Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Making Time Revisited: Writing is a Habit

Technique Tuesday

In a recent feedback episode (188) of the I Should Be Writing podcast, where the topic was health, producer Patrick Hester said:


Eating one piece of cake doesn't make you fat.
Not eating one piece of cake doesn't make you thin.
This is true of many things, but I wanted to point out the writing corollary:
Writing one day doesn't make you a writer.
Not writing one day doesn't make you not a writer.
Habits form over time.

Writing, in case you haven't noticed is habit forming. As with other habits, there are good ones and bad ones. Bad writing habits are the ones that may give you a rush for a while, but overall tend to leave you feeling guilty and depressed. Good writing habits may have less of a rush but produce a general feeling of satisfaction.

Does this sound uncomfortably like food habits?

It's no accident because the psychology is similar.

A recent piece in Scientific American explained that we systematically choose short term benefits over long term resolutions because we believe we can always do better tomorrow.

Patrick Hester said that for him, the light bulb went on when he realized that he couldn't change all the habits accumulated over a lifetime overnight, but he could change one thing today.

For those who aspire to write but can't seem to make the time, you're not going to change all the habits that make it hard to make time overnight. What you can do, however, is to choose to write instead of doing something else when you have a few minutes.

Think of it as the writing equivalent of not having a second piece of cake. In time, you may no longer need the first piece of cake (i.e, you may find it easier to make a bit more time to write). If you can stop dreaming about your bestseller (and getting down because your draft isn't even close), and think instead in terms of small steps and milestones, you'll be amazed at the effect even a small change can have over time.

After all, writing is a habit.


Image: luigi diamanti / FreeDigitalPhotos.net