It’s a Habit!

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Suppose you were an idiot, and suppose you were a member of Congress; but I repeat myself. – Mark Twain

It has been just over a month since I joined the ranks of the unemployed. I wish I could say it has been joyous, but I am not the type to sit at home. That said, I had a great time with the family vacationing in Michigan, but since I have returned home, I have been mostly job hunting. What a drag! There is a silver lining though, I have had time to write every day consistently. Which was my primary writing objective for July, forming the habit of writing every day.

My initial plan, to build the writing habit, was to get it out of the way first thing in the morning. That ended up not being practical within the confines of my family obligations and lifestyle. I revised the goal to ‘write as soon as you can’ each day, and that has tended to work better.

Another part of the initial writing goal involved the metric of writing 1,000 words a day or at least an hour a day. Unfortunately, that didn’t work well either, and frankly, it took much of the fun out of writing. I could see that working better (though probably involving higher word counts) if writing is your job or primary source of income. It is not in my case. Again I revised the goal, with the desire to make the goal something I would consistently achieve, to make a habit of writing daily.

Ninety-nine percent of the failures come from people who have the habit of making excuses. – George Washington Carver

The goal has been revised to read, “Write every day, as soon as you can, and as often as you can during the day.” That takes the pressure (guilt) of not getting to it right away, but the priority is still there to get it done before doing other items that can wait. There were days I only wrote a couple of hundred words or wrote for 15 minutes. Days like when I was traveling with the family, but I still made the time to write. Other days, I had several hours and was able to write a couple of thousand words. Most days I was able to write with my morning coffee, and other days it was the last thing I did before going to bed. This goal is working well for me. I look forward to my daily writing time. It is like a reward. I am proud to say, I have accomplished my goal every day over the last month.

I can confidently claim writing is a daily habit.

Another Start at Writing

My job is moving to Los Angeles.

Sadly, they didn’t invite me to go with my job. Granted I made it clear I wasn’t going back to California.

What better time to take another crack at writing. I can’t remember exactly how many times I wanted to launch a regular writing routine only to have it derailed (though it has been less than a handful).

Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently. – Henry Ford

I loved that job, and I’m sad not to be working there anymore, but I believe that things happen for a reason. While it is not always clear to much later, my initial thoughts are that this is an opportunity to relaunch my writing career. Maybe “opportunity” is a better choice of words than “career.” As much as I enjoyed the job, the pay, and the opportunities that the position provided, it was a very time-consuming job. Between that and my responsibilities at home (primarily my two young children), there was little time left for writing. If I am, to be honest with myself, that last sentence is an excuse. The reality is I didn’t make the time to do it.

I am constantly day-dreaming and coming up with stories and story ideas. Any free moment, my mind drifts among fantastical ideas. I enjoy coming up with the ideas and developing them. I need to get them down on paper. I believe I would enjoy writing. I think I have what it takes to be a good writer. I like crafts that involve opportunities for continuous learning. Plus, it would make a great retirement career. Yes, I am at that point in my life where I am ready to start moving towards my retirement career.

How do I know find myself in this situation of having to relaunch my desire to draft a novel? I have narrowed my previous failures to three reasons: failing to make writing a high enough priority (more on that later), sacrificing writing time for learning to write (the cycle of having to learn as much as possible to write) and spending too much time getting organized to write. In other words, I am my worst enemy when it comes to writing.

Finding myself without a job, but with a decent severance, I have the luxury of taking time off before moving on to my next position. While the fantasy of making a living from writing is enticing, it is not practical at this point. What is practical is taking this time off to develop a system and the habit of consistent writing. That system needs to address those three reasons.

Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm. – Winston Churchill

I was listening to the Creative Penn podcast (number 382) “Redesign Your Life to Prioritize Writing with David Kadavy” (https://www.thecreativepenn.com/2018/07/02/redesign-your-life-prioritize-writing-with-david-kadavy/), that got me thinking that I need to redesign my life to prioritize writing.

The main reason I have not succeeded in my past attempts is I failed to give my writing the proper priority. On paper, I made it a priority, which is the say I put it on my to-do list although I would accomplish many things before allowing myself to sit down and write. I would make sure I had all my house chores done, the kids’ needs met, my professional responsibilities completed, spend time with my wife, etc. In other words, finish adulting, then allow myself time to write. Once I completed all that stuff, I found myself with no time left to write. Even this was false because I would tell myself I’m too tired to write and I would play Xbox or watch TV. I cannot shuck some of those responsibilities, but what I can do is accomplish the writing before meeting all those other responsibilities. That means I’m going to have to change my life to ensure that writing is the first thing I do in the day verse hoping there’s enough time at the end of the day to squeak it in.

I need to build the habit of sitting down to write, actual writing, every day. In the past, I have given myself goals, such as write 1,000 words a day or write an hour a day. That all sounds good except there were days I didn’t even have the time for that. To be successful this time I feel I need to get away from (at least temporarily) quantified goals. To complete my goal of making a daily habit, it needs to be simple, achievable, and realistic. I think we’ve all heard ‘if you do something for 21 days will become a habit’. I need to do this for those three weeks. An achievable goal is sitting down at the beginning of my day and writing. Write for however long; it may be working on a novel, a blog post, developmental writing, or just writing something that may get thrown away at the end. Working on the craft of writing, not outlining, editing, research, etc.

The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

The other bad habits I have been spending too much time learning to do something and spending too much time organizing to do something. A previous mentor once said, “the best way to learn something is to get out there and do it. Yes, you’re going to make mistakes, but that is how you learn”. I need to take that to heart. I don’t need to know everything to write. I can be writing and learning. They can co-exist. Organizing, outlining, research, editing, etc. can wait until I’ve completed my daily writing. Writing takes precedence.

My plan for the next 21 days is to write first thing, well right after my cup of coffee. I’ll keep you up-to-date on how it’s going via twitter and on this blog.

Please share in the comments what you have done to create your successful writing habit. Or share the challenges you have faced while trying to develop a writing habit.