Top Ten Habits Of Elite Writers (They’re Not What They Say)

You want to know how to write great stories that inspire and captivate your readers?

The answer is simple: live a great life that inspires and captivates you.

It’s easy, too: make great habits that empower and uplift you.    

I want you to life a purposeful, fulfilled life.

I want you to see for yourself that not everything there is to be said has been said already, that there is endless more for you to discover and to share.

The reason ‘nothing new under the sun’ gets said is that ‘nothing new under the sun’ gets done.

Most “writing better” articles out there speak about the writing itself, as if language began and ended within itself, and was not just a tool for the communication of life, of experience.

That which can be written in words is at worst a shadow and at most a map of the riches of experience.

Without the substance of experience to back them up, all words are empty of meaning and devoid of value.

Therefore, seek experience first, and let words come to you of their own.

Look at the ancient pioneers: they were discovering life, observing the teachings of experience, and daring to reach for greatness.

Look at the modern followers: they imitate what others have already done, memorizing the words of observers, settling to reach for monetary gains.

The choice, to be an imitator of the life of others, or to be the creator of your own, is yours and yours alone.

There is no improvement without effort, but effort becomes painless when it is done with joy, and joy comes naturally to those who love what they do.

Your smallest daily effort drives your highest lifetime accomplishment, and your daily habits drive your daily efforts.

I will share with you here the ten daily habits that have helped shape me as a writer and as a human being.

In the long run, consistency matters more than intensity. Set a standard for yourself that you can follow every day without exception and steadily raise it as your self-growth enables. Starting small enough to fulfill your promises to yourself will build self-confidence, self-discipline, and self-esteem. It is better to become great slowly than to quickly imagine oneself to already be great yet to never actually become great.

Make no mistake: every goal you set is a promise to yourself; breaking it will cost you spiritually more than any monetary debt.

I. Seeking Inspiration

In other words, “living”.

Or do you delude yourself into thinking you can write greatly of things you do not truly understand, or that you can truly understand things you have no experience with?

The uniqueness of your life experience is what drives the uniqueness of your storytelling.

To improve as a writer, I do not seek to write a better story, so much as I seek to live a better life worth writing stories of.

That means not just traveling to new places, learning new skills, and meeting new people, but also, thinking better thoughts about all my experiences.

To think better, it helps to form the habit of “seeking inspiration”, of active listening, of active observation of the details of everyday life.

Inspiration is to be found in every moment; as with awareness, it is not a practice that needs its own dedicated time, but rather one that needs constant dedication all the time.

Inspiration is not a singular act of mind; it is composite a state of mind, a state of mental receptiveness, of readiness of thought.

As with confusing subconscious emotional thoughts that occasionally surface as being “intuitions”, so is it the common disposition to confuse subconscious emotional perceptions that occasionally surface as being “inspirations”.

What are deemed rare and precious moments for many, is for others a state of normalcy. Its constancy is attained through the simple caring to pay attention to, to be aware of, one’s self and environment.

Inspiration acts as oven-fresh productive energy that surges by absorbing life through all senses, all heart and mind. It breaks through the thin walls of “writer’s block” like a lightning bolt spreading fire through coals. It courses through one’s very body like liquid electricity turning on a cascade of switches in the mind.

Sometimes, ink flows from that cascade, stringing the experience together: sometimes, in metaphors to be grasped by those who share it; sometimes, in meandering descriptions to softly guide those who seek it.

Yet sometimes, not all the ink in the world can so much as hint of the experience; nor should it.

I will share you with the common places of everyday life where I find this experience; it is not inspiration, but experience I seek, while already being in the state of inspiration.

  • A look out the window of my apartment.

Standing on the balcony towards the rear-garden of my apartment, thick with trees and lush with many greens lit to life by the gentle rain. Hearing the sharper or more thudded patterns of each drop as it resonates within various surfaces, as in expanding time. In the silence, emotions arise, harmonious yet distinct, simultaneous yet individuated, of my memories, of the grasses, of the drops’ journeys, of more. Into the distance, my heart flows freely, with the waters; and with the waters, the distance answers.

  • Closing my eyes and drifting off to beautiful music from my hi-fi system

From classical and jazz to classical rock and blues to ambiental and new age.

  • A look at my wife, with her loving eyes fixed on mine.

  • A good brainstorming session with my idea-book.

  • Watching an inspiring video online:

Whether about the beauty of arts, the beauty of Nature, people doing beautiful things.

  • Wandering through the city streets:

Strolling through the outskirts of the city at night, touching the wild grasses, and enjoying the vividness of the cricket’s motions in the silence. There is the solid intimacy of moving with the Earth, the ethereal longing for the vastness of the starry sky above, and a fiery curiosity for the sea that flows within, and more. Reasoning sparks, threading the delicate balance of weighing the order of the known with the chaos of the unknown, and more. Sparks of curiosity grow into flames of inquisitiveness, weaving the threads of perception with the central theme of love, and the many chords of emotion that accompany it, and more.

  • Wandering through the local park or botanical garden:

Taking a walk in the morning across a thick park, with its dense variety of richly scented plants, soils, and fellow creatures, the swimming swans, the scurrying squirrels, the lodging dogs. Caressing the squirrels as they play, feeding the dogs as they cuddle, walking with the swans as they swim. Outwards, the senses stretch; with the heart, they flow forth. Like a sphere of emotion, its contents fluid, expanding, heightened.

  • A weekend trip to a new place.

Watching the waters of a large lake from a nearby island pixeled with Roman-like ruins. Feeling the chilly winds bring a taste of humidity, and the eyes drink in the orange-purple shade of the sun slowly ebbing upon the waves.

Memories arise, bringing close what is distant, pulling in scents, textures, tastes, sounds, and sights of things known. Blending in with the moment’s emotion, and more, to shape vividly the presence of things known, and the imagination of things unknown.

  • An in-person course alongside other people:

II. Reading

Why Do I Read?

It helps my mind learn from other writers in order to better be able to write.

It helps my mind calm down from the use of electronics in order to be able to sleep better.

It awakens my imagination and engages my thought in a relaxed, wandering pattern that is conducive to inventive ideas.

It is a beautiful experience that stirs a sense of adventure, of longing to do more, and helps me keep a fresh and enthusiastic attitude.

It is a source of information and new material for the mind to work with that it may not have come up with on its own.

It is a means of sharing in the lives of others, their joys and pains, and enables the self-creation of a fictive internal dialogue with the book’s author and its characters, allowing me to experience more kinship and admiration, empathy and compassion.

What Do I Read?

I have been reading at least one book every week, and one article every day, since the age of seven.

At the age of twenty-one, I had read over a thousand books, and over ten thousand articles.

I only read books I deem to be of quality, to have taken real effort and real skill to write, or to have a value beyond the writing of communicating a valuable experience.

I read for my intellect in the morning, for my business in the afternoon, and for my heart in the evening.

Sometimes I have up to a dozen books that I read within one timeframe, other times I focus on a single book at a time.

But, as with inspiration, it is not so much the time that makes a difference, but the quality of the process.

The Benefits Of Reading Done Right:

Reading done right has manifold benefits:

  1. learning from the experience of others,
  2. mapping out how to better achieve one’s goals,
  3. enriching the mind with fresh thoughts to ponder,
  4. melting stress in the foundry of a good story,
  5. enabling the heart to dream of a better life,
  6. taking examples from virtuous characters and counter-examples from depraved characters,
  7. challenging the intellect to grow with knowledge,
  8. stimulating inventive ideas,
  9. learning to write better,
  10. increasing self-esteem,
  11. developing empathy,
  12. helping to get better sleep,
  13. expanding vocabulary,
  14. awakening imagination,
  15. having a blast without lifting a finger,

And many, many more.

Levels of Reading

Not all people know how to read effectively, and so not all people can reap all of the benefits above. I will make up a classification of reader levels:

  • The word scanner:

For many, scanning words is all there is to it. There is no real thinking process going on besides what comes in the very moment of reading the words. The ‘thoughts’ are galvanized by the words as if by an electrical jolt running through a dead frog.

They usually forget most of what they read soon thereafter, which could explain why they do not really care about the quality of what they read.

But you cannot reap the results of a thought process without going through a similar thought process yourself, and words are not the beginning and end of the thought process involved in writing.

  • The thoughtful reader:

Proper, thoughtful reading takes effort to do:

  • it requires the reader to think, imagine, feel the characters and the situations, and extrapolate as the writer did;
  • it means making the unfolding story your own by participating in it with mind and heart;
  • it demands reconstructing, as vividly as memory and imagination allow, what the characters think and feel,
  • it implies tracking the web and the flow of events, and the history behind them.
  • The writer thinker:

As a writer, to me, there is also joy and usefulness in extrapolating the many layers and alternatives of meaning behind each event as compared with every other event at each level of structure – word, sentence, paragraph, scene, chapter, act –, and assembling extrapolations to dig out new meanings and ideas in harmony with the whole.

As I ponder divergent angles and topics, the lecture becomes a mere starting point for my own further-reaching thoughts. To me, a “deep read” is like unfolding a timeless sphere into strands of time and rearranging the strands to form new shapes; there are endless spirals of meaning that expand to volumes far beyond the original sphere.

Reading Conclusion

As these made-up classifications illustrate, words are but the tip of the iceberg in a deep writing process, and so should they be in a deep reading process.

Words alone do not impart knowledge; they merely point towards it. And knowledge itself is but a map of experience, not experience itself.

Reading is useful for expanding horizons, yet it is not the same as walking through those horizons.

One area of sharp contrast between my classmates and I is that my classmates were satisfied to just read about experiences while I was not satisfied until I also lived out the experiences. As one astute girl put it, “You’re much more hardcore than I am”.

I know what it is like to go out in the cold to make a padded nest for freezing birds to feel warmer, the brotherhood with life it brings, the catharsis it brings, while my classmates only know what it is like to feel sorry for the poor birds while watching them from the distance of a warm room.

Books are the treasure-house of the collected experience of our species. Yet a treasure is still worthless if it is never spent, as is knowledge meaningless unless and until it is applied to one’s own life.

III. Writing

No, I am not quite so radical as to leave this one out of my “Top Ten Habits Of Elite Writers” list.

You do have to write to get better at writing; beginner or expert, it matters not, you must practice the profession to lay claim to it.

What I am saying is that writing is not all, or even most, of what you can do to get better at writing.

I write at least ten thousand words every day.

It takes me at least eight hours per day.

Only up to five thousand words survive self-editing.

The ratio of my writings follows the ratio of my caring for quality over quantity.

I do not believe brevity to be virtuous; I believe it makes intellects abbreviated. My pre-editing writings are anything but abbreviated.

But I do believe in quality over quantity, and the ratio of my editing reflects my caring for accuracy of words and of intent.

My readers get the polished pearls without the dross.

My clients get happy, engaged readers.

I get to live my dream life as a writer.

Why I Write

I have many reasons for writing, and many means of writing.

For me, living through writing means more than writing for a living.

To me, writing is:

  • A form of meditation

Writing my thoughts at length helps me to think with greater clarity. The increase in focus increases the quantity of thoughts that I can retain and the duration through which I can retain them. The increased quantity of thoughts, in turn, lends me new lengths of writing topics.

  • A memory freezer

Writing my memories helps me to better remember my life and adjust its course to be heading the way I want it to, as well as to help retain more breadth of detail every day. I believe it to be my duty to know the details of my life events no less than it is to know the details of my business.

  • A means of self-examination

Writing my memories of the day helps me to better self-reflect upon my choices, track my progress and evaluate my approach towards my goals, and process my experience into wit and wisdom.

  • A positivity amplifier

Writing of heightened positivity born of my heart’s imagination, it provides self-therapy as well as enables the creation of beautiful emotions and thoughts that would not otherwise be possible for me to experience. The blend of music that resonates with my feelings, of stories in which my heart’s longings can be fulfilled, of logical sequencings of events where rational behaviors make sense, it all combines to create a greater positivity than either one alone could provide.

  • A communication channel

Writing to share the positivity of my life and heart, striving to help create a similar positivity in the lives and hearts of others, it allows me to contribute to uplifting my species and, ultimately, to help heal Nature. It is a means by which I can make a positive impact on the world, on the causes I care about, and draw to me people whom I can live in harmony with.

There is too little of us that gets shared in daily interaction, and often, writing is the only way we have left to express ourselves, just as reading is for many of us the only way to discover the depths of being human, and of the human-ness of others.

  • A mind sharpener

Writing of topics of interest helps grow my intellect, adding to the challenge of learning a difficult topic that of choosing adequate words to communicate the topic with and adequate logic to structure the words with. It is as a puzzle of language, the great challenge to wrap thoughts of depth and clarity into the shallow and confusing package of words.

  • A fount of joy

It is simply delightful to write, as much as it is delightful to think, and to express oneself. There is too little of us that gets shared in daily interaction, and often, writing is the only way we have

How I write

Here are the more common opportunities for writing in my life:

  • Morning Pages

After my morning exercise, I go to my dining table, where, besides my morning tea, I open my morning pages journal, taking notes of my thoughts as they arise unassailed by the day’s stresses. With this “brain dump”, I get in my first thousand words of the day before I finish my breakfast. It is almost like a form of meditation in that it gives me greater clarity and density of thought throughout the day. Also, this unbending habit gives a similar focus on my writing goals as the military gets by making their bed first thing in the morning.

  • Thought Notes

When I take a stroll through the park, occasionally resting on a rock but never a bench, I take out my pocket notebook and jot down any observations and thoughts that cross my mind. It encourages my mind to be more perceptive and to come up with a great number of ideas.

  • Focused creative writing

I pick handwriting and recordings when writing my novels, stories, poems, and essays. I take seat in my gothic king’s chair at my baroque writer’s desk, where I focus until I enter into a state of flow, enabling me to inhabit various characters and deities in the worlds of my creation.

  • Focused technical writing

When I sit down in front of my dual-monitor home workstation, I log in to my blog and strive to share the best bits of my mind with the world, to nourish the seed of my dreams of founding a community where people can support each other to grow as human beings and beyond.

  • Idea Sketches

When my wife and I gather around our “creative meetings” table right under our vision board, plunging into our soft sitting pillows, we sketch out and clarify ideas for travel, business, art, our fields of interest, and general life strategy.

  • Knowledge Dumping

Usually, after reading, I enjoy making a short video presentation or writing a short article about what I had learned. Explaining it to my audience both helps me to remember and understand it better, and makes me a better writer by learning to better communicate with other people.

  • Life Journaling

I keep a personal journal because I believe my life is worth remembering by myself and by my family at least, and that a journal helps me to better recall it so that I can better make it worth remembering. There are many reasons for keeping a journal, but perhaps the benefits can be best illustrated by observing the effects of not keeping a journal: the mind becomes lax, the memory becomes blurry, many details of experience become obscured, the lessons of life become unfocused, and the result is mediocrity. I do not claim this to be the case for all people, perhaps some Zen masters and others have no need of a journal, but for now, I do, and I am happy to keep one.

IV. Exercising Vigorously

Much of our work as writers is sedentary, which predisposes us to physical ailments such as carpal tunnel syndrome, but also obesity and fatigue. To get more mileage out of our bodies, and stay alive to write for longer, we counter this with vigorous exercise.

Top chess players train physically like marines before marathons, and so should we writers to ensure we stay in peak intellectual form.

Charles Dickens was a prolific walker.

On a given day, Dickens walked 12 or more miles around Kent or through the streets of Victorian London. He used many moments from these walks as inspiration for his novels.

“There are details in Dickens’ descriptions—a window, or a railing, or the keyhole of a door—which he endows with demoniac life. The things seem more actual than things really are,” says critic G.K Chesterton in Charles Dickens: A Critical Study.

I too used to wander around the streets of my native city and take careful notes of the places and people I observed. I also jotted down quite a few good ideas while at it.

Nowadays, every morning, as soon as I wake up, I work out for no less than thirty minutes using push-ups, pull-ups, squats, crunches, and cardio body-weight training. I strive to increase the number or intensity by at least one percent every day.

Why Exercise

Daily vigorous exercise has many benefits and no downsides:

  • More energy for intellectual work.

It may seem paradoxical, but for some of us, a good workout actually increases energy and does not drain it as is popularly believed (I do wonder how many of those who believe this ever experienced a good workout: a good workout does not necessarily mean lifting weights all day, but a particular balance of motions and efforts throughout the whole body).

  • A healthier, younger, more refreshed body that lasts for longer, and is healthier while it lasts.

Strengthening the body against aging and illness helps us get more writing mileage out of our lives, improving our overall lifetime production. Besides, nobody likes to write in pain.

  • It helps the body to develop fitness and strength, which improves self-confidence and self-respect.

Additionally, it enables you to be more adventurous with less risk, thereby helping you to gather otherwise inaccessible life-experience to use when writing.

  • Being nicer to ourselves, infusing our bodies with a sense of being loved and cared for, predisposes us to be nicer to others…e.g. our readers.

Physical comfort, including of a subconscious nature, has a strong correlation with our inclination to be kind to others (besides, nobody likes writing while in pain).

  • It helps us to fall asleep faster and to sleep better during the night, which improves discipline and freshness throughout the day.

Lack of discipline caused by poor sleep influenced by sedentarism may well be the number one cause of underachievement worldwide. Don’t let it be yours; exercise today.

  • It helps the mind to form more creative associations.

Experiments have shown that natural movement forms of exercise such as dancing may be the number one way to improve cognitive function and reverse cognitive decay, not only in rats but also in humans.

  • It is a chance to connect with people of similar interests in sport, which opens the way to forming new relationships.

Relationships with interesting people, in turn, enable you to create better, deeper characters drawn from real life examples.

How To Exercise

Decide on how intense and how long your workouts need to be for you to gain the previously mentioned benefits consistently.

Regardless of the intensity of your workouts, if you need too long stretches of inactivity to recover, they may be suboptimal for long-term results. It’s not just how hard you train; it’s, even more, the consistency with which you can sustain your chosen intensity of training. As little as thirty minutes a day is enough to gain good benefits for most people.

Also, avoid exercising in a manner that you dislike; with so many choices nowadays, it’s worth it to pick a form of exercise that you can enjoy sticking with, in the long term. You can also try out new ways to exercise every few months to keep the excitement fresh.

Here are a few forms of exercise you could be practicing either by themselves or in some combination:

  • Home Gym Workouts

There are hundreds available for free on YouTube and various websites. I’ll take an example that I personally have had a positive experience with, Shawn T’s Insanity series and Tony Horton’s P90X series, both available from Beachbody either to purchase or to rent via membership. It was for a couple of years my go-to site for fitness workouts, as the membership fee is negligible and many of their workouts are excellent.

  1. Insanity is best for running athletes.

It is cardio-intensive, based on max-interval training methods. It requires no equipment – although a Yoga mat helps. Shawn’s Insanity is touted as “the hardest workout ever put on DVD”. If you only have 30 minutes a day, I did find Shawn’s Insanity Max 30 even better than the hour-long original (it also cuts out the needless pre-workout stretch – as opposed to the needful pre-workout warmup – of the original).

       2. P90X2 serves the needs of a variety of athletes.

It features cardio, resistance, and strength training. It involves lifting weights and requires a little bit more equipment, most essentially dumbbells. If you only have 30 minutes a day, I also enjoyed Tony’s P90X3, although not as much as the original.

These are both training programs for athletes, but unless you have a physical disability or medical condition, you should be able to pursue them at a lower intensity for starters. P90X might be a more accessible starting point.

I pursued both with nowhere near an athlete’s conditioning and was able to go at the full intensity the second run through.

If these are not for you, no sweat; there are workouts that may better work for you out there. Take care of your own body; there is nothing to prove to anybody but yourself.

  • CrossFit:

CrossFit can indeed help you to get “in the best shape of your life”.

The people I know who practice it got quite addicted to it, and addiction is a great way to build habits; why not make use of it to build good habits?

They also made a few friends with it; an uncommon practice with a good cause is the excellent makings of a tribe.   

(I mean that in a good way; I love tribes, and I don’t see why “tribal behavior” is confused with “herd behavior” nowadays – that is the “civilized” masses’ behavior, not that of tribal individuals’.)

  • Boat rowing and cycling

An alternative to using weights to train your upper and lower body is to alternate rowing at a boat on a lake and cycling. A more advanced variant would be to incorporate swimming and running for the purposes of running a marathon. The Ironman in particular is a worthy goal to be fit as was natural for our ancestors.

  • Jogging

For losing weight, in particular, jogging is one of the most effective and most healthy means, but not all of us have the time to spend five hours running every day for a year.

  • Swimming

Perfect for a writer to get in shape while getting inspired at the same time.

Some of the greatest inventors of our time swear by swimming as a great way to get ideas pumping.

And it’s superfluous to even mention the insane amount of research supporting swimming as perhaps the healthiest way to exercise for every age.

I can’t wait to start swimming again. You know those big houses with a small pool? Well, I’d be happy to live in a small house with a large pool. 😉

In swimming pools:

There are swimming pools in major cities around the world catering to every preference (except chlorum-free, I guess): cold or warm water, inside or outside, with or without water slides, olympic, semi-olympic and every shape and size.

In the sea:

You can take a day-trip to the beach: just hop on the train or on the plane, and you can be there in a few hours. You can travel in an individual train sleeping compartment so that you get in and out of there while sleeping comfortably in your own (rather tight but pretty clean) bed.

In water parks:

Some of the best fun I ever had has been in water parks and adventure parks. If you’d like to add some more enjoyment to the experience, check out if there may be one next to the city or town that you live in.

In (safe) lakes and rivers:

A lot less safe these days thanks to pollution (and to the people who are polluting, including myself), but still able to be practiced in some areas, is taking a bath in a local river or lake. You really should check its pollution level and whether it is safe first, though. (edit: I have checked the pollution level of my local rivers and lakes, and there is none suitable to swim in. If you live near a city, it is likely yours are unsuitable as well. It seems that my childhood memories of swimming in fresh rivers and lakes will remain but memories for me, and not be lived by many among the new generations. Question: what about beach waters’ pollution levels?)

  • MovNat

‘MovNat is to fitness what organic is to food.’

As Edward LeCorre put it, “MovNat is a school of physical competence for the real-world. Our goal is to equip people with the movement skills, physiological preparedness (strength & conditioning), and mindset necessary for practical, adaptable performance – both fundamental and high level.”

MovNat is the single most effective, most enjoyable, most philosophically and scientifically sound (most people like to hear that rather than hear that experience confirms it to be sound) exercise program that I have ever practiced. It teaches not only fitness of body, but also, fitness of the mind that uses the body; movement skills that were shaped for us by millions of years of evolution, now ours to reclaim in this kinesthetically stunting modern world.

  • A martial art

The practice of martial arts develops mental discipline. Over a third of self-made billionaires are martial arts practitioners (not that making money is the sole measure of mental discipline, but similar and greater forms of mental discipline can be applied to other, better goals also). Furthermore, it provides the confidence that comes with being able to actually put your fitness to use in a real fight (to defend yourself and those you care for). Now when you run away, you can do so with the confidence that you could have stood your ground if you were so uncaring as to take unnecessary risks to your family.

My own chosen form of martial art has been Aikido because it aligns with my life philosophy. When I first read Ueshiba’s “The Art of Peace”, I was overwhelmed with emotions of a resonance rarely encountered before, of a yearning, of a reminder of what I once dreamed  I could become, of a striving to rekindle the hope, and the dream. Now, the dream is alive, and the hope is alive once more, and I owe it in part to Ueshiba, whom I shall forever treasure with honor in my heart, along with his teachings.

  • Dancing

Why not do a form of exercise that is fun and engaging, while also improving your odds with the ladies (or gents; yes, there are still those around) – dancing?

I practiced many forms of dance – salsa, classic and Argentinean tango, cha cha, etc. – with my wife at an excellent dance studio right next to Warmer Damm Park during my stay in Wiesbaden, Germany. It was among the most memorable highlights of our almost two years of residence.

Within a few months of dancing, I saw more benefits than I had seen in years of practicing unsustainably difficult workouts.

My simultaneous MovNat practice likely had a lot to do with the benefits also.

  • Yoga sessions

During the Covid-19 lock-down, I replaced MovNat with a few at-home Yoga classes, and I found them very fulfilling.

There are myriad studies of the benefits of Yoga – greater flexibility, better circulation, joint straightening, etc. But perhaps the greatest benefit is that which is observed within one’s own self; of a greater harmony within one’s own self, of body and of mind.

  • Pilates workouts

One of the effectively strongest men I ever met claimed to have attained his strength through Yoga and Pilates. There are many paths to strength, of mind as well as of body, and weight-lifting is not the only path to a strength of body as weight-lifters often claim.

One reason I tried Pilates was that of growing bored with my routine below, for which Pilates seemed to be an effective replacement.

“Pilates will meet anybody’s needs to improve their movement in a graceful way, and at the same time make it extremely challenging,” explains Gabriela Estrade, a certified Pilates instructor and personal trainer, “You can make so many variations of the same exercises that it stays fresh.”

  • Simple push-ups, pull-ups, crunches, and knee-bends.

I have been practicing those daily since the age of twelve, on top of any other exercises. They cost nothing but a few minutes a day, are taught to all children who go to elementary school classes, and by themselves would be enough to prevent many illnesses of the modern era. Why would so many people rather succumb to illness in their old age, and become a burden to be cared for upon those they care for, rather than spend a few minutes per day for their own self-care?

For a more advanced variant of only doing a few simple exercises to develop much of the muscular system in balance, you can check out Bruce Lee’s workout. Just adjust it to your own current level.

V. Eating Healthy, Nutritious Food

Another secret of top chess players that also applies to writers is the intake of specific nutrients, particularly specific vitamins, before matches. Why only take such nutrients before matches, and not make them a part of daily life within proper doses?

By living a healthy, nourishing lifestyle, we make sure our bodies and brains have all they need to function at peak capacity.

Anybody with an inkling of an idea about nutrition can understand the great importance of proper nutrient intake to the proper functioning of the body.

Nutrients need to be gained directly from healthy whole foods, and not just in capsules unless your diet does not allow you to consume the whole foods you need for full nutrition.

I have experienced a great increase in vitality, motivation, clarity of thought, willpower, and mental and physical energy once I aligned my eating plan to enable the intake of 100% of the body’s recommended daily values of all essential nutrients.

The body is the temple of the mind, alongside which it plays a role in the formation of emotions.

Taking care that it is healthy and fully functional is paramount to writing better, as well as performing any other task better.

Proper nutrition does not ensure superior mental functioning, but superior mental functioning cannot occur without proper nutrition.

How To Eat Healthy, Nutritious Foods

Here are some tips to intaking nutrition properly:

  • Ensure all your nutrient needs are met through careful planning.

Make a food plan that provides 100% of the recommended daily dose of each essential nutrient, and choose the cooking method that retains the most nutrients (e.g. don’t over-cook).

Over 50% of nutrients in food are routinely lost due to poor cooking practices traditionally developed without knowledge of nutrition.

Around three years ago I read the second edition of The World’s Healthiest Foods by George Mateljan, which was invaluable for its nutritional information and references.

But you don’t need to buy the book: all essential information is available for free on his website, including his weekly eating plan, which uses what he identified as the healthiest ingredients the world over and the best cooking methods combined in delicious, easy-to-cook recipes that together provide well in excess of 100% of the recommended daily values of each essential nutrient. All you need to do to apply it is figure out which of the ingredients are the most readily available in your region, and pick replacement recipes accordingly from his list of over 300 publically available recipes replete with nutritional values.

If following the plan and making the shopping lists gets out of hand, I recommend you make use of the PlanToEat app. It’s been my go-to for two years now, and it’s one of the very few apps that have actually proved useful and worth their cost in my daily life (another one was the Disconnect browser plugin, which helped make navigating the Internet a safer, faster, more pleasant experience).

  • Whenever affordable prioritize whole, healthy, organic foods coming from ecological agriculture (e.g. perma-culture).

It is the only way to avoid the ever more unhealthy foods being commercially produced for profit and without concern for the quality of human or any other life.

Why do so many people spend so much money on gadgets and toys they have no need of, but would not spend that money on the food they buy, which is a thing their body actually needs that they can very easily improve the quality of with a minimum of research and reasoning of the available choices? What is more important for an earthly creature to spend one’s money on than the quality of one’s food, water, and air (more or less directly)? True, keeping one’s spirit alive, one’s art alive, by investing in art supplies and learning opportunities can and often does matter more than investing in better food, but if people have money to spend on gadgets and toys, then they likely also have no need of compromise on the quality of food for the sake of their art.

Around a year ago I read The Starch Solution by Dr. John McDougall, expounding the improved health and ethics that a starch-focused vegan diet allows.

Many of the foods that companies have made popular as “healthful” foods over the years, including milk and dairy, is actually not so great, because of the way it is manufactured: with war-created poisons called pesticides in the plants that the animals are fed, antibiotics to combat the ever more resilient diseases caused by their life-hostile environments, hormones to unnaturally increase their production quota and growth speed, additional harmful hormones due to the animal’s manifold stresses including poor nourishment, additives to mask its innately inedible taste – tricking us into thinking it’s ‘good quality’ –, and enough conservatives for increasing shelf-life and purchase chance to keep you better preserved after death than an Egyptian mummy. The result is that, contrary to media-reinforced popular beliefs, commercial milk and dairy do more harm than good even to our bones, as many medical experts attest to, not to mention its other harmful effects.

John McDougal teaches the use of a diet that has been natural for humans for thousands of years, yet while also taking into account the differences of modern foods (i.e. that most are infused with poisons).

  • In addition to the quality and the macronutrient balance of the foods you eat, make sure their PH is in balance.

There is a popular misconception that the PH of food does not matter because your body automatically maintains your PH anyway. That’s like saying there’s no need to keep warm because your body regulates your body temperature anyway. It maintains PH in balance by diverting energy from other systems and accumulating stress in the process; it has no choice but to do so lest you die. The purpose of eating balanced PH foods is to make the task of maintaining the proper PH balance easier for your body, removing yet another modern source of chronic stress that many of us take little notice of.

Within the past month, I read The Alkaline Reset Cleanse by Ross Bridgeford, which further refined my diet to focus on Alkaline-forming vegan foods.

  • Instead of a pill supplement, take a shake supplement.

Shakes do not have to be milk-shakes full of fruits, which hold a lot of acidity, but they can be nourishing vegetable shakes with plant-based milk instead. I have been using a Nutribullet to make my shakes for almost five years, and I found even greater satisfaction with the Nutribullet pro line. It is one of few material products that have improved my quality of life (along with my water filter, computer, mattress, and hi-fi system). I prefer to spend my money on few items of high quality rather than many items of low quality.

You can read more on the topic of healthy shakes in David Wolfe’s book “SuperFoods: The Food And Medicine Of The Future” to add the very most nutrient-dense foods to your shakes along with vegetables in order to get a large health boost without the need for vitamin or other supplements. (Note: upon researching the books’ author, it appears that he may have plagiarized one of his other books from an older book. If confirmed, the act of plagiarism does not infer that the original books’ information is not accurate, but it does raise doubts as to the authors’ trustworthiness as a “nutritional expert”, oras  an expert of any kind except perhaps on plagiarism.)

  • Drink lots of water

I have a confession to make: I drink. I’m a drinker. I can’t stop drinking. Really, I can’t; I’d die if I did.

As in, water. Lots of it. With some lemon in it. Maybe some red wine from time to time. Not so much of that, though. And not in the water. Well, you get the gist. 🙂

At first, the body was unable to process much of the water – consisting of a gallon of water a day, teas included -, but the benefits were obvious during the second week.

Having a good filter of about eight liters, and knowing I had to empty it every day, including for cooking and my wife’s drinking, helped me keep track of my habit, since my body’s natural requests were not a good guideline this time.

I really felt energized after drinking all that water, though; it was like additional fuel for the body once it learned to make use of it.

It really does make a difference; the amount of water you drink determines the rate at which your body recovers, whether from a workout or another kind of stress. I found that I particularly love a certain orange-lemon taste in my water, so I put a few drops of freshly squeezed lemon and orange juice in my water bottles; this causes me to drink more often. I bought two two-liter glass bottles that I fill up every morning or evening and empty down until evening; this makes sure that clean, filtered water is always at my fingertips.

If you live in a developed country, you may think that you need no water filtering, that the water station takes care of that, but it is very likely that it is not sufficient. Even if it were, it is likely that your city’s water piping system is old, and has built-up residues of heavy metals and toxic chemicals. If you care to drink clean water and to make sure your family also has access to clean water (in particular pregnant women and small children), then you need to filter the water yourself. For five years, I used the Berkey water purifiers for this purpose; I only needed to change their filters once, and with proper cleaning, the smallest variant provided enough water for my wife and I. If you truly care to filter your water properly, you can google the Berkey water filters yourself (if I provide no link, I cannot be accused of having affiliate interests).

I have found that the habit has made me more energic, and also, it has enabled me to better pursue my workout schedule.

  • Switch to a (well-researched) vegan diet.

My current eating plan is tasty, healthy, and ethical, and cooking it is a constant source of joy, inspiration, and fulfillment to me.

Top athletes the world over report great success eating plants to grow strong and resilient; the claim of plant protein being insufficient for physical health and performance may be a flawed popular myth, but there is no way for me to know for sure personally, since even thought I may now only consume plant protein, still, during my body’s formation (i.e. my childhood and teenage years), I too used to eat animal protein.

Check out my article “Confessions Of A Vegan Lifestyle Afficionado” for more info.

If I can improve both my own health and that of the planet by eating plants and plant-based products rather than animals and animal-based products, what is there to prevent me from making the choice – or anybody who truly cares for their own health and that of the planet for that matter?

Contrary to intuitive expectations, the vegan cooking style is not poor of choices; the normal one is. Having a restraint placed upon one’s default cultural choices of ingredients merely enables one to discover the countless other ingredients that one never considered before. Instead of a few varieties of the meat and products of a few animals, I now had dozens of vegetables, fruit, spices, nuts, and seeds to experiment with, each with its own unique texture and flavor. Like painting is composing brush-strokes and colors to a design of the mind’s eye, so is cooking the composing of foods and spices to a design of the mind’s taste and scent. I have learned to love cooking, to appreciate the creativity and excitement of cooking, by cooking plants. Cooking, like painting, is a valuable metaphor for life’s lessons and experiments, one that I enjoy using also.

For instance, no longer having the usual recipes for sweets made of artificial sweeteners and tons of sugar, I found countless ways to ingeniously use nuts, fruits, oils and natural sweeteners to create many healthy, raw desserts that taste better, and are more full of life in their richly textured flavor, than any flat and punchy artificial dessert that I had tasted before. I have tasted vegan tiramisu, chocolate cake, fruit and vanilla ice cream, blueberry muffins, sweet potato brownie, lava cake, mint cake, Swedish strawberry cake, and many other delights. I’ll post them all one day, and, perhaps, I may also post some of the creations of inward ingredients that are all the more delightful 🙂

VI. Mindfulness


  • Meditation

One form of meditation is as a flashlight that intensifies, diminishes, expands, or shrinks its ray of light depending on one’s own mind’s self-control of its conscious attention. Another form of meditation is more like a string of connected bells that resonate with each other’s sounds: one may, playing one instrument, play the whole orchestra: the attention is fluid, distributed, attentive towards the many actions, the many simultaneously unfolding events.

I am hesitant to comment further, for I feel my own experience of mindfulness is still inadequate to speak more of the topic. I apologize for my presumptuousness, and I will come back to write more once I have gained sufficient experience to enable me to do so with less error.

VII. Positivity


1) Prayer

In these days of pseudo-scientific pseudo-skepticism, prayer is too often under-rated. And yet, even scientific evidence shows prayer to hold a host of benefits.

For me, prayer allows a deeper control of my processing of emotions, has many benefits for my mind, body, and soul, and opens the exploration of a dimension of life that has its own value beyond the incidental benefits to mental and physical health and vigor. Inner warmth, inner glow, inner 

One of the greatest thinkers and inventors that I have known personally, Dan Lucinescu, swears by saying a simple prayer before sitting at his invention desk, the prayer “Our Father” taught by Jesus to his apostles. It is a prayer that my wife and I also used to always speak together each night before then speaking our own prayers before sleeping.

There are many benefits and no downsides to prayer:

Improved energy, digestion, youthfulness, and physical health

To pray with sincere gratitude for a meal, I feel my body and mind filled with joy, relaxed, and ready to accept the meal. Sometimes, the joy is so intense that it seems to be a nourishment in and of itself, like an electric fluid flowing through my body from head to toes.

Improved conscience, empathy, justness, and mental health

To pray with sincere regret for my transgressions against others, the confession helps me become aware of, understand, and learn to avoid my mistakes, and the belief of being forgiven helps me to be relieved of the burden of carrying them with me. That is, it enables my conscience to withstand the damage they cause, and to retain its ability to recognize and correct my future mistakes, thus keeping my mind healthy, and helping me become a better person.

Enhanced perceptual and mental awareness

To pray with thoughts of love for others, the positive emotions flow like a chorus of self-igniting harmony, enabling greater clarity of thought, greater detail of perception, and greater quality of memory, thereby enhancing my intelligence, and enabling me to better perceive and understand others.

Enhanced goal-setting, planning, and opportunity-recognition effectiveness

To pray with focus on my goals, the intent takes on energy, repeatedly imprinting itself upon my mind, and slowly but surely changing my life to align with my goals. There is a feeling of calm, of trust in their accomplishment, of stress-free contemplation of the means of that accomplishment. Positive afirmations and visualisations have a similar effect upon the mind, yet the emotional, body-energizing impact of heart-felt prayer is higher.

Better emotional depth and control, better self-control.

To pray while within various emotional states, the emotions are blended with a hallowed aroma, their chords resonate deeper, and greater harmony, intensity, and complexity of emotion can be achieved, which in turn enables experiences and feats that I feel are best left unspoken. Prayer enables experiences that are unique, rarely spoken of, and very much worthwhile.

2) Kindness:

Doing three acts of kindness a day, whether saying a kind word to someone, giving a little to someone in need, or planting a tree, gives exponential returns in terms of personal growth. I myself strive to speak kind words, but I have also spoken too many harsh words, I have often given to those in need, even without being asked – some said I had helped them tremendously – but I have also too often walked by and ignored some, and I have wished to plant trees since early childhood – my parents used to refer to me as “the ecologist” – but only this week, do I actually plant my first. It is my hope that one day, I may plant more than ten thousand each year; that I may plant a forest; that looking back upon my life, I shall see a trail of over a million trees.

Doing three acts of kindness a day, it is a 20000-year old spiritual teaching from native tribes…imagine what the tribes-people would be like, today, without the aliens that betrayed their own species and planet; what they perhaps still are, today, and could perhaps still be helped to be. I wish I could repay 20000 years of kindness to the Earth, but, perhaps, it is the Earth itself that has already repaid, and shall still repay.

VIII. Observation

Observing is among the most useful, yet the most rare of habits; especially observing one’s own self.

Schools teach that memorizing words is all that is needed to gain knowledge.

The school-taught belief in word memorization is mistaken and harmful; not too dissimilar to brainwashing or enforced autism. Perhaps the creators of the schools might benefit in the short term from stopping people from thinking for themselves, so that the people may instead turn to the schools whom the creators control to tell them what to think, but the people themselves do not benefit, nor do the schools’ creators bring anything but harm to themselves in the long term, and the people who care for themselves should start thinking for themselves instead, and the schools’ creators should allow at least a few people to think for themselves for their own long-term benefit.

The difference between observing a thing oneself and merely imagining the thing based on memorized words is abysmal.

Even imagination is at least partly based on one’s stored wealth of observations, and is increased in proportion with the increase of the ability to observe.

So, you want to develop your imagination? It is not enough to day-dream and to use mind palaces and image streams and other techniques focusing solely on the mind’s imagination. You ought to also increase the quality and quantity of your perceptual data inflow to increase and deepen the substance of imagination.

Why Observe

Observation has many benefits:

To give attention to something, to strive to recognize and relate each detail of the thing, while caring for the thing, and caring to be accurate in my perception of the thing, it creates a connexion with the thing, one that reveals much more to me than a mere visual glance would.

To love the world, is it not natural that I would care to know of the world, and what better way to know the world first-hand than to observe the world? To love myself, is it not natural that I could care to know of myself and what better way to know myself first-hand than to observe myself?

Yesterday, while cooking for my wife, I was careful to first put the water in the heated pot, and only then to put in the potatoes, so that the heated pot would not burn the potatoes before I poured in the water, and the burned potatoes would not cause my wife to suffer from belly-aches. Many of my actions are reasoned similarly, and many of my reasonings are similarly based on my own firsthand observations.

Thousands of observations, tens of thousands of reasonings, that combine to create correctness of any one action, and yet the schools teach to not even make one tiny observation, and no one cares. I make a few observations, I make a few dozens of reasonings, yet I do not claim to be correct in any action, but merely to strive for, and to care for, correctness in many actions.

How To Observe

            There are several ways to improve your ability to observe; some of them take very little effort, others take very much effort. Here are some of the easiest:

  • Use all of your senses to perceive: touch, hearing, sight, smell, and taste.
  • Actively pay attention to and analyze the information that each sense provides.
  • Analytically compare your current observation with previous observations, and with later observations.
  • Do not expect a pre-determined result when performing an observation.
  • Observe with no lower aim than to know of the thing, to fulfill curiosity.
  • Experiment with the things observed in order to derive new behavior and reactions to observe and learn from.
  • Use the lessons and states of meditation while performing observations, that of observing the thing as it exists in the present, not how it may have existed in the past or how it might behave in the future.
  • Use a positive, perception-enhancing emotional tone during observations, such as variations of love.
  • Experiment not only with the thing observed, but also with your own observing mind, in order to find the emotional and mental state and purpose that obtains the best results.
  • Verify whether your previous conceptions are accurate or not based on observation, not whether observation is accurate or not based on your previous conceptions.
  • Retain observations in memory to be thought of and studied later as well.
  • Socializing, observe the people’s behaviors, in particular their reactions to one another, without making assumptions of their inner natures, and of the inner causes of their behaviors and reactions.

In order to have what to write about with depth, the building blocks of characters, arcs, situational responses, dialogues, and ways of thinking and feeling different from your own, you have to observe a wide array of human specimens.

And what better observation is there than participatory observation?

Indeed, it may not be everybody’s cup of tea; many would prefer to have an ideal of humanity that is not belied by the experience. Many do not blend well in crowds.

Yet it does pay to observe different groups and kinds of human, even if rarely. It does help provide the array of contrasts required to notice and distinguish the traits we appreciate and the traits we do not, as well as how that classification of trait desirability differs for various groups and individuals.

Socializing is also an opportunity for self-growth, and for better learning of oneself.

IX. Thinking

While some form of thinking always occurs, consciously or subconsciously, in all healthy humans, the habit of thinking in a conscious, focused, and purposeful manner is rare. To strive for accurate analyses, or indeed to give effort to self-initiate any conscious analyses at all, is very rare. Yet it is very rewarding, especially if the conclusions of those analyses are then applied to one’s own life.

Thinking begets me pleasure, freedom, and riches; enables me to understand, grow, and help; and guides me to truth, beauty, and good.

There are many kinds of thinking involved in writing:

  • Outlining, planning, plotting, scheming, scene-ing, preparing acts, arranging the flow of events, the character arcs, the main conversations in a logical sequence both after and between one another.
  • Picking the right words in the right order, using logic and grammar and empathy to arrange them to make the desired logical sense, to have the desired emotional impact, to impress or depress with the use of language.
  • Using imagination, empathy, acting skill, social awareness, memory, and more to create scenarios, characters, goals, descriptions, dialogues, stories that are interesting, that teach a lesson, that make a point, or that simply provide a strong emotion.

There are ways to train thinking, to improve imagination, plotting skills, dialogue mastery, and more. It can be overwhelming to focus on improving those during the writing of a novel, and sometimes it pays to focus on particular elements of a story, and even particular mental skills involved in each story element. The sooner you get started on that training, the sooner you will gain dividends for all your future writings.

            Here are some of the thinking skills that you can train as a writer:

  • Imagination:

This is the big one, and it deserves its own section to be added later.

  • Observation:

See the advice in the observation section, to be expanded upon later.

  • Research:

You can use spreadsheets and balance sheet software to note important facts.

The use of “incremental learning”, especially alongside a program such as “supermemo”, helps to do so, but it may also be harmful if used only as a means of memorization. Just as memory ought to be used together with perception and reasoning to derive an intelligent thought, so “supermemo” ought to be used together with your own observations and analyses to perform intelligent research.

  • Language skills:

To develop your language skills, I recommend reading, reading, and more reading.

I also recommend having actual conversations with real people, both one-on-one and in groups, to discover how both the mood, the cadence, and the length of dialogue differs from that of multilogue differs from that of monologue.

Learning a foreign language can also be of benefit by both presenting a new manner of word patterning and enabling the lecture of great works in the original. Similar to the above, both reading and real-world conversations helps to learn a language. Some like to learn languages by first studying grammar, but I find the grammar of most languages appalling by itself; for me, in most cases, it works better to first be able to use the language to communicate, just as a toddler might learn a new language.

  • Memory

This refers not just to the memory of study materials, but to the memory of life events and to the memory of random thoughts. Of course, it is valuable to always carry a notebook around to make sure you jot down good ideas, but it is even more valuable to be able to recall the many thoughts that could be useful when writing, and to recall real-life events and characters that can serve as a source of information when building a book personality.

In order to improve memory, it helps to actively exercise it. The practice of journaling the day’s events, the day’s thoughts, and dream recall can help, as will greater amounts of conscious attention lead to greater amounts of consciously recognized memories. 

The practice of conscious attention and awareness as found in meditation helps improve memory as well, as does exercise and proper nutrition; it’s starting to make sense why they’re on a list of things that may help writers now, doesn’t it?

The practices of Zen might be of tremendous aid to some individuals also, particularly to those like me who too easily fall asleep and start daydreaming every few minutes, but of those, I will not yet speak, for I have too little experience worthy of speaking of.

X. Socializing

Yes, some writers are known for being misanthropes, as are some thinkers. But there is little that better stimulates one’s productivity and creativeness than interacting harmoniously with one’s loving family and caring community. It may be hard to find those with whom we can harmonize to mutual benefit, but the search is worthwhile, and the product can be tremendously valuable, of a value no man can experience alone. I continue this search, so that one day, a community may be born, of people that share life with one another, wakeful and kind, honest and caring, and bring value to life with kind words, with kind deeds, with planting seeds, of trees, and of humans, of value.

I have known what it is like to be alone, for over a decade I spoke to no one of my true thoughts, but I have also known what it is like to share, and to create greater thoughts together, and I wish all individuals could experience the joy and the happiness of sharing. I am willing to share my thoughts with those willing to share theirs; I am willing to create greater deeds together with those who are willing to co-operate; and if you were to comment on this article, I would be happy to respond to your thoughts with my own – may there be harmony and joy between us. 

Be well.

2 thoughts on “Top Ten Habits Of Elite Writers (They’re Not What They Say)”

  1. Habit #10: Optimism: Being in a highly competitive environment can be stressful, especially when we’re not winning the top prizes. A positive, optimistic attitude allows us to make lemonade from lemons; learn important lessons about ourselves and life, and be happier in general, no matter what the outcome of a particular competition.

    • Of the many kinds and degrees of stress, two variations are distress, which tends to happen when competing with others to be ‘the best’, and ‘eustress’, which tends to happen when competing with oneself to be ‘great’. How to turn distress into eustress? If you read the first sentence of this paragraph, the answer should be obvious; applying it is not. Perhaps I could write an article on the topic to share my manner of applying it?


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