Aging is when:
You finally start to figure out what is baloney, and what is real.
It’s too late in life for you to profit much from that.
You look around for people who can, who have more time.
You learn that most of them just aren’t ready to absorb it.
You understand, because at their age, you wouldn’t have absorbed it either. How else did this take you so long?
You either make peace with that, or not.
If you do, you at least aren’t alone.
For this story, as I saw it, Shawn was at a decision point with the series. Okay, they’re together; now what do they do together? Do you break them apart and bring them back? Do we expand from love into mystery, action, drama? Shawn introduced a pair of captivating new characters in SCV; where to take them?
We did this one a little differently. Substantive editing has an inherent balance: where is the crossing point between editing the writer’s work and imposing one’s own solutions? As a general rule, I don’t believe that I should insert too much of my own identity into any book I edit. The ideal result is that it sounds like the author, but better. However, that takes more time in a couple of ways. It requires more cautious treatment, but it also means that major plot issues are referred back to the writer for resolution. It’s not that I couldn’t solve them; it’s that I would prefer to defer to the writer’s vision.
We had two issues this time, their combination heavily impacting the schedule. Both were tied to a planned release of July 4. Shawn only got the ms to me about two weeks prior to release date, which would require us to step on the gas. However, he was also dealing with some family health issues serious enough to monopolize anyone’s mindshare and emotional strength. When an author can’t focus, it is likely to impair the work product. Not only would it be difficult for him to handle me coming back with a sheaf of questions, his ability to process them was at issue. And there wasn’t time to wait out the personal matters, which presented me with the question of how to suggest we handle this. Hard part about being an editor: it isn’t acceptable to answer ‘hell, I don’t know’ about a question that concerns achieving a good book. What did they hire an editor for in the first place, if not to supply those answers?
I thought about it, wrote to Shawn, and said: ‘Why don’t we do it this way: I’ll just take the governors off and see it to completion, answering any questions myself by implementing what I think is a smart solution. No comments, no teaching, no feedback, no questions for you–just do it. If I don’t know what to do, I’ll do something I believe is intelligent.’ Shawn liked the idea, so the result was what you see in the published book. Which is my way of saying that if you feel it slipped up in any way, it’s more on me than usual.
That made clear, I’m confident that SCS has the most interesting story concept of the three books in the series to date. I like Shawn’s developing skill at satire, and his readiness to break some eggs in the literary kitchen. When you see an author daring to do that, you cannot predict what’s coming next, and it makes his future work more appealing. Shawn Inmon is on the rise as a storyteller.
About the only problem with it is that in his Author’s Notes, Shawn has once again given me excessive credit. But he’s that kind of a man, and that generous spirit comes out in his storytelling as well as his marketing. Shawn has learned what some authors never will: better to focus on writing something worth pirating, than to worry so much about piracy that the thing turns out not worth pirating.
It’s bad enough to undertake a major project, and then learn–too late to remedy matters–that you did it all wrong. If you didn’t take away any lessons from the experience, it was all for nothing. But if you learned anything, why not share?
Okay. Time for the after-action report.
My wife and I recently sold a home in Kennewick, Washington. We got far less for it than we had expected. It was a painful, miserable experience I wouldn’t recommend to anyone I liked. We did a lot of things wrong, assumed things that weren’t correct, avoided remedies we could have obtained. This was a hot mess, costly and painful. Was it all our fault? No–but blaming others for one’s own bad decisions is a losing game. I include bad trust decisions in that.
Mistake #1: selling a vacant home.
Why it’s a mistake: you will still have to pay the utilities and all the other maintenance costs. Buyers will like it less, so it will be harder to sell, and you will get less money for it when you do. Once they figure out that they won’t get caught, kids will vandalize it. The police won’t protect it, as protection is a non-revenue activity, and they are too busy raising money through traffic tickets. It will cost double to insure it, the insurance will be less comprehensive, and if you think you can get away with just not telling the insurance company it’s vacant, you’d better rethink that misguided notion. You must pay to have it mowed, watered, weeded. It will be an open cash hemorrhage seeping arterial money all year round (guess how we gained perspective on that).
Better: either stay in it until it goes into contract, hire a home caretaker service, or even let your nephew live there rent-free. Work out whatever you must in order to make sure it isn’t vacant, so that someone at least mows the lawn, notices sprinkler damage, spots pipe leaks, flushes the toilets, and runs the water. That way, if a contractor turns off your heat in winter, and doesn’t turn it back on again, someone will notice, and that someone probably will not be a buyer’s real estate agent.
Mistake #2: selling a home from out of town.
Why it’s a mistake: because you are out of sight to a listing realtor, you are out of mind, and unless it’s a huge property with a massive commission, you may be irrelevant to his world. The closing process will be more cumbersome due to the distance. You will have to pay someone else to perform minor repairs that would be within your capacity if you were present. And if you decide to spruce something up to improve the appeal, you will not be there to supervise the contractors’ work. Since you are out of mind to your realtor, he will not check on their work. That’s their cue to do a shabby job, leave a mess, overcharge you, and when you find out, try to blame someone else. They won’t even understand how you could object to that. It’s just what is done.
Oh, and if you have to Fed Ex the closing documents, do check the tracking number on the tag vs. the register slip that you get at a Fed Ex Office with a tracking number on it. Otherwise, for example, you may see to your horror the next day that your closing documents evidently went to Fort Worth, Texas rather than Kennewick, Washington. You will be relieved when the title company informs you that they actually got the right documents, but I don’t recommend those fifteen minutes of tachycardia to anyone. This would not have happened if we had not tried to sell a home from out of town.
Better: don’t leave town until you’ve got the proceeds. That way, none of the above is a problem.
Obviously, the combination of selling a vacant home from out of town is worse than the sum of those two miserable parts. Brilliant, weren’t we?
Mistake #3: hoping to sell it without having to repaint the crazy cat lady wall colors and replace the scuzzy-looking carpet.
Why it’s a mistake: because people are stupid. People take one look at the weird colors, or grungy carpet, and their impression of the property is formed. They don’t say: $3000 and that’s fixed. I’ll offer that much less. I figured this out watching those idiotic house hunter shows, in which someone takes one step inside, doesn’t like the carpet or the paint job, and forms a negative impression. The buyer doesn’t care that you already priced in that $3000–she will price it in again.
Better: spruce it up yourself before you list it. If you can do it yourself, great; you won’t have to deal with contractors. But if you can’t do it yourself, you can at least keep an eye on the contractors, and they will grudgingly do it right because otherwise, you can prove that they did not.
Mistake #4: believing assurances that a realtor will keep an eye on your property, even if he claims to have a relative who does that.
Why it’s a mistake: because the realtor won’t. That’s just something they say to make you feel better, because you can’t verify it. And if you actually fall for it, the realtor now knows that you are a moron: someone too dumb to know the difference between truth and fiction, good service and bad. An easy mark, an unquestioning client, a supreme fool. There is now no need for the realtor to pay your listing any attention whatsoever; if it sells itself, wonderful, if not, it’ll sit there and fall apart. Not his problem.
Better: make your own arrangements to see that the property remains in good condition. Keep living there, or get someone else to do so. Rely on your agent for nothing related to the matter.
Mistake #5: listing it too high at start. While I believe that a lot of people do this, hoping someone will fall in love with it, people’s love levels are limited by a sense of good value.
Why it’s a mistake: because your best chance to sell it is probably when it just hits the market, and everyone is interested in showing it (and it’s not stale on the market). If it’s too spendy at that time, you miss that timeframe and can never get it back.
Better: spruce it up, list it reasonably at the outset, and hope for the sale to come from that early attention.
Mistake #6: choosing a listing agent because he was the protégé of one you knew and respected.
Why it’s a mistake: because it’s quite possible for a terrible agent to make a pretty fair living off a retired agent’s old customer base. You can’t assume that the standards were passed down. And just because someone is a good buyer’s agent does not mean he will be a good listing agent.
Better: interview at least three agents. Do so at the property. If possible, choose your candidates by referrals, but have them over. Ask them what they would list it for. Ask them how they would market it. Ask them point blank if there is anything about the property that would make it a low priority for them to sell, and do so in such a way as to invite candor without recrimination. You don’t want an agent who, deep down, doesn’t even want the listing.
Mistake #7: adhering to a listing agreement with a failed agent.
Why it’s a mistake: because you can often act to rescind a listing agreement prior to its expiration. Never continue to deal with an agent who is not bothering, or whom you have come to despise, or whom you suspect has deceived you. In what universe should a lousy agent collect a big commission after an extended period of frustration, during which you hated him a little more every day of your life?
Better: read the agreement carefully, call his managing broker, and ask to rescind the agreement. The typical requirement is that if you re-list it, you list it with another agent within the same regional association. The main purpose of listing agreements is to make sure that you don’t cut the agent out–that if a sale results from his marketing, that he is not deprived of his fair compensation. Expect a stipulation that you either remove the property from the market for an unacceptable length of time, or re-list it so that someone else gets paid. I’m not here to help anyone screw an agent who did a good job, but it is stupid, stupid, stupid to pay an agent who did a lousy job. And turn a deaf ear to the managing broker’s entreaties to choose a different agent from that firm; that’s a terrible idea. The spurned agent will fill the new one’s ears with venom about you. For this deal, at least, you and that firm are done.
Mistake #8: renewing a listing agreement with a failed agent while/because the home is in contract.
Why it’s a mistake: wait, if he has it sold, is it really a failure? Perhaps, if you aren’t happy with the deal and were desperate, and didn’t just rescind the agreement. But the deal may fall through, especially because a failed agent may not properly qualify a buyer or represent your interests in proper fashion. Note that this doesn’t mean you should attempt to evade paying the commission due; if it resulted from a failed agent’s marketing, and you had a valid agreement, that’s his sale. You’d best make your peace with it, because to do otherwise would likely be actionable. It would also make you a failed seller.
Better: want to make sure an agent strives to complete the deal? If the agreement is expiring while the home is in contract, and you hate the agent, don’t renew the agreement. Then he knows that he either gets this one done or loses it. You don’t owe him an explanation. You don’t owe anyone an explanation. You don’t have to renew it. If the deal completes, you have to pay him. If it does not, you’re looking for a better agent.
Mistake #9: choosing to list with a ‘top producer.’
Why it’s a mistake: because a top producer is by no means necessarily the most competent agent. He could just be milking someone else’s old book of business. He will have less time to devote to your property. He doesn’t have to care. We were warned against this by competent guidance, and failed to heed the guidance, which is stupid in capital letters. Oh, and if you think that talking to the managing broker will solve anything, think again. Top producers bring in the most money. Your satisfaction is less important than the firm’s revenue stream. Sorry. He brings in piles of money, and the price is a few PR casualties. He was making an omelet, and you were just one of the broken eggs. If you imagine that the managing broker would discipline a top producer just because you told a tale of outrage, you are Linus, the manager is Lucy, and your innocence is the football.
Should it be this way? No, but ‘should’ is useless. Many impotent wails in history have included the word ‘should.’ What ‘should be’ has no bearing. What a noun is or is not, can or cannot, will or will not, does or does not, is reality. In reality, in the world of sales, high producers are like star athletes at SEC schools: the rules and law are different for them. Don’t be surprised if the MB tries to take over the conversation and tell you why you are wrong, why the agent is fantastic, and why you’re just a whiny-butt. My advice: interrupt him the minute that starts. Tell him that you were treated abominably, and that if he wants to hear how, you’re willing to tell him, but if he’s just here to invalidate your experience, the conversation can end.
Better: ask your candidates how much business they do. Go to the finalist’s office. If the I Love Me wall includes a dozen Top Producer awards, forget it. You want someone who does a fair amount of business, but not so much that yours won’t matter. And you want someone who has something to fear from a managing broker.
Mistake #10: dropping the price because your agent is useless and you’re desperate.
Why it’s a mistake: because if your agent sucks, you should be rescinding the listing agreement instead, or not renewing it. The reason to drop the price is because you have decided that your price is above market and that no one will pay you that much for it, not in desperation because you think it’s your only way to influence the situation. I’d rather not say precisely why, but if you do that, you will walk away with lasting resentment and a feeling of having been cheated, when deep down you will realize that it was your own inexperience that caused you to cheat yourself.
Better: obviously, sack your agent and find one who isn’t useless. Have no soul nor remorse.
Mistake #11: assuming that once you are in contract, everyone will do what they’re supposed to.
Why it’s a mistake: because people are, pardon me, fuckups. Even when it’s counter to their interests. Buyers dawdle with loan documentation. Lenders piddle about assembling it, then demand more on short notice. Agents dawdle informing you of everything. Buyers decide they want to modify the contract even after everyone has signed, and expect you to swallow the modifications without demur. Title companies tell you one thing, then do another. Inspectors miss glaring things, yet come up with stupid things, and buyers want them dealt with. Drywall contractors cut into water pipes by mistake. Yard maintenance people and nephews break sprinkler heads. Neighborhood kids break windows. No one just does it right. People are fuckups.
Better: expect a steady stream of unforced errors, egregious blunders, sloppy omissions, lazy functionaries, arrogant demands, and deceptive statements. Odds are good that if you perform precisely as the contract requires and good business practice would suggest, you’ll be all alone on your little island of virtue, waving across the water to fleets of ships of fools. Be pleasantly surprised by the one or two people in the transaction who seem to take their duties seriously.
Mistake #12: reading this and deciding that there aren’t any good people in real estate and mortgages. Not one we made, but one to warn you about.
Why it would be a mistake: because, how do you think I learned all this, and figured out what we ought to have done? From one of the good ones, albeit not one in a position to participate in this transaction due to geography, who gave generously of time and wisdom without any expectation of compensation, and volunteered to do more if asked.
Better: take this away from this post. It’s not that there are not good ones. I have proof that there are. It is that you must learn to identify the good and the bad, and be ready to jettison the bad and work with the good.
Because everything useful you have learned here was influenced by the good. And the good deserve to be paid. This costs too much to pay the bad.
News has come that on July 15, Weird Al Yankovic will release a new album: Mandatory Fun. Going by the cover, I deduce that the title track will be a North Korean-themed parody of South Korean rapper Psy’s Gangnam Style.
Gods, I hope so. The video should be classic. No matter what, though, any new Al is a must-buy for me.
In the meantime, I’ve decided to distract myself from real estate headaches and associated frustrations through work. In addition to editing a manuscript, this is a good time to become a Gangnam Style parody aggregator. Because looks can be deceiving.
First, of course, the original. It went viral to a level ensuring that, even if you haven’t seen it, you’ve heard of it. My own take: the cultural influence of hip-hop goes far beyond conventional US stereotypes, and this is some of the best evidence for that. It isn’t all gangsters, family dysfunction, and violence. That’s just one very visible (and media-emphasized) manifestation of hip-hop culture. And yeah, it does touch on race. I grew up listening to Irish folk and country music, both of which glorify a whole lot of dysfunction and violence. That’s even more true if you consider alcohol a drug, which I am not sure how anyone cannot. To dismiss rap (the music of hip-hop culture) as One More Reason The Country Is Going To Hell is narrow-minded and media-buffaloed.
Some time back, a band of creative central Kansas brothers came up with Farmer Style. It had me laughing from start to finish, the more so because I’m from Kansas. I know their world. And don’t be taken in by shortsighted Cletus stereotypes enhanced by the gentle drawl I myself grew up with. If I had to guess, one probably got his degree in agronomy, one in animal husbandry with a minor in veterinary medicine, and one in business administration. I’d bet that the sister will end up in accounting or dairy science. These are educated people; they live where they live, and do what they do, because they like it. Kind of like my aunt (bachelor’s in zoology, doctorate in psychology) and uncle (bachelor’s in civil engineering) managing the family ranch. They have the help of my cousins, one who works in IT, another with a master’s in speech pathology.
Then my Australian mate Paul turned me on to Battler Style, a parody by two Sydney DJs. If one didn’t know they were broadcasting professionals, one might have imagined them a couple of exaggerated-accent yahoos just like those they’re having fun with. While I’m laughing (as the DJs themselves cannot help throughout the video), I’m noting that it’s both good music and highlights a real aspect of Australian culture: a mix of mockery and pride. In Australia, a ‘battler’ is a member of the working semi-poor, getting by in some way or another. You might not see many of them at the Sydney Opera House, but they too are Australia.
At that point, I got to digging around on my own. Gunman Style is an Asian-themed parody of Western movie themes. A Westerner myself, I understand the white hat/black hat mentality they’re laughing at. This too is good music, an elongated variant of the original done by guys with squirt guns. It takes smarts and talent to produce stuff like this, in much the same way as Snoop Dogg is such a savvy and instinctual businessman.
I found this, a video-only parody of the original by a Navy/Marine Corps medical outfit in Afghanistan. Even though it doesn’t include parody lyrics–probably because they would have gotten in trouble–just the visuals are funny as hell. Somewhere in Afghanistan, there was an officer staff that understood a valuable thing: you don’t have to be a raging jackass in order to lead. Things like this keep morale alive in places where the reality varies from uncomfortable to awful. The best part is the one outside the Sani-Cans, finishing with one guy in the head.
Then there’s a Korean parody in English making fun of Kim Jong Un, and very effectively. Even if what it refers to is a humanitarian tragedy, I for one couldn’t help but laugh. Just the right mix of cheesiness and truth.
This one, making fun of Mitt Romney, busted me up. I like the fact that the lyricist stayed completely off his religion, which many people did not. It’s a little dated (though it might not end up being so), but watching the people dance with croquet mallets, it’d be hard not to laugh. And after doing that, here’s one that made fun of both parties for the 2012 election, but made more fun of the incumbent.
You can probably find more if you dig around YouTube, but I think this’ll do. If you know of any more great ones, feel free to drop a link into a comment.
Tonight I was watching an old rerun of Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares. In the main, the show is appalling. Its premise: legendary Scottish chef Ramsay drops in on a sinking-ship restaurant, his mission to save both restaurant and family fortunes from collapse. I’ve long wondered why I keep watching this predictable dross.
The show consists of the same thing every time, with petty variations. Gordon meets and greets the admiring, thankful restauranteurs, then orders some menu items. Without exception, he hates the chow. This is crahp! It looks loike it came out of a die-pah! This was freozen! It’s ehovacooked! It’s raw! I want to vomit immejatly! What a mess! Gordon is a candid guy. The producers have to bleep him a lot.
The proprietors hurry to defend their dishes. The food is good. I won’t back down on that from anyone. All our customers love this. If you don’t like it, I’m sorry, but this is a customer favorite. We have the best food in town. You’re just a jerk. Gordon comments that he has his work cut out for him, and begins to get to the bottom of things.
Whether it’s incompetent management, lazy kitchen staff, T.rex portions, walk-ins that look like Syrian prison isolators, old grumps who have lost their passion, decor worthy of Rhonda’s deteriorating Doo Drop Inn on US 195, whatever, Gordon ferrets out the fail. He cleans up the Augean kitchen and its biology projects, redecorates the entire joint (time for a team cry), comes up with a menu even these cretins can execute, and re-opens the NEW Rhonda’s Ristorante Italiano (or whatever).
On opening night, of course, it all starts well, then The Problem reverts to his or her old habits. It’s all coming apart. Men curse and quit, women yell and cry; everyone says ‘screw it’ and goes out back for a smoke. Gordon saves the day, gets them back on track, and we’re about out of time. He hopes they stay the course, and that they don’t go back to just buying and microwaving all that freozen crahp.
Some nights, by this time, I’m still awake in my recliner. But tonight I figured out why I bother.
It’s like my job.
No, I am not the Gordon Ramsay of book midwifery, though if I see the butt emerging first, I think I do a creditable job of making sure the literary fetus lives to experience infancy. Just yesterday, a young writer asked me face to face whether I was a good editor. I told the truth. “I’ve got a lot of experience, but I know better editors. I wouldn’t edit my own book; no way. But I could probably help you make yours better.” That admitted, I look at a lot of writing, and I think I’m a fair judge of talent and its application level. Most of it has serious flaws. Most of its authors do not want to hear that. Some sniff, toss their hair, and move on to someone who will give them a gentler edit and a more affirming answer. Others take my words to heart, roll up their sleeves, and decide to repair the deficiencies. Okay, how do I turn it so the head comes out first? I didn’t realize that was the butt.
As I’ve said in the past, there is a bizarre, direct mathematical relationship between talent and receptiveness to input. The writers who need the most help, reject it all. I fight for my words! I think my way is much better; toodle-oo! Those with the most promise drink critique in and let it run down their chins, eyes slavering and wild. They are positively greedy for growth. And I’d better have a good explanation for what I’m advising, because if they smell pasture, they know I’m no use to them.
Their greed for growth is the most invigorating thing that can happen to my workday. This is the best greed they could have. It is what will make me go back over the entire ms again, just to make sure I didn’t miss either a bad verb tense or an opportunity to guide. All they are told is that it’s taking me longer; more precisely, I am applying what I gathered 2/3 through the ms to the earlier parts, where I know the same conditions exist but I didn’t then apprehend them. Why is your edit so consistent? Because I did most of it twice, dear client.
That’s why I know how Gordon feels. If he gets someone keen to improve and learn, he’ll go to the wall with him or her, challenge, educate, reinforce. However, his reality as pictured on the show is a crusade to penetrate self-delusion. And that’s the tough part for me. A lot of people can’t write, don’t want to hear that, and I have to figure out how to say so with some modicum of compassion. I already know it won’t lead to compensated work, because no matter how compassionately I say “This is fundamentally flawed and will be challenging to repair,” that’s not the droids they want. At that point, my goal is simpler: convey truth without sinking a barb. That way, at least, I will not gain a reputation as Crusher of Dreams.
Some editors don’t bother. They have watched too much Simon Cowell, or they are old enough not to care what anyone thinks. Dilemma: if you’re an editor, you assert that you are a judge of literary talent, which presumes owning some of that in your own right. If you can’t let someone down easily in words, where was that literary talent? Was it just too much trouble to dust off? Was there much to begin with?
I will admit, though, that at times I wish I could just go Full Ramsay.
90% of the aspiring writers I know could cure over half their problems just by forbidding themselves a number of bad habits. Most are willing to cut back on them, but unwilling to go so far as categorical discontinuance. That’s unfortunate, because the discontinuance is a free, self-directed writing class.
By and large, I don’t like writing games. That’s my term for challenges where you have to write without this or that, or must include words beginning with such-and-such a letter, some other cutesy stuff. This, however, is not a game. This is a creative way to develop habits that look good in a printed book.
Here’s the logic. Most bad writing habits represent mechanisms which have value when used with restraint. Only when they become easy outs are they problems; it’s easier to just follow the bad habit than to write well without it. Okay. Suppose you deny yourself the easy out. You can’t use them at all. Now you confront the dilemma: how else can I convey what I need to say? Without the easy cheat, you must recast sentences. You must ask whether you even needed the cheat. You retrain yourself to tell it with your words, straight and clean.
- Adverbs. Try writing without a single one.
- ALL CAPS. Write without a single instance.
- Ellipses. Not even one.
- Bold, italics, underlining. Try with none.
- Semicolons. What if you couldn’t use any?
- Exclamation points. Huh? “Forbidding myself those is preposterous!” Not so much as you imagine.
- Passive voice. Forbid its use.
- Sentences that begin with ‘But’ or ‘And.’ This one will vault your writing skyward.
- Em dashes. Try without them, even in the case of sudden interruption of dialogue or thought.
- Parenthesized comments. None.
- Making the excuse to yourself, “That’s just my style.” Answer yourself: “Then my style is wrong. I must improve it.” If there is one sentence that obstructs a writer’s growth like a block of granite, it is that fatal sniff: “Well, that’s just my style.” It’s a statement that tells me my services as editor will be of little use. If I drive my car on the wrong side of the road whenever it’s convenient for me, “that’s just my driving style” is not a good answer for the police. If I curse in job interviews, “that’s just my style of interaction” is not going to win over an employer. If your style is wrong, fix it.
- “S/he felt.” What if you forbade yourself to tell the reader feelings? What would you do? You’d learn to show them, not tell. More show is better. More tell is worse.
- Anything else cheesy. Don’t allow it.
Sound like I’m telling you to strive to be boring? No. Remember, this is not how the finished product will be. This is self-disciplined training.
If you forbid yourself to cheat, then sit down to write, you leave yourself no alternative but to re-examine your mode of expression. You will discover that each mechanism, everything you have been told represents bad writing, does have its niche. And because you did everything possible not to use it, it will be handy for when no other usage will convey the meaning. The desired end habit is to resist using them except when all the alternatives are worse, or even grotesque. Bad habits are always guilty until proven innocent, unnecessary until proven necessary.
If you’ve recast the whole sentence or para a few times, and could find no other non-crappy way, you may need one of those mechanisms. Passive voice, italicized emphasis, ellipses, adverbs and all: they are parts of writing for reasons. They are like drinks of whiskey or dishes of ice cream. Now and then, nothing else satisfies–but you probably shouldn’t have one every few hours of the waking day.
My given list of bad habits is not exhaustive. Some people write like Hemingway, with para-long sentences strung together with ‘ands,’ yet without commas, and figure that if Hemingway did it, it must be okay. Some people are addicted to single dashes set off with spaces. Whatever you are doing, that does not resemble top-shelf writing, is probably your bad habit. I know my own. If you don’t know your own, you know little of yourself as a writer. That’s sad.
Try it. If your desire to improve is sincere, you will soon see.