10 Things Every Writer Should Do


 computer dog

I’m a list person. In part, that’s because said lists serve to bump my memory when it gets…um…lost. But I also just love lists—especially lists of things you should (or shouldn’t) do. So here, for your perusal, are my top ten things every writer should do every day:

  1. Stretch your word muscles. Learn a new word. Read a new writer. Do a crossword puzzle. Flip through the dictionary. Do the Reader’s Digest Word Power test. Something to test and strengthen your word skills.
  2. Spend at least 15 minutes in silence. No words, no music. Just…be still. It’s hard to hear the Master’s voice in all the chaos that fills our days. Purpose to spend at least a little bit of time—other than when you’re asleep—in silence.
  3. Read Scripture. Now, I’m not talking about your devotions. I’m talking reading them as a writer. See how the stories are told. Savor the beauty of the songs. Study the heroes and villains. There’s a wealth of gold to be gleaned in them thar pages.
  4. Learn something new about writing. Okay, how many books on writing do you have? And how many of them have you read? If you’re like I am, the percentage is woefully low. So purpose, every day, to read from a book on the craft of writing. Doesn’t have to be a lot. Even if you only read one page, you’re making headway. Of course, if you’ve read all of the craft books you have, CONGRATS. Now, go back and read them again. Just a little each day.
  5. Keep a Beautiful Words journal.  Whether you hand write these or use a computer document, keep a journal of the phrases in books that capture or delight you. Bits of writing that you find wonderful.  Add something new every day. Be sure to credit where it came from.
  6. At least once a week, add something from your writing to the Beautiful Writing journal.  It’s there, whether you believe it or not. A perfect word or sentence, a bit of dialogue. Add that to your Beautiful Words journal. Then, when you’re feeling discouraged you can go back and read them to remind yourself you’re not a hack.
  7.  Just DON’T do it! C’mon now, you know what I mean. Playing Angry Birds, wandering on Facebook, browsing sales…all those things we do instead of writing. If we spent half of the time we waste writing, we’d finish our books in record time. So stop it. Now.
  8. Step Away from the keyboard. I get that sometimes we’re on deadline and so we’re chained to the keyboard. But even on those days—maybe especially on those days—you need to take a break. Even if it’s only for 5 minutes. Set a timer for the time you will allow yourself, and walk away. Go outside. Play with the dog. Hug your child. Garden. Make a bouquet of flowers. Shoot at cans. Change the oil in your car. Whatever. Just give your mind a break. Every. Day. Trust me, your writing will benefit.
  9. Learn to release tension. We’re so good at tensing up, at letting deadlines and word quotas and plot issues and edits and staying on top of social media and blah blah blah get to us.  Happens to me all the time. Happened as I was getting ready for one of my trips last week. I was editing and wham! Anxiety over how much I had to do just slammed into me. So here is one tip for dealing with this kind of thing.
    1. Stop. Whatever you’re doing, whatever you’re thinking. Just stop.
    2. If you’re standing, sit down.
    3. Close your eyes.
    4. Put your hands in your lap and your feet flat on the floor.
    5. Recite your favorite Scripture to yourself. As you do so…
    6. Breath in, through the nose, nice and slow. Fill your lungs. Hold it for a second. And then
    7. Breath out, through your mouth, nice and slow.
    8. Repeat. At least five times.
    9. Remind Yourself Who is in control. Do you best at every aspect of this task, but remember, you’re not in control. Your job is obedience. The outcome is up to Someone far wiser. Remind yourself of that every day. Don’t let yourself forget it.

Okay, your turn. What do you consider one Must-Do for every writer?

26 Responses to 10 Things Every Writer Should Do

  1. Jackie Layton April 16, 2014 at 4:20 am #

    I’m not sure if this is a must-do, but I work with a lady who is the definition of “country girl.” I keep a list of some of her quirky sayings. Last week she told a man that he was, “as handy as a pocket on a shirt.”
    One of my favorites is “flatter than a flitter.” These will show up in my stories from time to time because they are too good not to share.

    Have a blessed Easter!

  2. Sara Baysinger April 16, 2014 at 6:02 am #

    Great post! I am going to start a Beautiful Words journal today!

  3. Debra L. Butterfield April 16, 2014 at 6:10 am #

    Jackie, I do the same thing! I also keep an idea journal. While I don’t use it every day, having it means I can use it every day. Often when an idea strikes me, it is in the middle of something else I’m doing. I jot the idea down into my journal and the basics of the idea so that later when I have time to develop it, I’m not racking my brain trying to remember it.

  4. Jeanne Takenaka April 16, 2014 at 6:22 am #

    Karen, what a great list. I am a LIST GIRL. Love them. Just love them. I use them for my daily tasks, to keep track of lots of things I need to remember and do.

    For writing, I haven’t tried the journal of beautiful words. I need to begin that.

    One thing I’ve begun doing is keeping a notebook in my purse. When I hear or observe something that would be good story fodder, I write it down. I don’t use it all the time,but it’s good to have it handy for those perfect moments when a unique story gem crosses my path.

  5. Elizabeth Goddard April 16, 2014 at 7:11 am #


    I’m a list person too, and I love this list. Going to copy and paste it into my TODO list on my computer. I’ve learned that if I chip away at things on my list, just a little every day, everything eventually gets done. Then I’m amazed at what I’ve accomplished. One of the things on your list I have never done is create a Beautiful Words journal. I love that!

  6. Misa April 16, 2014 at 7:21 am #

    A “must” for me is listening to appropriate music. It lifts me up and gives me the energy to keep going — or on those occasions I can’t get into a certain mindset, puts me there.

    • SaSa Kovel February 16, 2015 at 7:05 pm #

      I find that it’s best not to listen to music with lyrics. Or, if it does have lyrics, they should be in a language you /don’t/ speak. That way, your own words can flow, and you don’t get caught up on /their/ words.

  7. Cheryl Barker April 16, 2014 at 7:48 am #

    Karen, love the Beautiful Words journal idea! I love journals with a theme anyway so this is now one more I need to start 🙂

  8. Karen Ball April 16, 2014 at 8:03 am #

    Oh, and number 10? Don’t sweat the small stuff…like the fact that I only have 9 thing on my 10-things-to-do list!

  9. KT Sweet April 16, 2014 at 8:20 am #

    Great list. Sing! Every day, sing! Praise Him and find joy.

  10. Jenny Leo April 16, 2014 at 8:29 am #

    Great list! I keep a list of my own (a sub-list, if you will) of non-writing tasks that will nonetheless keep my writing moving forward when I can’t make myself write another word. They include: read a blog or book related to my historical time period, listen to music or watch a movie set in my time period, follow up on an intriguing research clue or rabbit trail, read a book on writing craft AND ACTUALLY APPLY ITS ADVICE, write a cheery note of encouragement to a writing pal or (even better) a writer I don’t know whose work I appreciate, go hang out on a reader site for a while (i.e. Goodreads) and eavesdrop on what people are saying about my genre.

  11. Ron Estrada April 16, 2014 at 9:09 am #

    Well it shouldn’t need to be said. But a writer should read. I’ve actually made myself so busy that I’ve stopped reading. So this year I set a challenge (and made a facebook group around it) to read 52 books. I’ve only got about an hour a day to read, but setting that goal ensures I don’t skip it, even if it means more writing.

  12. Sondra Kraak April 16, 2014 at 9:10 am #

    A beautiful words journal–yes!

  13. Ane Mulligan April 16, 2014 at 9:36 am #

    I wondered about that #10. LOL I love this, and I too keep a journal of words, but not so much beautiful ones, but fun and quirky Southern sayings I hear out and about. Love lists.

  14. Heidi McCahan April 16, 2014 at 10:30 am #

    I’m a list person, too. I like the beautiful words journal. I think I’ll implement that one. If you have a critique partner, I would add read another writer’s work on a regular basis. I like the ACFW Scribes format of sub 1, crit 2 because it gets me out of my own head and helps me become a better writer. Thanks for the list, Karen.

  15. Sandy Mauck April 16, 2014 at 12:44 pm #

    Excellent list. We need it all. I would add only one more important thing. It might be 8.a. But we gotta move. Not only for our little or not so little fanny annies but because we desperately need the blood to circulate. How can we think of those beautiful words if there is no blood getting to the brain?

  16. Anne Braeburn April 16, 2014 at 12:53 pm #

    Great list. Especially #2 and #6.

    Thanks, Karen.

  17. Katie Clark April 16, 2014 at 3:17 pm #

    #7 is just for me, I know it! 🙂 Great post.

  18. Susan Flemming April 16, 2014 at 4:03 pm #

    Like so many others, I love the idea of a Beautiful Words journal. I also like to jot down interesting ideas surrounding words. For instance, bride and pride… if you turn the b upside down it becomes a p. Over the years, I’ve played around with the idea for an article about how pride can often get in the way of becoming a bride of Christ.

  19. Rebecca Barlow Jordan April 16, 2014 at 5:01 pm #

    Wonderful list, Karen! I, too, want to keep these handy. A few years ago I started a “quote jounal” similar to the “Beautiful Words” journal. I love to jot down quotes I find in books or various places. Many I’ve ended up using (with permission) in my books.

  20. Becky Jones April 16, 2014 at 6:34 pm #

    Inspired…so much I picked up a slim, new idea journal today. (I’ll put pretty words there, too.) Lately I’m digging earthy words…like “loamy,” and “burrowing”…might be spring fever!

    A QUESTION: I know that our language should always be expanding…but how do you get over that sketchy impostor feeling the first time you deploy said new words in your own writing? I always feel like a kid in playing dress-up, parading in pair of her mommy’s pumps!

  21. Linda Samaritoni April 16, 2014 at 7:23 pm #

    Wow! What a great list! I printed it off and will use it daily. Part of the fun of making lists is to check off items as they are accomplished. Someday, this list will have check marks doodled all over it.

  22. gajendra kotesa April 23, 2014 at 9:25 am #

    Inspirational ideas -how to be a good writer?every point is full of attention towards activities in we involve ourselves unknowingly.if we apply all points in a cycle we can give the best to the world of WORDS.

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