My worst writing habit is that I think too much.
No, really. If you put me on the spot and say “WRITE SOMETHING!”, I’ll completely freeze up. “Okay, write something about goats!” …goats…? Umm. I got nothing. I’m not a big Mountain Goats fan. LJ had a goat for a mascot. Aaand…that’s about it. “It’s not that hard! Write a story about a goat!” Doing what? “I don’t know! Make something up! You’re the writer!” Umm…
Yeah, from that transcript, it sounds like I just don’t have much of a thought process at all. It sounds like my brain just can’t get out of first gear.
On the contrary, my brain is most likely going:
Okay, goats. Goats. Mountains? Which mountain? Any mountain in the US, or one in Siberia? Which country is it that we usually see mountain goats on those BBC nature shows? Okay, a story about a goat that’s filmed by Attenborough’s team. No, that’s stupid. A goat that befriends the team? Meh. Too hokey. No, let’s back it up. The Pet Goat. NO! No no no. Not gonna go there. What the hell should I write about a goat? Why goats, anyway? I don’t have any interest in goats. Well, goat’s milk cheese is pretty tasty…that reminds me, we need to do our food shopping this weekend. I need to get that, and some more cereal — wait. Where was I? Goats. Man, I can’t think of anything.
This is why I’m not much of a person to write via a suggested prompt. I tend to overthink the exercise. It’s not that I can’t write like that, it’s that my default setting is usually long-form story. It’s why I’ve never really tried writing short stories in the past. It’s also why I know I’d never be a reporter on assignment. It’s not my default setting.
That said, however…
This is one of the reasons why I’ve resurrected the daily practice words. I’m trying to break out of that habit of thinking oh god I have to write 750 words about something and my brain is blank. I don’t know what the hell to write about. Or more to the point: I’ve already written about X, Y and Z. I’m sick of writing the same damn thing over and over again. I want to write something different but I DON’T KNOW–
You know, this is why I need to tell myself to STFU every now and again.
But seriously, I’m doing my best to break my bad writing habits. Instead of blanking out or freezing up, I’ll just write a random passage of conversation, just to see where it goes. It’s one of my favorite exercises, actually: writing a passage that tells a story or part of a story, using only dialogue. No prose, no ‘he said’, ‘she exclaimed’, no descriptive action. I force myself to write as if it’s two people on a blank stage, interacting purely through voice. And in the process, it makes me rethink how to approach my writing.
It’s good that I know what my bad habits are, that way I can do something about getting rid of them.