How to Break Bad Writing Habits in 7 Steps

Do you edit as you write? Chew on your pencil? Procrastinate? Quit before you really get to the heart of your story?

With every writer lies a bad writing habit. And often great writers allow a bad habit to stand in the way of what they really want to achieve in their writing.

No more! You are ready to take back control of your writing. And I plan to provide you a step-by-step strategy on how to break bad writing habits.

But before we can solve the problem, we must first understand how this bag writing habit of yours surfaced in the first place.

How You Created That Bad Writing Habit

Your bad writing habits weren’t born overnight. Rather, a bad writing tendency becomes a pattern through consistent repetition in your daily life. And a bad writing habit that’s encouraged to stay isn’t looking to escape—that is, unless you have a say about it.

So, how did you create this bad writing habit?  Here’s my theory:

  1. Reminder – You are cued to perform this conscious behavior (such as checking social media alerts instead of writing) or triggered to unconsciously feel a certain way (such as feeling nervous).
  • Routine – A trigger leads to a related action. A social media alert can trigger you to interact with that social media platform instead of writing. Feeling nervous can trigger you to chew on your pencil.
  • Reward – The prize received from acting on this habit makes the bad writing habit stick. Scrolling through social media may cause enjoyment. Chewing on your pencil may relieve stress. 

How to Break Bad Writing Habits in 7 Steps

The simplest way to break your bad writing habit is by reversing this cyclical pattern of Rs and replacing the bad behavior with a positive one, be it through your own strength or with the help of habit breaking tech tools.

But nothing’s ever that simple. Let’s break down the process on how to break bad writing habits into actionable steps. That way, you can break down the negativity that’s holding you back and take back control of your writing through positive, healthy choices.

Step 1: Define Your Bad Writing Habit

This should be straightforward. How to break bad writing habits starts by stating what that bad writing habit is.

So, what is your bad writing habit? Do you not stick to a writing plan? Do you let your inner editor take over your writing session? Do you spend too much time preparing to write instead of writing?

Step 2: Recognize This Bad Writing Habit as a Bad Habit

This doesn’t mean admit defeat. After all, you’re only defeated if you let your bad writing habits stick around. 

Instead, you acknowledge this bad writing habit as a bad pattern in your life. You don’t want to keep it going in your writing routine. 

You can only break bad writing habits when you’re ready. So make sure that you are prepared to stop this unproductive behavior.

Step 3: Establish What You Do Want

What do you want to achieve by breaking this bad writing habit? And how does your bad habit in writing stand in your way of achieving what you actually want?

Focus on a positive goal. You are more likely to achieve success on how to break bad writing habits when you fix your attention more on a desired outcome rather than the elimination of a negative behavior.

Step 4: Identify Your Triggers

Thanks to your triggers, you have a bad writing habit to deal with. So let’s target your triggers and zep the temptation out of them.

Track your bad writing habit—either by acting upon it for a few days or by reviewing the cyclical behavior in your head—and see if any patterns emerge. 

Ask yourself:

  • After what action does your bad writing habit happen? 
  • Where does this bad writing habit happen?
  • During what time of day does this bad writing habit happen?
  • How do you feel before acting upon this bad writing habit?
  • How do you feel when acting upon this bad writing habit?
  • Who is involved within your bad writing habit?

Let’s say you want to stop editing as you’re writing. After tracking your behavior through several writing sessions, you come to a realization. Just before you start editing your writing during a writing (not editing) session, you experience an overwhelming feeling of self-doubt.

In this instance, the trigger is self-doubt. The bad habit is editing what you just wrote. And the reward is feeling relief after spending 30 minutes editing that paragraph.

Step 5: Replace Your Reaction

Now it’s time for the real action on how to break bad writing habits. It’s time to make that change!

You can stop your bad writing habits by recognizing your trigger when it occurs and replacing your response to it with another action that’s more productive to your goal.

Let’s use the example from the previous step. When the feeling of self-doubt arises during a writing session, replace the action of editing what you just wrote with reading through a compiled list of positive affirmations that inspire you to keep going with your writing session. 

Step 6: Reward Your Positive Behavior

A bad habit and a good habit have something in common: they stick around for a worthwhile reward. So, give your new response a reward that encourages you to always choose the positive behavior instead of the bad writing habit.

Step 7: Repeat, Repeat, Repeat

Consistency is how to break bad writing habits. By consistently choosing the positive behavior whenever the trigger arises, you create a new writing habit. And this writing habit is one you created deliberately so that you stay on track to achieving your writing goals.

I’m curious—what are your steps on how to break bad writing habits? Share your strategy in the comments section below.

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