October 14th, 2019

6 Daily Habits To Build a Solid Writing Career

by John Peragine

One of the hardest things to do as a writer is to be organized and business-minded. We want to live within our worlds of fantasy and dare anyone or anything to break us away.

I am one of the lucky few who can say that their day job is writing. It is also my midnight job, my weekend job, my holiday job and my I’m-going-to-be-late-to-dinner-downstairs job.

I write non-fiction, fiction, and articles. A while back I realized that to be successful at writing, I needed a plan and a schedule. Not only for my writing, but for everything else that's part of being a successful writer (that I often procrastinated with).

Writing without a plan for publishing in some form is journaling. It is for your eyes only, equal to keeping those private words locked in a diary stuck under a loose floorboard.

But what if you want to see your work out in the world, have fans, and (hopefully) get paid for it?

I've found no magical formula where publishing and marketing your writing does not take time and effort. The trick is where to spend your time and resources.

Do you post on social media?
Do you write query letters?
Do you network and meet people?
What is the one best way to get your work out into the world?

[That last one is a trick question because there is no “one” way.]

It takes a myriad of cogs and wheels working together. Your job as the writer is to add quality parts, and to keep those parts oiled and maintained daily. Writing is a long game, where progress takes place over time.

Patience and diligence are the keys to a successful writing career.

Below are my Six Daily Activities to build a solid building career.

1. Write.

It seems simple, but writing often gets slotted in after laundry, floor scrubbing, and cleaning the duct work. I joke with my clients that the difference between them and a published author is that the published author finished their book.

Find the right time of day and just write. Some people do better with word count or time goals.

2. Network.

I spend time every day meeting new people or connecting with my sphere of influence. I make sure I keep in touch with the people I enjoy working with. This includes authors, agents, editors, artists, people in the publishing industry, and more. This is done via phone, email, snail mail, or in person.

These connections are vital, not only for your business but for your mental health. It can be lonely, frustrating, and even depressing to be holed up writing day after day. Connecting with other human beings in a meaningful way is important. I network for at least an hour every day in some fashion.

3. Connect with the world.

After I have connected with my sphere of influence, I step out into a larger sphere through the Internet. I blog, write articles, and get on social media. It can be a trap, and so I limit myself, and I have a daily plan of what I want to say and where.

This is how you build your sphere of influence with new people, connect with others you don’t talk to you as often, and also flex your writing skills for others to enjoy. You can let people know what you are up to, and give them the opportunity to see your work.

4. Query people.

I am always looking for the next opportunity. Writing is a numbers game. The more you query, the better your chances of being published.

Look for opportunities from your sphere of influence. I spend at least half an hour a day, sometimes more doing this activity. This can also include creating and signing contracts, or looking for opportunities to present at conferences.

5. Building your writing business.

This time includes activities like working on a website, or social media profiles. I order business cards and look for other swag that I can take to events and making sure my information is up to date, including a current bio and headshot. Old material or pictures that no longer look or sound like you are not effective.

I spend about a half-hour a day on this task.

6. Organize.

Every morning I review my calendar and lists of things I want to accomplish for the day, week and month. I create goals for myself. I used to use a lot of slips of paper, but more recently I have organized myself by using my iPad and Apple Pencil. This way I can keep all my materials in one place. I spend about twenty minutes on organizing.

Setting goals and achieving them is important, and they are more likely to happen if you write them down. If you do the math, you realize these activities take 2-3 hours a day. But it is a business and your career is worth it. Commit the time, and the opportunities in your writing career will blossom.

What habits have helped your writing success? Are there things you tried that proved unsuccessful? Please share your experience down in the comments!

Hey, WITS Friends! John is a new member of the Writers in the Storm team and we are excited to have him. Please say hello to him down in the comments! Although he lives in the Midwest, he will be with me (Jenny) on the West Coast later this month when he presents two workshops at the Writer's Digest Novel Writing Conference (Oct 24-27). We hope to see you there!

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About John

John Peragine has published 14 books and ghostwritten more than 100 others. He is a contributor for HuffPost, Reuters, and The Today Show. He covered the John Edwards trial exclusively for Bloomberg News and The New York Times. He has written for Wine Enthusiast, Grapevine Magazine, Realtor.com, WineMaker magazine, and Writer's Digest.

John began writing professionally in 2007, after working 13 years in social work and as the piccolo player for the Western Piedmont Symphony for over 25 years. Peragine is a member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors. His newest book, The No Frills Guide to Book Marketing, will be released in Summer 2020.

23 responses to “6 Daily Habits To Build a Solid Writing Career”

  1. Terry Odell says:

    Hello, John!
    I have to laugh at your #1 habit. I write so I DON'T have to get stuck dealing with laundry, housework, and all the stuff I hate doing. I start writing in the morning, and the rest of the mundane happens during breaks.
    But I'm remiss when it comes to the kind of planning you do. I write because I love it, have a daily word count goal, but until I talk to my editor about scheduling, don't really have a deadline. As an indie author, I love the freedom. (Probably helps that I'm a retiree, too.)

    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Ha! --> " I write so I DON'T have to get stuck dealing with laundry, housework, and all the stuff I hate doing." <-- I hear you 100% on this.

    • I suppose my point is that I keep my channels open, so that when I am ready to publish I have already create relationships that can be leveraged. I work to keep my name top of mind so that not only can I pitch to others , but I often have people pitch to me.

  2. jeribronson says:

    Hi John, I try to write at night because I still have the day job, but something every night is something. Look forward to more posts

  3. Hi John! Great activities list!

  4. Another artist told me once, "Do one thing every day to move your dream forward." She told me that could be connecting with someone new online or sending a query or updating my website. The trick is to consciously do at least one thing EVERY day. Even if it's just a thank you note or a comment on another blog. It adds up before you know it. I would much rather just write all day long, which is important, but if I'm not doing something to make that writing dream real, it'll be like you said - just journaling really.

  5. Hi John!
    Welcome to WITS, and thanks for the tips!

  6. Julie Glover says:

    Hey, John! Glad to have you on the team. I recently read a book about the writing processes of 20 famous authors, and it was intriguing to see how different they were. And yet some similarities emerged; e.g., writing consistently, taking breaks when needed, networking, reading. What I learned has had me rethinking my own approach and whether I'm doing all I can/should. Where I need to up my game is marketing, so that's where I will be focus more in the coming months. Thanks for a great post!

  7. ecellenb says:

    Great tips, John! I am still trying to balance my time and stay organized. About the long game that writing is, wow, did that hit home.

    • Thanks Ellen. We are all juggling balls on a high wire! We're just trying to keep everything in the air without falling. It’s a long work in process that we never fully achieve but we keep moving toward a moving target.

  8. dholcomb1 says:

    I've been more mindful of my writing time and making a point to hit it a little each day, whether it's my WIP or one of my other writing jobs.

    denise

  9. Hello John,
    Thank you for the tips and good jolt!
    The housework is a pain, literally and figuratively. I can't seem to break the habit of ensuring the house is in good order before I sit at my desk. By which time all creativity is in the bin with the rest of the dust!
    But you have answered me. Get a plan, work it!
    Cheers.

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