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New World Library Unshelved

New World Library Unshelved

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Tuesday, August 31, 2010
Ten Daily Habits That Make a (Good) Writer

In the completely updated 10th Anniversary Edition of A Writer’s Book of Days: A Spirited Companion & Lively Muse for the Writing Life, beloved author and writing coach Judy Reeves evokes the muse in writers from all walks of life through engaging exercises and practical instruction in a friendly and accessible style that makes writing fun.

These ten daily habits that make a (good) writer are excerpted from the book:

  1. Eat Healthfully. Give your body what it really wants so it can support you. You may think it wants caffeine, sugar, or alcohol, but it really wants broccoli and spinach. Eat healthfully for stamina, good health, and the sensory experience of it. (Notice your carrots when you eat them, their color and crunch. Smell that onion; look closely at its layers and textures.) Eat several small meals throughout the day; begin with a good breakfast.

  2. Be Physical. Remember when your mother warned you about making faces (“your face could freeze that way”)? If you’re sitting at your desk all hours of the day and night, your whole body could petrify that way. Move it — stretch, exercise, work out. Breathe. It roils the blood and feeds the brain. When you walk, run, bicycle, or swim, you’re in touch with the earth (unless you do it in a gym, and in that case, get outside). Do it alone so you can pay attention to your body and notice your environment as you glide along.

  3. Laugh Out Loud. You take big breaths when you laugh out loud. Laughing helps rid the body of toxins. So lighten up. Take a break from work, and play with your puppy or your child or your neighbor’s child. Look at cartoons; tell a joke; share with friends. Find something funny in the world and let loose belly laughs. Create a playground for the Muse.

  4. Read. Read as much as you can of the best writers. Read on two levels: one as a reader and one as a writer. Study how other writers use language, how they construct a piece. Notice what you love about certain writers. Try reading aloud (especially poetry) before you write.

  5. Cross-Fertilize. Experience another art form — music, photography, dance, painting, sculpture, film, theater. Keep open books of art in your writing space, a basketful of postcard art to leaf through. If music distracts you while you write, listen at other times when you can absorb the music and it is not just a background sound. Visit a museum; walk in a sculpture garden. Let other art evoke your own.

  6. Practice Spirituality. Take time every day (or several times a day) to consciously go to that place you name Sacred — through prayer, meditation, or simply being mindful and present in the present. Make time for whatever you do that keeps you in touch with your spiritual self.

  7. Pay Attention. Notice the quality of light, the heft of air, color of sky, faces, clouds, flowers, garbage, graffiti — all of it. Slow down and pay attention. Stop during your walks and examine a leaf. Read the writing in shop windows. Observe people getting on a bus, the bus driver, the stink of the bus exhaust.

  8. Give Back. Do something good or kind for someone or the planet. Speak to someone you don’t know, smile, help a friend (or a stranger), plant a flower, reuse a paper bag, wrap a gift with newspaper, walk instead of driving. Be generous with whatever you have to give.

  9. Connect with Another Writer. Meet a writing friend for coffee, write a letter to a writer whose work you admire (email counts, but not as much as a real handwritten letter in a real envelope with a real stamp that will arrive in someone’s mailbox), make a phone call to a writer friend. Attend a poetry reading, a book signing; take part in a workshop. Write with someone. Go online to a writers’ chat room, join an online writers’ group, respond to a blog, email a poem to a friend.

  10. Write. Sometime, someplace, every day, honor your writer-self and spend some time writing.
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Judy Reeves is the author of A Writer’s Book of Days and Writing Alone, Writing Together. She teaches writing and leads creativity workshop and is cofounder of the Writing Center, a nonprofit literary arts organization. She lives in San Diego, CA. Visit her online at

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Excerpted from A Writer’s Book of Days, copyright © 1999, 2010 by Judy Reeves. Reprinted with permission from New World Library.


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