I needed a blog topic for this week and had to write it early (as you read this, I'm with my sister on a girls' road trip along the Natchez Trace and are probably touring an antebellum mansion or visiting an antique shop), so I began to think about the 7 habits as they would apply to writing. I looked for my husband's copy of the book and finally determined it must still be packed away. But never fear -- the Internet came to my rescue. So without further ado, I present The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Writers.
1. Be Proactive
Covey uses the definition of proactive coined by Victor Frankl, an Austrian psychologist who survived the horrors of a Nazi concentration camp. He coined the word proactive to mean someone who takes responsibility for everything in life instead of blaming other people and circumstances.
So how does this apply to writing? You've decided to be a writer. It's probably in your blood and you can't NOT write. So write. Just do it. If you don't write, then don't point the finger of blame because whenever you point one finger at someone or something else, you have three fingers pointing back at you.
Sure, things are going to happen to stand in your way. Your boss wants you to work overtime. The baby gets sick and demands your full attention. Crap happens. But it's how you deal with it that counts. Self-imposed deadlines are different than deadlines imposed by someone else, but there's usually a way to resolve things. Be proactive as opposed to reactive. See the glass half full rather than half empty.
2. Begin with the End in MindThe end, as defined by Covey, is your purpose. And you must define that purpose before you can begin the journey toward fulfilling it. You cannot hit a target that does not exist. Your purpose will involve goals and those goals should be realistic and achievable. Then be accountable for your progress toward your goal. Find someone to report to and reciprocate the favor. It's much harder to sit on the fence and do nothing when you have to account for yourself.
Don't merely have a dream to write. Stop sitting on the fence. Have a goal to write. A goal is a dream with a deadline. Set yourself a realistic writing goal. Tell it to someone and then report your progress daily.
However (isn't there always a "however"?), be careful what you ask for because you just might get it. Make sure you can handle the consequences.
3. Put First Things First
For this habit, Covey talks about prioritizing the work necessary to achieve your goal. He distinguishes important from unimportant and urgent from non-urgent. Determine where your activity falls in that matrix. It's very easy to expend excess time on busy work that looks important but may very well move you no further toward your goal than you were yesterday. Look at where you want to be and determine what has to be done first in order to get there.
Take a good look at the amount of research and planning that goes into your writing. Do you really need all that information or are you simply stalling or justifying it because it looks like work. Write down how you spend your time for a day and then evaluate each task in terms of importance and urgency. Perhaps you'll re-think the two dozen email loops and message boards you visit daily. Develop good time management skills so that deadline won't creep up on you when you're unprepared.
4. Think Win/Win
Win/Win is an attitude that looks to find solutions that are beneficial both to the individual and to the group as a whole. It has a basis in character and responsibility. The phrase "all for one and one for all" aptly describes this habit as does the term "deal or no deal." The win/win solutin isn't your way or my way, it's a better way.
When I think of this habit I immediately think of the Writing Playground. We conceived the idea over a weekend and had it operational in a month's time. We brainstormed and planned and chose solutions that benefitted the group. The website's success a testament to the character of each Playfriend.
5. Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood
Our natural inclination is for our brains to rev into action as soon as we hear something. As a result we often only half-listen to what someone is saying and then begin to offer advice. Because we've only half-listened, we offer advice based on half the facts, and that advice is more likely to be rejected. Listening thoroughly will give you all the information and you'll be more likely to establish a good relationship to the other person.
How does this relate to my writing? I don't feel like I know enough about writing to offer much in the way of advice to anyone. So mostly I listen and watch and understand more and more each day.
Synergy is the effect of two or more persons working together to produce a total that is greater than the sum of the parts. Sounds impossible?
Look at the Writing Playground. It's a classic example of synergy in action. There is no way one person could have accomplished all that in the short amount of time. Together we were able to generate a total greater than the sum of the parts.
7. Sharpen the Saw
This habit focuses on balancing your life. Renew yourself in body, spirit and mind. Cultivate your interpersonal relationships. The well-balanced individual will be more productive in the long run.
This one is easy: it's not all about writing folks. Yes, writing is important. Yes, you have deadlines. But at some point you need to have fun. Read a book by a new author or re-visit an old favorite. Take a long walk and tune into nature. Visit a friend and chat over a cup of tea. Visit an attraction in your town that you've never been to. Learn a new game or skill. Take up a new hobby. You'll be a better person for it and your writing will benefit as well.
1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7. It's as easy as that.
Which habit or habits do you struggle with? Which habit or habits do you excel at? Do you believe Covey's 7 habits can help your writing?