For a long time, and to be truthful, even to some degree right now, I’ve wished that writing was magic. I wish that I could just sit down at my computer, or with my notebook, and words would come flying out of my fingertips and onto the page and suddenly, I’d have a story or a book. Sometimes, when my writing is going well, it can feel like that. But nine days out of ten, it feels like work. Like this thing I have to do. Every day.
Writing is not magic.
More and more, writing feels like something I have to do every day, like brushing my teeth or taking a shower, and if I don’t do it, it feels weird or just plain wrong.
I’m happy about this.
Because, in the end, in order to be a professional writer that gets stories and books written, writing has to be a habit for me.
Does it make it easier to sit down and do it?
I’m still at the stage of habit formation where I dread it and avoid it. But, over time, I have faith that this will change.
It’s like when I first started meditating. In the beginning, I wanted to meditate every day for 20 minutes. At first, it felt like torture to sit and try to empty my mind of thoughts for even one minute. But, I did it every day, every morning after breakfast and reading, and in time, I was able to get to five minutes and then ten minutes and then fifteen minutes and eventually, 20 minutes. I don’t remember how long it took me to get to a natural place with meditation. I think it may have taken a year. I don’t know. But I do know that now I don’t even think about avoiding meditating or putting it off. It’s just the thing I do after eating breakfast and reading for a little while.
Meditation has become a habit.
That’s what I want to see happen with my writing.
I always want things to happen FAST, but I know that with my writing, making it into a regular habit without avoidance will take time. I still have a lot of fear and doubt every time I sit down to write. That may not completely go away. I’m okay with that as long as the avoidance is lessened. I can deal with ten minutes of fear and doubt, as long as I get to the writing. But not hours or days of avoidance. That’s got to go.
Want to learn more about using habits to be a productive writer?
Watch this video by Tim Grahl and Jeff Goins about microhabits.
It showed up in my inbox at just the right time so I thought I’d share it in case you’re in the same spot as me. It’s helpful and just a little over seven minutes. If you’re avoiding writing, you might as well use that time to learn something useful. Go ahead and watch it, and tell me what you think in the comments box below.
When I get back from Iceland in ten days, I’m going to try making writing the thing that I do after waking up, washing up, eating breakfast, reading a little, and meditation. I want writing to be the next step in my daily chain of habits. As Jeff Goins says in the video, “Frequency over quantity.” That’s my goal.
No more magical thinking. Okay, maybe just for ten minutes. But the rest of the time, it’s down to habit.
Peg Cheng is the author of The Contenders, a middle-grade novel centered on the question, can enemies become friends? She is currently writing another novel that is a re-imagining of the Snow White fairy tale set in 1980s Seattle.
Glittercorn photo by Marcus Donner.