Writing Habits (That I Don’t Have)

I really, really need a good writing habit.

This summer has not been my best for writing. As I blogged the other day, I’ve been working slightly insane hours, and when I’m not at work, I would really rather go to the pool/go to a theme park/go to sleep/do anything besides think about what the characters inhabiting the recesses of my brain are up to. I would prefer they stay in the recesses of my brain until I have more energy to deal with them.

The Internet is great for finding enabling quotes like this one. See, Anne Tyler is bad at writing habits, too!

The Internet is great for finding enabling quotes like this one. See, Anne Tyler is bad at writing habits, too!

Then I get another urgent email asking me when the sequel to Ambition is coming and I look at a calendar, realize I am six months behind schedule, and start panicking. (I don’t start writing, necessarily. It’s much easier to panic.)

I’m really, really good at panicking.

Somehow this summer I managed to finish Show Barn Blues, and the consequential lift in mood and energy that comes from publishing a book at last, from not having to open that damn file anymore, from having fresh new words to look at, is pushing me to really make a commitment to my writing. I need to do better. I need to do more.

I need to finish Pride.

So, I’m trying to get myself back into the writing habit by opening up my computer and editing a chapter of Pride every morning.

But then Bradbury comes and lays down a truth-bomb.

But then Bradbury comes and lays down a truth-bomb.

Obviously this is not as easy as my current morning routine, which is plopping onto the couch and looking at Twitter for an hour. And, in what is probably a surprising twist only to me, it’s actually more entertaining than looking at Twitter for an hour. I don’t even know what I’m looking at on Twitter most of the time. Theme park news, random pictures of racehorses steaming in the morning sunlight, a funny gif of a dog… seriously, what have I been doing with my life?

It’s more entertaining, writing a novel, but it requires infinitely more effort than the couch/Twitter combo, and sometimes most of the time I just don’t feel like I have the energy or the brain power to write anything of consequence.

Well, if the past two days are any indication, I actually do have both the energy and the brain power, so I have to keep at this morning writing challenge until it stops being a challenge and starts being a habit.

Of course, next week, I work at 8 AM every day, so I’m not sure how this is all going to hold up when I’m leaving the house at 7:30. Do I have any energy and/or brain power at six in the morning? I have to tell you, the outlook is not promising.

The Internet is overrun with motivational blog posts informing me of illustrious writers who set their alarms for 4 AM every morning and write ten thousand words before breakfast, but maybe those illustrious writers are morning people with an extraordinary sense of vision and purpose who also don’t have Twitter? What about the rest of us?

I googled “writing habits” and found a nice list for “making commitments into habits” which I think I’ll be referring to in days to come, as I struggle with this whole actually-write-your-book-like-you’re-a-writer concept. I especially like:

  • Keep your commitment small to avoid anxiety that fuels resistance.

I’m very talented at anxiety.

  • It’s easier to honor your commitment early in the day, before your decision-making capacity is depleted. Do what you say will do as soon as you can; that way, you can enjoy the satisfaction and self-respect for the rest of the day.

That feeling of satisfaction and self-respect goes a long way, especially if I encounter a person later in the day who would like to make me feel like I am less than important. Excuse me, rude person, I wrote part of a novel this morning. What did you do? Move along.

  • Give yourself a small reward when you honor your commitment. At the very least, acknowledge and celebrate the fact that you are honoring the commitment.

I’m going to reward myself with an egg sandwich. It’s very simple positive reinforcement: you write, you get breakfast. Good job, Natalie.

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2 thoughts on “Writing Habits (That I Don’t Have)

  1. Struggling with the same thing! Good ideas about writing early and picking a reasonable amount of words. I used to have a writing partner and each week we sent each other the ten pages we’d written (small goal). We didn’t read each other’s pages but it just made us do it to have to send them to each other.

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  2. Thanks, Natalie, for referencing and quoting my blog post. I look forward to reading your novels. (I was horse-crazy as a kid and young adult, though I never had the opportunities to really get into the “horse world” and followed other priorities instead.) Let me know how your writing habit comes along.

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