Habits for Success: the meme

I’m going to take a one post break from the “Look Like a Pro” series to participate in the “Habits for Daily Success” meme. Carson Brackney, the copywriter extraordinaire over at Content Done Better has tagged me with the latest meme: “List the top 5 to 10 things you do almost every day that help you to be successful. They can be anything at all, but they have to be things you do at least 4 or 5 times every week.”

Well, I honestly don’t know just how successful I really am… I’m a very fledgling rookie in the freelance writing field. I’m still in school, and making progress a lot more slowly than I would like. I may not have what others consider to be success, but I still consider myself to be reasonably successful.

I don’t necessarily think that success is simply defined as a simple end point. Being done eating a burger isn’t necessarily the point of a burger. The point is that you love every delicious, greasy moment of eating it. Eventually you do finish it, but being done with a burger is nowhere near as wonderful as eating one. I’d know, I’ve eaten plenty.

I’d have to say then that habit numero uno is my mindset. I’m successful because of how I define my success. I’m married to my best friend, the girl of my dreams. My studies, my hobbies, my work and my passions all intersect in my writing. I spend every day doing what I love. I have a home, food to eat, and friends and family. My success depends largely on recognizing the successes I have already attained and enjoy. As a result, I’m a happy man. If happiness isn’t success, what is?

If we continue on defining success as daily happiness, we come to my next habit, which also isn’t necessarily writing related. The second habit has to be my overall lifestyle. I lead a life that conforms to certain standards of decency and conduct. My religious/spiritual life is an active and vibrant one. While I am far from perfect, I do my best to live according to the knowledge I have. At the end of the day, even though I make mistakes, I’m able to sleep peacefully.

While these first two habits might not sound all that related to success with writing business, they are. If you can’t learn be happy now, no amount of money, recognition, or expertise will satisfy you. You may achieve some visible measure of external success, but inside you’ll feel like a failure.

On to things more relevant to the writing profession:

I feed my mind constantly. The mind works according to the old computer programming maxim – “Garbage in, garbage out.” Along the same lines, if little goes in, little can come out. I’m a voracious reader, with a love for new ideas. I seek out new perspectives and experiences. As a result, I’ve got ideas coming out of my ears.

I write daily. Everything I’ve ever read on the subject tells me that good writing is the product of regular, daily writing. As a writer, words are the clay you sculpt with, the tools you work with. The more practiced and familiar you are with your tools and materials, the better you’ll be at your craft. To quote a couple writing heroes of mine:

“Runners don’t say, ‘Oh, I ran yesterday. I’m limber.’ Each day they warm up and stretch.” – Natalie Goldberg

“Set up a daily writing schedule. That is the best advice I can offer any aspiring writer. If nothing else, the schedule will make you think of yourself as a writer. … After a few months of sticking to your schedule, you should be rewarded with an astonishing improvement in your writing.” – Patrick McManus
I set goals, and pursue them. Am I happy with what I have now? Absolutely. If things never changed, I could be happy for the rest of my life. The only problem is that things always change. Growth and change are inescapable, but not uncontrollable. If my life must change, it might as well be for the better and according to my own plan. I have educational and career goals. Though I love the apartment my wife and I are in, we’d like a house with a yard. I’d like a better workspace, with nicer equipment. I’d love to get published in certain magazines. I would love to be wealthy, influential, famous or whatever else. I don’t know where my life will ultimately end up, but I do know that anything worthwhile tends to be the result of patient hard work.

Finally, I study others. I try to adopt the things that work best, and discard what doesn’t. I’m not too sure that I’m necessarily any good at that, but I’m making progress. I’m a little bit better today than I was yesterday, and that’s good enough for me.

I’m passing this along to…
Kristen King, at ::inkthinker::
Andy Humphrey at The Struggling Writer
Mridu Khullar at her blog

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