A habit is an act that has become so automatic, that we do not really give much conscious thought to the performance of it. Habits can be good, or they can be bad. In either case though, habits are powerful. They can, if positive, provide the framework for accomplishment and achievement. They can provide the engine that feeds fulfillment. Gretchen Ruben, in her book Better Than Before, shares a lot of research about habits and their place in our lives. She points out the benefits of tapping into the power of habits. That by harnessing the momentum of a few simple habits, we can streamline our lives, help reach some of our goals, and accomplish things that can seem daunting.
I was recently reflecting on these things during a virtual meeting of a group of writers. The topic was how to actually finish that manuscript, and it was mainly new writers seeking advice as they tried to accomplish this monumental, and sometimes overwhelming, task. Most were also writers who had other jobs, other commitments, and other responsibilities. Meaning finding time to write productively, was critical.
That got me thinking about the Pillars of Habits, which Ms. Ruben focused on in her book.
Monitoring: The first step is awareness- keeping track of good and bad habits. Or in this case, positive or negative writing time. When was your writing time most productive? When was it not? Where were you? What time of day was it? Keeping track will help you to identify your own rhythms as a writer. I know for example, that my most focused and creative writing time is early, early in the morning.
Foundation: Setting things up to make good habits easy to follow. Once you have identified your best writing time or place, set things up so you can take advantage of this. That may require adjustments to other things in your life. Since I need to use early morning time for writing, I know I need to get up before the sun. That means, I also cannot stay up until all hours of the night. If I do, I compromise my productivity.
Scheduling: Put good habits on your calendar! Until a habit becomes ingrained and automatic, you will need to make sure you schedule it. Once you know when and where you are going to write, put it on your calendar as you would any other commitment and do not let anything (other than an emergency) allow you to give that time up.
Accountability: Hold yourself accountable for establishing and following good habits. This may involve telling someone and getting them to hold you accountable. Like the work-out buddies that help someone get up and to the gym. Use your writing group or your fellow writers to keep you honest!
For a writer, whether you are a first-time writer or a veteran, completing a manuscript is a monumental task. By establishing some good writing habits, you can easily set yourself up for success.
Happy Writing Everyone!