When I first got the urge to write, it was far from a habit. I thought about it a lot, but I wrote when I “had time.” HA!
Then I met Margie, a fellow writer. Her writing habit, or lack of it, looked like mine and we both wanted to write more.
We started small. We met once a week for two hours. As my brain and my family got used to me abandoning “real life” for my dream of being an author, it became natural and expected. I looked forward to it and so did my writing partner. We counted on each other. Over time, I added an extra day and then another day after that. And now, unless I have a networking event or an appointment, I write five days a week.
Most mornings are spent at Panera – my office. I know that I can get a hot cup of coffee and a corner table with just enough activity to engage my brain without the distractions from home. I’m happy to chat with my fellow “officemates,” but the other regulars know that when I’m banging out words on the keyboard, it’s best to save the conversation for another time. I’ve trained my brain to respond to the atmosphere, the coffee, and the time of day. I go to Panera with only one task – write.
Others I know use different devices other than just a familiar space. Some light candles, some make tea, and some cuddle up with a favorite pet by their side. Others meditate, go for a run, or use some token to symbolize their writing time (like a rock). Use whatever it takes to make your space inviting so you want to go back again and again and a use ritual to denote the event. Whatever that means to you it’s OK. If it makes you feel like writing, you’ve found it!
Because the butt-in-seat writing lifestyle can lead to a bigger butt in the seat, I’ve started walking in the mornings before I write. That does two things: I think better and more creatively with more oxygen to the brain. I also record my thoughts on my phone as I’m walking. So by the time I get home I have lots of notes to get started. It was either start exercising or give up ice cream. All hail Ben & Jerry’s! I won’t give up that habit!
The problem is, of course, starting a new habit often creates the need to break an old one. I used to do other things instead of getting to it. Necessary things, but not necessary for advancing my writing career. I didn’t sit around and watch TV all morning, but I used to occupy my time with tasks like folding the laundry or reading my email. I needed to break the habit of avoidance. Folding laundry is easier. I don’t have to think or be perfect or get judged. Writing is harder and I often put it off until I had “enough time” or the “right idea.”
I’m sure you’ve heard that if you want to get something done you ask a busy person. I find that I actually get more done in a day than I used to because I have to manage my time better. I don’t put to-do’s off until later because the time is already filled. If you’re like me, it is an adjustment. But I feel SO much better about all that I can accomplish in a day now that I’ve prioritized my time.
[bctt tweet=”Don’t put off writing until you have “enough time.” Take time you have and make it a habit! #amwriting” username=”loishoffmande”]
Make a realistic goal for yourself. Don’t start off writing five days a week if that’s unrealistic for your current lifestyle. If you work full-time or have kids to shuffle around, maybe it’s just fifteen minutes a day while they’re taking a nap or when you have a coffee break in the afternoon. Put it on your calendar. You automatically set expectations for yourself if you give it the same priority status as a doctor’s appointment. Make a schedule for the first month and then reevaluate at the end of the month. You’ll see what obstacles get in the way.
Along with scheduling the time, set word count goals for the month. It will not only keep you motivated, you will also be thrilled with your results. Here is a worksheet to help you envision the month ahead.
You might find that you didn’t get as much done as you thought, but you’ll see where you need to make adjustments in your life. You may need to ask others to do more chores or stay a little later at work to squeeze in that extra half hour of writing time before you get home to the craziness of life. As we go through the dance of changing the status quo with ourselves and/or the people around us, you may feel some push back. It’s a natural occurrence in the face of change. Talk about it, write about it, scribble it on your mirror: I WANT TO BE A WRITER!
Let me know what you do or what you will do to get into the writing habit.
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