~ Not writing every day
I know, it's like breaking the First Commandment of Writing ("Thou shalt writeth every day, no matter how numb thy bum may be"). But one of the most beneficial things I've discovered is knowing when to write, and when not to. Some days it's just sheer laziness and procrastination, and I just have to push myself through that wall. But then there are days when the creative juices are all dried up, and my metaphorical tank is running on E. And on those days, odds are high that no amount of butt-in-chair time will produce anything beyond frustration and stagnancy.
It's something I long ago discovered in my artwork as well (you knew I'd have to mention painting sooner or later). There are days to push myself past the "don't wanna" stage, and there are days when making myself paint will result only in a ruined piece and a bad mood. Sometimes these kinds of days are good to sit back and think on trouble spots, brainstorm ideas for what happens next; but usually I've found them best to completely ignore my WIP, so I can come back to it tomorrow with fresh eyes. Sometimes it's the best thing I can do for a troublesome story.
~ Using pen and paper for story notes
There's something about a blank word processing document that's absolutely terrifying to me. It's a void, an utter absence of anything and everything — which means, of course, that it could become anything. And in the face of such endless possibility, how can I not be intimidated into paralysis?
I get around this by writing all of my notes the old-fashioned way, in a spiral-bound notebook with a pen. In this technological age I know this won't work for everyone, but it's one of the best writing habits I've picked up. Somehow a blank sheet of paper is far less intimidating to me (don't ask me why), so it helps me get around this initial, overwhelming paralysis at the beginning of projects. And all of my notes are in one place — one jumbled-together, paper-clipped-to-death place (and I wouldn't have it any other way). I can drag my college-ruled notebook anywhere, anytime — unlike my iMac — and I never have to worry about power, wifi, hackers, none of it. Strange factoid: I start writing my notes in the back of the notebook, and work my way forward. I don't know why; it just works out that way.
~ Focusing on one WIP at a time
Another unspoken "do" of writing: have several projects going, so you can always be working on/editing/submitting something. But this is another one of those non-rules that, no matter how logical, just doesn't work for me. And for the record, I'm not talking about scribbling down notes and random "what if's" that pop into my mind, I mean writing actual drafts.
When I really focus on a creative endeavor, I don't like to be distracted. It's one of the reasons I have a hard time shifting between painting and writing, and rarely do the two concurrently. When my mind gets into something, that's it — that's my focus. And the same is true of writing multiple stories at one time. How can I get into Character A's head enough to discover her voice if I'm also trying to figure out what's going on in Character 1's mind? How can I firm up the quirks of World B if I'm also trying to explain what must happen in World 2? Likely this is something that will come to me with time, and experience. Which means I better get my butt-in-chair time in, and start writing more often...