In the late spring of 2011, I left my job at the Salt Lake City Public Library to become a stay at home father. It was a hard transition, giving up the career I loved much earlier than I expected, and trying to figure out who I was without that title of Librarian.

I admit it was more difficult than I ever let on, and more often than not, I felt like I wasn’t doing enough, contributing enough. I had to find my routines, and then realize that my spouse and kids were quite pleased with the efforts I was making.

The awesome part- My kids are pretty damn self sufficient, which left me ample time to reconnect with my writing. My skills were stronger with poetry, but I’d always dabbled in fiction, and really wanted to stretch those muscles. I had an idea for a longer piece that I thought might be book length. Full of excitement and fear, I sat down at my computer and tried to write. It was awful. I wrote myself into corners, kept trying to edit while I wrote (which slowed me to a crawl), and after a fifth botched attempt, decided I needed more practice and advice.


Writing was always something I loved, but I had not made it a habit. I wrote when the mood struck, which worked for some ideas, but often my efforts were frustrating and nothing worth keeping was created.

On the suggestion of a good friend, I really started to read. Not just read for content or plot, but observe how the stories were told, how the sentences were constructed. I found style elements that I liked, and incorporated them into stories I was working on. I began to find my writing voice.

I don’t remember where I read it, or if maybe I came up with the idea all on my own, but I started writing what I call Daily Paragraphs.  Each morning, I would sit at my desk and write. It didn’t matter what it was, and I never edited. I limited myself to three paragraphs. If I found I needed to expand the idea, I’d shift over to another document and write until I the story was finished or I had a good start on something I could finish later. Many of those daily writings became short fiction pieces that I’ve shared on this blog. Others were catalysts for longer work, and two of them became the bones of two of my completed novels (representation, anyone?)


Once I made writing a habit, treated it as I would exercise (never forget, intelligence is a muscle. If you don’t work on it, you’ll lose it), I found I could push through difficult moments in my writing when I wasn’t always sure where to go next. My blog was born out of the Daily Paragraphs as I found I needed an outlet for ideas that weren’t necessarily stories. It still took me three more years until I could hone those early ideas into complete novel length works, but I think I’d still be floundering if not for the decision to make writing habitual.

What writing habits do you have and how have they improved your writing skills? How messy was my desk? How much coffee should I drink? These are important questions, people. 


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About Ryan Carty

There are some who call me, Tim?

13 responses to “Habitutal”

  1. Jessica Triana says :

    That’s one fo the things I love about the A-Z blog challenge and the NanoWrimo events. They encourage regular writing patterns and the more you write the more you write! Great post 🙂

    • fenster says :

      Thanks. This is my first A to Z and it’s been great. I did NaNo three years in a row. It was challenging, but also gave me motivation, a reason to keep writing.

  2. Mary Aalgaard says :

    Looks like you developed a good habit that turned into success. Great blog and writing for the A to Z Challenge. I liked your reminiscence of the summer you spent working at the resort.
    Thanks for visiting my blog!

  3. Michelle Wallace says :

    I’m a coffee-o-holic so I’d say drink as much coffee as necessary.
    I’ve been trying to cut down…not sure it’s working. LOL

    There was a time when I’d set a 5-minute timer, use a one-word prompt (from oneword.com) and then just write in a stream-of-consciousness way…that’s fallen by the wayside. *sighs*

    Writer In Transit
    (There are still loads of books to be won. Pop in at my place to see what’s on offer…)

    • fenster says :

      I’ve slowed on my daily paragraphs as well, but they served their purpose. Every once in a while I slide back into them and still enjoy it, but I don’t need them as much anymore. The writing habit is pretty entrenched.

  4. Liesbet says :

    If I would treat my writing the way I would treat exercising, well… let’s say I would never write at all. As a matter of fact, writing is a good excuse not to exercise, since there is always something to write, which leaves no time to exercise.

    I’ve been writing my whole life, but only started writing more seriously a few years ago, when I decided it was a good idea to write some sailing stories for magazines and make a little bit of highly needed money. I don’t really have writing habits, except for my diary, every evening before bed, since since 1990. I don’t drink coffee (sorry!) and my desk is always clear (sorry again). 🙂

    Liesbet @ Roaming About – A Life Less Ordinary

    • fenster says :

      The only thing I’ve learned about writers is that each of us has different needs. What works for one, is disastrous for another. I envy that you don’t need the habit. I thought I could write that way, it seems I can’t. Also, exercise sucks, but I do firmly believe that intelligence is like a muscle. Use it or lose it.

  5. amymorrisjones says :

    I knew there was a reason I liked reading your posts–not a librarian, but often think I should be one in my next life! 🙂 I admire your consistency in making writing a habit and priority. I do well for a while, but then the paying job pushes in as the priority and writing becomes “when there’s time.” All the greats say you have to make it a job–even before it is one.

    By the way, since you worked at the Salt Lake Library (beautiful building from the pictures I’ve seen), did you know the World’s Strongest Librarian guy? I think that memoir was about an employee there, if memory serves.

    • fenster says :

      Yes! Josh Hanagarne is a good friend of mine. He was my direct manager for a little while (while he was writing his memoir), and he is even more outstanding than the book conveys. I admire him a great deal.

      • amymorrisjones says :

        Love that–both that you knew him and that he lives up his own story! I couldn’t write a memoir. I’d pick just about any other genre to write, but writing about myself isn’t my thing. I admire those who do it well.

  6. jmh says :

    What an inspiring story. I love reading what works for other writers. Sometimes I make writing a habit, but then life forces me to take time off. Then again, I write for a living, so I never stop, really.

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