought into what we want, how will we know when we’ve achieved it? She encourages us to go into detail because some of the details are easier to achieve than others. It’s very tough to make the New York Times bestseller list, but it’s not so hard to save up for a splashy cape or dramatic trench coat.


Boiling it down:

Being a successful writer means that I will have a steady stream of writing projects that are guaranteed to result in research publication, successful reports, paid articles, and then some!  As a successful writer I will get the time to spend and devote to my family, friends, spiritual, mental, and physical emotional health.  As a successful writer, I will make over $100,000 a year as a freelance writer, part-time or full-time research employee, part-time researcher at a research institute, blogger, adjunct and/or assistant professor.  As a successful writer, I will also have the time to diversify my sources of income by launching a new business.  As a successful writer, I will work out daily, be graceful and beautiful, be well-dressed and on-point, have the time to read, comment, and attend lectures, connect with people in my genre and field, and play an active role in my community.  As a successful writer, I will be a successful person — present, active, full of life, graceful, slender, a beautiful mother, wife, employee, friend, daughter, sister, and colleague.

I write daily when I wake up, I blog daily at least once a day, I complete my professional and freelance assignments early and really well.  



I did it.  I shipped today.  I wrote up two grant inquiry letters.  I didn’t work out, I procrastinated by reading random websites on self-improvement and eating too many cookies, but I didn’t revert to cigarettes or trying to run this errand or that one, I ignored everything else, but I did it.  I made it happen.  I did it.  I wrote up the grant inquiry.



Every day without fail I spend about 15 minutes to an hour thinking about my goals, writing about my goals, and thinking about how to be productive that very day.  Today, I’m reading this post on being prolific and this rather operational how-to to get started.  

The thing I can’t get over is the sheer anxiety of having talked about this stuff that I am supposed to do, but haven’t actually done.  The sheer anxiety of deadlines, and just not knowing how/where to start.  But I’m thinking this whole not knowing how/where to start business is a part of the anxiety.  Many times this year I’ve tried to abandon my dreams, but they haunt me.  

Thinking about this is no longer OK.  It’s gotta happen.  There is only a set amount of time we get on this planet.  There is only a set amount of time we get where people are listening and waiting for us to ship.  After that, we’re just there.  We can go back to comfort food and TV, we can go back to this hot new restaurant or that one.  I want this.  I am going to go after this right now.  Nothing else makes sense.



It’s 5:55am. I have procrastinated, and for good reasons.  <Everything’s urgent or feels like a waste of time.>  I am getting into it.  But I am where I wanted to be yesterday.  Gah.  Why can’t I do this more?  Why can’t I develop this razorsharp, hardstop commitment to writing?

I want to show up with this sense of urgency each morning and make meaning in this world.

Current writing project – a personal essay

Dream writing projects – short term:

1.  Write one blog post on my personal website.

2.  Write one blog post per week on my professional website.

3.  Query for 1 magazine article to 10 magazines.

Dream writing projects – long-term

– non-fiction, history, urban

– creative non-fiction

– articles

– shows


Just start where you are, you know?  Right there.  Those jeans, yes, fold them.  The teeth, yes, brush them.  The face, yes, wash it nicely.  Give each moment a chance.  The chair and desk that you fussed over.  Go on, have a seat.  The beauty of words, they’re there.  No worries, it may not make sense right away, but just start where you are.


Route 66

I’ve earmarked a thousand stories to be written.  But what about now?  What about this moment?  What will I write?  I want to tell you why this trend will be important.  I want to tell you a story about India that you’ve never heard before.  I want to tell you what I think cities will be like in the future.  I want to tell you what issues I think are important for us to act upon and why.  I want to tell you a whole lot, because I think there are vacuums and unnecessary silence on topics that we need to amplify. 


I know they tell us to “just do it”.  But why?  Why not, many say.  But why?  Sometimes the story haunts me like I imagine a ghost would, the white paper pregnant with possibility.  My mind creates a world that I am always hoping to steal time for.  How can I consider myself a writer if I can barely write more than a few words of free writing and personal thoughts?  How can I consider myself a writer if I can’t take an idea and share each as a blog post?  How can I consider myself a writer if I can’t complete essays, stories..?


How can I consider myself a writer if I never have the time?  It’s imperative that we do this.  There is a spirit that is telling me that I must develop my ability to write and I must build my writings.  It is a part of my own mind telling me this.  There is some aspect of self-preservation there.  A part of me that feels that I will gain more security by writing.  I will gain a place in the world.  I will gain a place in academia, a place on the social media sphere, a place in my industry, a place in my career.  An irreplaceable place.  But is that a fallacy?  Aren’t we all just replaceable molecules bound by our egos?  

So, I want to do it because sitting-standing-sleeping-walking-driving-working I don’t see another way out.  Desire haunts my every waking moment.  She is there in the morning, she is there in the afternoon, she is there in my lulls, she is there when I have a moment to myself.  She gives me tremendous hope.  She is that breath of fresh air.  She is the bright side of the what if?  in my mind.  Her underbelly is fear – what if… bad things happen?  what if they don’t like my writing?  What if you’re wasting your time?  What if this is not that important of an issue?  What if you do a terrible job?  What if it doesn’t matter that you wrote this?  What if no one cares?  What if this ruins your reputation – at least right now you are at a status quo…  The possibilities of fearful responses to what if? are plenty.  But why should I adhere to those?  This, I know.  

I write because I want to welcome the possibility of success.  I write because I want to become a craftsman in the trade.  Words free me.  I write because it makes me ecstatic.  I write because it takes me to the moment.  I write because it’s my outlet.  I want to steal more moments like this.  Moments of complete solitude when the whole world is busy doing other things, and I have no obligations.  I crave more moments like this.  I crave a few hours of this where I am not thinking of the former or the latter, just this moment.  

I write because it makes me happy.  

So you see, I have plenty of reasons to write – each of those thoughts for articles and posts are reasons.  Now it just comes down to picking one, and giving it birth.