Over the past few years, I've developed a handful of habits that are neither original nor unique but have helped me in ways large and small. Though they may seem somewhat obvious, it's hard to overstate their importance to me. Many took a long time to internalize—it was not until I was first rejected by Oberlin's Creative Writing program that I realized that it was even possible to read a novel every week—and to appreciate their significance always took even longer. But after years of maintaining these habits with dogmatic consistency, I have come to suspect that any advice I could give on writing would be dwarfed by the knowledge imparted implicitly by the regular practice of these routine tasks. I present my regimen below, in the hopes that you might find some of it useful, or even better, might feel inspired to draft a list of your own.
- Read at least one book of fiction or poetry every week. Or both. (An issue of Glimmer Train certainly counts.)
- If on vacation, read at least one book of fiction or poetry every day. Or both.
- Go on walks.
- Upon finding a particularly striking line/sentence/section, read and reread until every word from start to finish is visible with your eyes closed.
- Memorize Rilke.
- Write ten pages every week.
- Cultivate a steady stream of rejections. Never let it lapse.
- Go on walks.
These tasks are not going to be the best for each writer, but I would assert that many would find a repeating schedule more useful than they might admit. Even Henry Miller followed a careful blueprint of good daily habits during the drafting of his famed debauch, Tropic of Cancer. Granted, one of his list items included "drink if you feel like it", but the point remains. Regularity works.