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The Writing Life: Top Ten Tips from Rosanne Bane

2013 May 7
by Wren

The Writing Liferosanne-baneTop Ten Tips for Writers 

by Rosanne Bane

Editor’s Note: We recently encountered Bane’s newest nonfiction book, Around the Writers Block: Using Brain Science to Solve Writer’s Resistance, and found it incredibly insightful for understanding why we writers have trouble getting ourselves to write every day. Here are ten tips which Bane distilled from this book, for your pleasure. Stay tuned next week for an interview with Bane! 


Relax. You’re not defusing a bomb. Take a deep breath and take comfort in knowing you can always…

  1. Rewrite. Good writing comes from rewriting. So you can stop worrying about being perfect in the first draft. Or in any draft. Perfectionism is fear-driven and limits your creativity.
  2. Make and honor small commitments. You’ll get more done in five 15-minute sessions than you ever will waiting for the day when you “have time to write.”
  3. Just show up and do something writing-related in those 15 minutes. If you want to keep going, by all means, do! But know that you can stop after 15 minutes and still make significant progress.
  4. Evaluate your success by whether or not you show up. Word counts only work when you’re generating new material (not when you’re doing research or rewriting). Consistently showing up will create your writing habit that allows you to…
  5. Harness the neurological power of habits (aka well-myelinated neural pathways). Inspiration is fickle, discipline and will power are limited and will ultimately fail. Habits sustain you and keep you moving through multiple drafts to the final draft.
  6. Create your own quirky writing ritual. Rituals seem irrational, but that’s part of why they work and why they make brain sense.
  7. Stop judging your writing and yourself. Develop your power of discernment instead.
  8. Be physically active. Take frequent stretch and movement breaks. Because it is a glutton for oxygen and glucose and needs to conserve energy wherever possible, the brain has evolved to shut down when the body is not moving.
  9. Give your brain what it needs to be creative: adequate sleep, exercise, meditation, creative play and time to focus.
  10.  Abandon multitasking – it actually takes more time and it fractures your ability to focus your attention on your writing. Postpone email; write first.


Rosanne Bane has worked for two decades as a Teaching Artist at The Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis, the country’s largest center of its kind. She also serves individuals as a creativity coach and teaches in the MBA program at the University of St. Thomas. She lives in Minneapolis with her partner and two dogs, Blue and Kelda. On Sat, May 18, Bane will be teaching a workshop called “Overcome Your Writing Resistance” at ArtReach in Stillwater, MN.


10 Responses
  1. May 8, 2013

    Rosanne, #6 and #8 are the ones I needed most. I’ve read about some of my favorite writers’ rituals and wondered what was wrong with them. (What’s “wrong” with them is that they’re writers!)

    The stuff you share about brain science (move, or your brain turns off!) gives me the “why” which is all I need to embrace new thinking.

    As always, excellent stuff.

    Thanks, Hazel and Wren, for giving Rosanne some space here. I think I’ll hang around and inspect the bookshelves.

    • wren permalink
      May 8, 2013

      Thanks, Joel! Yes, Rosanne’s points are so helpful, aren’t they? I’m thinking of printing this list off, and putting it at my writing desk at home!

    • May 9, 2013

      I have to agree with Joel about the “what’s wrong with them” reaction to hearing some of the weirder rituals (Friedrich Schiller’s rotten apples in his desk drawer is at the top of the weird list for me). But whatever works and rituals do work.

  2. Paige McKinney permalink
    May 8, 2013

    I’ve read and reread Around the Writer’s Block, but I’ve been a doubting Thomasina about whether the strategies would work for me (my inner saboteur thinks she’s a bad ass). This list was just what I needed to resolve that today I’m going to take my dogs for a long walk and then sit down to write for 15 minutes. Maybe I’ll think up a quirky writing ritual on the walk. Maybe I’ll just meditate. Either way, the time spent will be a success. 🙂

    • wren permalink
      May 8, 2013

      Hi Paige! I totally agree, this was just what I needed, too. It’s so refreshing to have “permission” to take a creative mental break to walk or meditate. Glad you found Rosanne’s tips helpful!

    • May 9, 2013

      Delighted to hear the Doubting Thomasina is willing to try the walk. Great start Paige!

  3. Michael Kelberer permalink
    May 8, 2013

    Great post Rosanne – unlike your excellent book, this list is something I can to my bulletin board and stare at until resistance is futile 🙂

    • May 9, 2013

      I bet you could attach my book to the bulletin board if you used enough staples, pins and glue. But that would sorta ruin the functionality of the book. So glad the list of ten will become part of your daily view.

  4. May 8, 2013

    Amen to the idea of habits. Picasso said, “Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.” As part of Practice, you write even when you have nothing to write, so you’re in a better position to do something with the inspiration when it comes to you. It’s like practicing scales…

    • May 9, 2013

      Love that quote from Picasso! I never understood the point of practicing scales, which is why I never became a musician (well that and my tin ear). I do love a good writing jam session though, riffing on whatever comes up, finding rhythms I didn’t know were there until I started…

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