Creatures of Habit

To truly excel, whether it be in writing, or in anything else, “you need strong habits”. Gretchen Rubin, New York Times best selling author of The Happiness Project, calls forming a habit “the architecture of everyday life”. For example, Rubin points out that she writes every day, even if it is only a sentence, just to keep in the habit. Whether you want to introduce a fitness program into your life, a better nutritional behavior, to become better organized or even to become a better friend or spouse, sibling, or parent, child, or anything else, forming habits allows those changes to occur and ensures they become a regular, permanent part of your life and who you are, rather than a fleeting fad. Rubin recommends that you “must first find your peak of the time of day”.

As a writer, I know this is crucial to strengthening my writing. For me, writing later at nightworks best, while other writers find that they are most alert and creative first thing in the morning instead. What works for one does not have to work for another. Rubin suggests to experiment with different parts of the day until you find what works best. (Exercising first thing in the morning before work works much better for me than exercising after work, while I could never get myself to write first thing!). She also suggests “to schedule that time”. Since she is a writer, she uses her writing schedule as an example. She tells her readers to actually put the time on the calendar. “When you put something on the schedule and are very specific about it, that helps you stick with it.” Its all about prioritizing what is important to you and allowing yourself to keep that appointment. Next, she suggests to “Assess your weaknesses and adjust”. I like what she says about categorizing people into “two common work styles”: openers and finishers. Finishers are people who start something but know that its very important to finish it, where as openers love to start brand new projects, as they have lots of great ideas, but may not finish. But, she warns, you need to recognize those disadvantages or potential consequences that come with each of those types and figure out a way to make them work. For instance, she says if “you’re an opener, you likely are full of ideas and thus may take on too many at once, or you may struggle to get going because there are “too many” choices.” On the other hand, she warns that Finishers may be too conservative, meaning they don’t like to start something unless they know they can finish it! Therefore, it is important to acknowledge that and find a way to balance those concerns out. Finally, she says you need to “Build your team”. Figure out what type of people you want to surround yourself with in order to maximize your “writing” or other type of success. For instance,  I belong to two writing critique groups, which holds me accountable to my writing projects, and also allows me to share my passion with “like-minded” people who share and understand the same passions or habits that I have !

Gretchen Rubin shared her suggestions with Writers Digest in her article titled “Creatures of Habit” and despite that she writes with writers in mind, her ideas can be applied to any passion or goal toward which you desire to set out to achieve or fulfill. The key is to identify what your objective is, what would make you feel happy and how you can make it happen. I know I am truly a creature of habit, which in a way might make me boring, but on the other hand, it makes me happy.


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