Saturday, April 20, 2013

Caution: May be Habit Forming

I'm a staunch advocate of writing daily. Of course, where there's a mindset of doing something creative every day, there's another saying wait for the muse. But I've yet to run into a successful artist or writer who practiced the latter, waiting for the right moment to write.

So when I speak to groups and suggest strongly that they write every day, I meet with resistance. Everybody's days are already full, and they let me know with eye-rolling, head shaking, flat-lined mouths and a bit of whining. Then I see those people who are still anxiously waiting for me to help them figure out how to do it. Those are the people I look at as I continue with my advice to do the following:

1) Write 10 minutes each day. 


What you're striving for is the habit. Thinking you need a huge chunk of time is self-defeating because a habit doesn't start drastically. When you change your exercise or eating habits, those experts tell you not to change your entire set of life habits overnight. You can squeeze ten minutes into any day, even making yourself do it before you go to bed. Soon you're looking forward to it, and you stretch it to fifteen....then thirty. Suddenly you realize you can't do without it.

2) Mark off the days.


Jerry Seinfield has a well-known writing habit that makes him develop his material on a steady basis, constantly improving. He suggests a writer post a calendar with the entire year shown on it (not a monthly or weekly calendar). Then, as the writer fulfills his writing goal (i.e., 10 minutes, 500 words, one chapter) he marks off that day with a big red marker. Soon he sees his habits. And he realizes quickly when he's sliding. And he strives to make red X's closer together on a regular basis.

3) Carry a notebook.


Whether it's electronic or paper, carry a notebook, taking each spare moment to jot down a thought. It serves as a prompt for you to view the world through a writer's eye, and as that revelation comes to you, you pull out your device or paper and write it down. Sure, you'll go back and delete/cross-through a lot of them, but you'll also preserve some nugget to embellish and expand upon . . . an idea that would have evaporated into the air if you hadn't written it down.

Now....how hard is that? All are doable. And all gradually take you from a stop-and-go writer to a diligent one who starts seeing development and improvement in his work. Good luck!

Let me know if you do any of these. Or let me know if you have a successful habit of your own!

14 comments:

Karen said...

I LOVED this. I have carried a notebook with me to write down ideas for years. In the last few months, I really started utilizing it. You're right. It's really helped.

Hope Clark said...

I sure helps rein in those elusive thoughts, and once they're recorded, we HAVE to write them up into stories. Keeps us thinking about writing, which is the whole point. Thanks, Karen.

quietspirit said...

Thank you for the reminders.

Hope Clark said...

You are quite welcome, Quiet.

widdershins said...

I'm big on calendars ... haven't tried the whole year one though ... might be time to look at the 'big' picture ... thanks for the tip. :D

Hope Clark said...

I'd never thought about a whole year calendar, where you can see your trends in big red X's. It's a great idea.

Sioux said...

Hope--I like the idea of using a whole year calendar as well. A quick, easy visual.

And EVERYBODY has 10 minutes a day. EVERYBODY. The time they take to list all their obligations could be spent writing.

Janet Hartman said...

Carrying a notebook is so important. Sometimes I even remember to take it out of my purse and look at it when I get home. :-) The calendar idea is new to me, and one I will start doing, wondering if research or work on a query should count. @writerjanet

Hope Clark said...

I can see where research winds up being no writing, Janet. On my calendar, I'd omit the research days. But that's me.

Rachael Redd said...

My daughters have taken an interest in writing, and I have taken the opportunity to write with them during our daily writing lessons. I like the calendar idea. I used a sticker chart to improve the girls' teeth brushing habits, and it worked. I will create a chart for writing, but include my name on it also. Thanks for the tip! As for notebooks, I've found composition books to be a wonderful asset. We keep one in our "busy bags" since they are the perfect size, pages don't tear out easily, and snagging isn't a problem. Thanks for sharing!
Mrs. Redd
MrsReddsClassroom.blogspot.com

Hope Clark said...

Sounds like a great plan, Rachael.

Karen Fisher-Alaniz said...

I love the Jerry Seinfeld deal. I've never heard that before, but love it! Like you, when I speak, I can be guaranteed I'll hear more excuses than passion to make it happen. It can be frustrating. But then you get a letter from someone who took your suggestions and even improved upon them, and you know it's all worthwhile. Great blog post! ~Karen

Hope Clark said...

Thanks so much, Karen! You get it!

Carlos de la Parra said...

Totally agree on the notebook.
Like they say, "the weakest ink is better than the strongest memory."
As far as writing daily, the difficult part is knowing exactly if and how much one may be improving.