Creating a habit, part 2: your questions, answered

Charlie the Dog. He is excellent writing company, but makes a terrible armrest. (Photo by me.)

In my last post I ordered you, my obedient servants, to pick fifteen minutes out of your day–the same time every day–to write. Some of you read this and promptly lost your minds. (Or just had some questions.) I thought I should respond before moving on. Here I go, doing that!

#1: Fifteen minutes is not enough time. Shut up.

No, YOU shut up. I know fifteen minutes a day doesn’t sound like much, but that’s the point. You want to invalidate your excuses for not writing by making the act of writing as doable and unthreatening as possible. It’s interesting to see how the weird negative feelings will still crop up. You might feel guilty for abandoning your loved ones (yes, even for fifteen minutes). You might feel overwhelmed by writing for fifteen minutes. (Remember: you don’t have to write. You can just sit there.) When these feelings pop up for something as trivial as fifteen minutes, you can see how illogical they really are.

And those overachievers in the crowd might decide that even though I told you fifteen minutes, you’re actually going to give yourself an hour because fifteen minutes is silly. That’s another sneaky method our minds have developed to derail us. Unless you’ve already created a habit of writing daily, start small. Make it part of your day. Do it at the same time. Every day. (And if your fifteen minutes turns into an hour of writing, that’s fine. Just don’t feel like you have to because fifteen minutes isn’t “enough.”)

#2: I tried to do that fifteen-minute thing and I can’t find the right time! I can’t do it! In conclusion, I am a terrible person.

You have not done it for long enough, silly. Do you know how long it takes to develop a habit? Months. If not years. You might need to futz with the time slot you’ve chosen. That happens. Can you get up fifteen minutes earlier? Go to bed fifteen minutes later? It’s entirely natural and even recommended that you experiment with what time works best for you. Once you’ve found it, stick with it. If you mess up, forgive yourself, and write the next day. Mess up again? Forgive yourself again. And…keep going. (Notice a pattern?) The only mistake you can make is giving up.

#3: Okay, I’m doing the fifteen minutes a day now. I’m doing it! I win! Tell me what to do next!

Well! First of all, good for you. Secondly, keep doing it. That’s what you do next. Just continue. As I said, it takes a long time to form a habit. If you’re faithfully sitting at the same time every day, commit to getting words down.  It doesn’t matter what they are. Just get them down. There is no “moving on,” by the way. The next step will be in addition to this. The point is to develop a lifelong habit.

#4: I’m doing NaNoWriMo/some crazy giant project and I need to write for hours every day! Your silly little advice is meaningless to me.

Au contraire, my ambitious friend! If you’re the kind of person who writes in fits and starts, you have not yet developed a habit. You will still benefit from writing every day at the same time. Even if you’re also writing for hours here and there, find your fifteen minutes. It’s the routine that’s important, not the amount of writing. I’ll explain more about routine in my next post.

Meanwhile, keep writing. And tell me how it’s going, of course.

Article Posted 5 years Ago

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