Writers need habits. In order to pursue our craft, we must become self-disciplined enough to not only form habits, but to keep them. Otherwise, it’s all too easy for us to put off writing until we have “more time”, whenever that will be. It’s a lot like exercise- but, that’s an entirely different blog for another month.
Change happens when one plans to make the changes, develops a strategy for implementing the change and sticks to the strategy. But, change is not easy. It takes willpower and self discipline. Forming habits incorporates making changes and needs three things for getting there: the cue, the routine, and the reward.
In Randy Ingermanson’s “Advanced Fiction Writing “articles, he explains the CUE as an event that reminds us of our new habit and the ROUTINE as the action we take when the cue fires. Then, the reward is the payoff we get when executing that routine. For example, let’s say you want to form the habit of writing every day for one hour. (Of course one may apply this to any goal.) The first step is to figure out how you can make that a habit. You may set up a cue by setting an alarm on your phone or perhaps you could make “writing” the first task on your daily “To Do” list (this works for me since I am lost without a daily “to do” list and I am dedicated to following it as closely as possible!). Then, you come up with the routine: which- in this scenario would be to sit down at your computer or with notebook and pen, and write! Randy suggests to come up with your target quota for the number of words you want to write each day, or you could choose the amount of time for which you will write (that is how I do it). Finally, a reward could be that you get to take a walk outside in the fresh air when finished, or go for a nice thirty minute run, as I do. Or perhaps, treat yourself to a cup of specialty coffee or a glass of red wine.
I’ve heard it takes three weeks to form a habit, but I think it takes longer. But, as long as you stick to it, forcing yourself to follow through no matter what (that’s why it’s important to think it through first, to make sure it will be a realistic time, that it won’t get in the way of your family or work obligations, etc), for no shorter than three weeks, eventually you will have formed a habit which will be a part of your life forever.
One doesn’t need to write to form habits, obviously. I formed the habit to run nearly eighteen years ago, when my third son was almost a year old. To this day, I can’t “not” run. It’s become a part of who I am, despite knee surgery, pain , aging, and finding less time to do it. Until I can no longer “physically” run (unfortunately, that day seems to be getting inevitably closer), I must continue to run or I won’t feel satisfied or successful. Once you make a habit a part of your daily or weekly activities, something of which is what you need to do on a regular basis in order to feel content, and with luck- even happy, the act of completing it is no longer a challenge. It has become a reward in itself!
Now, if only I can form the habit to eat less pizza! That’s a habit I will form .. someday. For now, I am content to write daily, run five days a week, and enjoy eating all the many wonderful foods out there! After all , one should always have new habit forming goals to work toward! It keeps us from staying flat or becoming bored!
Now, go form a habit and be happy!