5 Toxic Writing Practices That Might Be Holding You Back
Does something feel… off in your writing life but you can’t put your finger on it? I may have some insight.
Writing can be lonely (even with the supportive #writingcommunity at your back!) and sometimes we don’t realize when we fall into bad habits that hurt, not help, our writing. If you feel like something’s missing, here are five question to analyze if you have toxic writing practices that might be holding you back from realizing your full potential.
Are You Denying Yourself Flexibility?
One of the biggest problems I see with writers, myself included, is the vague pressure to get a specific number of words down a day. Forcing words out can be a dangerous practice. I’m all for setting goals and motivating yourself to get into a regular writing habit, but it’s my opinion that quality trumps quantity every time.
Maybe this works for some people, but it definitely doesn’t work for me. In fact, it’s the complete opposite. I churned the first draft of my second book out in like 17 days and y’all… It took me nearly two years to unravel the web of crap I weaved for myself in less than three weeks of writing.
Another way you might be denying yourself flexibility is where you write. If you’re locked into only writing with your laptop in a specific corner of your room—but when you do, inspiration is nowhere to be found—maybe it’s time for a change. We can get almost superstitious about the time, place, writing utensils, and beverages that are part of our writing process, but remember that some change of scenery is good. It’s just like completing a puzzle: changing how you look at something may give you a great idea.
Are You Self-Rejecting?
Maybe more noticeable than denying yourself flexibility is self-rejection—and this happens in every part of the writing process, from drafting to querying. Self-doubt and Imposter Syndrome can creep in silently and take root in our minds, lashing out at the most inopportune times. Sometimes you’re stuck in a chapter because you can find that one word or you don’t query that agent or editor because, hey, why would they ever like you?
Personally, I self-reject as a defense mechanism. If I remove the ability to fail, I won’t feel that sting of rejection or criticism. This isn’t healthy!
To curb this self-rejection, ask your close writing friends, beta readers, or CPs to do positivity passes on your work—have them only focus on what they love so you can practice loving your writing too! Build up your confidence, realize that there are things you do really well, then gather the courage to embark on the next challenge, whether it’s writing a tough chapter, editing a scene, or querying a dream agent.
Are You Overusing Social Media?
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: social media is great, but it’s a slippery slope. Instagram especially is rife with content that encourages the growth of Imposter Syndrome in us all.
Overusing social media can look different:
- Spending all your time on social platforms, making writing a second (or third) priority
- Comparing yourself to other writers and developing a negative attitude toward your own writing
- Caring too much about social followers, engagements, and metrics to prioritize the importance of what you’re doing in reality
Depending on your overuse of social media, there are different ways to break these habits. A generally-helpful tip is to set a time limit on the app to stop yourself from constantly checking it, or deleting the app all-together, so the only way you can access it is on a laptop or tablet.
Are You Writing Where You Sleep?
This might sound odd, but writing where you sleep can be holding back your potential. Yes, beds are comfy and warm and most of our favorite places in the world, but they’re not conducive to a productive writing session (at least, not all the time). Our bodies are conditioned to know that when we’re in that bed, it’s time to sleep. Even if you don’t have a desk or office, try sitting at the kitchen table or somewhere you can keep your back straight and focus your attention on your computer. You can mold your mind’s reactions and attitudes by telling your body it’s time to work, thereby motivating yourself to write better stories!
Are You Analyzing Valuable Feedback?
So you’ve overcome your self-rejection, you have a great place to write, your phone (and Twitter/Facebook/Instagram/Pinterest) is away, and you’re using a new pen to write but something still feels off. What’s going on?!
Maybe it’s as simple as you not listening to feedback.
Be honest with yourself—when you get thoughts back from CPs, beta readers, agents, or editors, are you taking enough time to really digest and think about their suggestions, or are you making excuses like “That’s not what I was going for,” or “They just don’t understand” instead?
I know I’m guilty of this. Receiving criticism is difficult, especially for a craft as vulnerable as writing! Remember that you’ve asked for feedback, though, and while not every single bit of it is valuable, there is truth in every word you receive. Every person who reads your writing will connect with it differently, which gives you countless opportunities to improve and craft your story to appeal to the widest audience you can.
Challenge yourself to sit with feedback. Come back to it a few times if you need to, and actually flesh out how it would work into the story instead of discounting it immediately.
Are You Ready to Write?
I hope these questions helped you analyze your writing practices, how you think and talk to yourself, and what next steps could be if you identified with one of the toxic habits above. If you’d like to talk more about any of these habits (which I’ve definitely experienced at least once!), feel free to reach out to me at @iamgirlofwords on Instagram. I’d love to talk 🙂 Until next time!
Good luck, future bestseller. You’ve got this.