Goins, Writer

On Writing, Ideas, and Making a Difference

118: 3 Writing Habits, Blogs, and Books You Need to Succeed as a Writer

You will not become a successful writer accidentally. You will need to develop yourself as a writer and learn from others better than yourself if you want to succeed. So, where should you begin?

I’ve had the privilege of writing full time for over three years now. The work I get to do today isn’t something I take for granted. It took me several years, many sleepless nights and early mornings, and the guidance of trusted friends to help me along the way.

The opportunities I have today didn’t happen accidentally. Yes, I’ve had some unplanned breaks come my way that made a tremendous difference. But I wouldn’t have been in a position to take advantage of them if I wasn’t putting in the work ahead of time.

If you want to become a full-time writer, then you have to intentionally work toward becoming one. This involves developing great writing habits, learning from others, and becoming a voracious reader.

Over the years, I’ve read countless blogs and books, and I’ve developed writing habits that have helped me to become a full-time writer. To help you decrease your learning curve, I want to share with you some of the lessons and resources that have helped me develop myself as a writer.

So, this week on The Portfolio Life, Andy Traub and I discuss the three habits writers should build and the three blogs and three books every writer should read.

If you want to become a full-time writer, then I encourage you to listen in as Andy and I talk about the importance of developing writing habits, and the lessons you’ll learn from the different blogs and books I recommend.

Listen to the podcast

To listen to the show, click the player below. (If you’re reading this via email or RSS, please click here.)


Show highlights

In this episode, Andy and I discuss:

  • The three habits every writer should build to become a more productive writer.
  • The three parts of writing you need to master.
  • How to create a folder full of writing ideas and prompts.
  • Different tools you can use to capture ideas and write.
  • Why you need to learn from someone far better than yourself to improve as a writer.
  • Why most people struggle with writer’s block.
  • The three blogs writers should read.
  • One overlooked step to becoming a great writer.

Quotes and takeaways

  • You want to close the gap between thinking about what you’re going to write and actually writing it.
  • Give yourself time to think about what you’ve written. This will help you to review your work with a fresh set of eyes.
  • If you want to become a great writer, then you have to learn from someone far better than yourself.


What writing habit, blog, or book has helped you to become a better writer? Share in the comments.

About Jeff Goins

I write books and help writers get their work out into the world. I am the best-selling author of four books, including The Art of Work. Each week, I send out a newsletter with free tips on writing and creativity.

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  • “You too can be a successful writer in 30 days!”
    “Enjoy the lifestyle of a writer in 10 days or less.”

    I am bombarded daily with ads similar to these. 10 or 15 years ago I probably would have taken the bait, spent the money and given up on ever becoming a writer. Fortunately, my work as a writer is the result of untold hours invested in doing the very things you write about; passion, purpose, and practice. Even today, some 8 years after recognizing my passion for words, language and story, I continually seek out resources that may improve my skills. That pursuit always includes having Goins, Writer at the top of my favorites list.

    One concern, being retired (a politically correct way of saying that I’m old), there have been several of your courses I have wanted to take, but being on a limited fixed income I find it to be more than I can invest in a lump sum. As an observation, you might look into an optional payment plan that would make it easier for those in my financial condition to join your tribe.

    • Nowadays, anything different from a PhD in a STEM-related fields is treated cheaply.

      Writing, Arts… are said to be “easy” – they can be learned in a few days, they say!

      Don’t get me wrong – I deeply respect Science and scientists (I’ve struggled to achieve a decent education in those areas): it does not mean everything else should be looked down on, though.

    • Sheikh

      Very useful guide to became a writer, Thanks for sharing us. I am following this guide to write in my blog http://www.updateking.com

  • Sandra Walter Meyer

    Thank you for the free information and resources on your website. I am really excited to start writing and editing those daily 500 words,The 31 day challenge is now underway!

  • It’s settled now, I have to get War of Art.

    Been meaning to ask about the 3 buckets.. what about fiction writers? Bucket 1: ideas can obviously be for anything, not just ideas for the current work; Bucket 2: probably should be the current work, but anyone think bouncing around projects is a good idea? Bucket 3: edit only the current work, or only a finished draft? If the former, it goes against Stephen King’s suggestion of getting it down without censoring; if the latter, you may not have anything to edit yet!

    Just my thoughts so far.

    • For bucket 3: I personally like to complete the work before editing. As I write, if I catch myself writing something lame, or using a poor word choice, I make notations in brackets so I don’t lose my flow-mojo. I believe it’s a personal preference and what works best for your personality.

      I was encouraged to learn that Stephen King and I do things very similarly except my imagination seems to be more sane (seems). 🙂

  • Well, Tribe Writers has certainly helped me with my blogging and writing. I’d add Cal Newport’s book “Deep Work.” Not because it’s about writing, but because it solidified the importance of removing distractions and time wasters. Anne Lamott’s “Bird by Bird” was also helpful in getting past that first, crappy draft!

  • Mark Gable

    I am intrigued, and will be trying out your suggestions.

  • Clara Prettenhofer

    Great tips! I try to write daily – an app that helps me to stay motivated and to write with consistency is Goalify. https://goalifyapp.com/en/reach-your-goals/

    I think that that consistency is crucial.

  • Shayne

    I always enjoy The Portfolio Life podcast, but this one I marked as “unplayed” and queued back up to listen again. I’ve kinda been doing the three bucket system, without really realizing it. I had various stages of ideas and drafts, scattered throughout my Finder, but completely disorganized. This will dramatically improve my process. Thank you, Jeff! And Andy!

  • Krithika Rangarajan

    I have been off the radar this year, but I am EAGER to get back to listening ‘The Portfolio Life’ and ‘The Writer Files’… 😀

    Thanks Jeff

  • Corrie Ann Gray

    My book recommendations (outside of what Jeff mentions in the podcast) are “Writing Down the Bones” by Natalie Goldberg, and “The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron. Both are resources I go back to often when I need a bit of a nudge in my writing life. Enjoy!

  • Irene Fenswick

    Hey, Jeff! I loved your idea with buckets! It sounds fascinating and not trivial or obvious. Additionally, I think that to become a successful writer it is a must to be passionate about writing.

  • Michelle Lee

    I’ll be honest, I have been very inconsistent in my writing the past few years and as a result, I have not gotten very far. But it’s time now to get focused, and this is where I am turning to get the tools I need. I have a writer’s notebook or two, or more, but they are not really working for me right now, because I’ve crammed everything in there. So I created a board and on the top, I wrote “I am a writer”. Underneath, I have several index cards with writing topics and other things I need to focus my writing. And I have a calendar page to chart my progress with the 500 words a day. In my Amazon cart are all the recommended books, and I’m getting a subscription to the New Yorker (which I’ve read off an on in the past). Also, I organized my writing books and notebooks in my writing space – I am beginning to feel so organized. 🙂

  • Dhenn Espiritu

    Glad hearing this one! I became a writer accidentally but I want to become successful on it and start a career one day!

  • Heather L.

    Just popping in to say that I LOVE the podcast and am always waiting for the next episode! I find it very inspiring as a busy mother right now with thoughts about spending more time writing in the future.

  • yamin

    Great keep it up

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  • Thank you Andy for reminding me at the end of this episode to say “Hello guys!”. Really enjoyed the tips Jeff, especially the 3 bucket approach to writing. Thanks again to both and take care.


  • Maurice Escher

    Writing is the best exercise for our brain. It unlocks the inner voice, giving freedom to the stream of thoughts. Nothing, but a soliloquy is able to help authors to queue up all the sudden ideas which then are going to be transformed into the text. “Study writing. Study the masteries” – these words made my heart to sink for a moment, thank you guys! It is a common knowledge that the learning process is endless, like infinite numbers in Math. Nevertheless, writers will be always eager to grasp the golden secrets of writing technics. Since no one knows when inspiration comes, I do agree with you that Drafts should be used by those who don’t want to miss the defining moment. One more important aspect every writer should be aware of is accuracy. To my mind, only uniqueness bares the soul. Well, even though everybody says that nothing can be original, I strongly believe in the power of talent and hard work. And to achieve the highest point of pure writing is becoming possible with Unplag, software, which helps writers to stay original. “The greatness of art is not to find what is common but what is unique”.

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  • The Lady Gnome

    Thank you for generously sharing your expertise. I listen to all your pod casts, and I find them to be invaluable to me as a writer. Many thanks!

  • First time listener, and I just have to say WOW! Amazing resources, helpful tips, great advice, and still under 20 minutes! This episode has officially been bookmarked, saved in my Evernote blog tickler file to use as a future writing prompt AND has given me a TON of inspiration – so THANK YOU! 😀 Needless to say, but you two have made an instant podcast fan out of me. <3

  • Lyn

    Darn, Drafts isn’t available for Android 🙁

    • Amanda Fairchild

      That’s what I thought 🙁

      • Lyn

        Hardly fair is it. Maybe we should start a protest with big banners outside their office (lol wherever it is) 😉

  • Cool idea with a podcast! You touched upon main issues on how to become a good writer and I liked it. The mechanism to create a special folder with writing ideas just amazed me. Usually, I carry a notebook with me in order to have a possibility to write down some interesting thoughts, and that helps me. Actually, when I was a newcomer writer, I had a lot of troubles. The first challenge I have faced was bad quality of my texts. All plagiarism checkers revealed lots of similarities with other web-sites (PlagiarismSearch was my favorite tool). That’s kind of big problem, and there are lots of ways to overcome it. I like your resolution – to gather all cool ideas and to write them down without stealing ideas from other web-resources. Thank you very much for great article!