Developing a Writing Habit
Developing a writing habit requires time and commitment. Carol shares here experiences and suggests we need to begin with goal-setting.
A Habit to Write
A few years ago I wrote very seldom, mostly journal entries. Yet ideas constantly flitted through my mind. Once in a while I captured them for future consideration. A habit to write did not exist in my life. What would it take to make writing the ideas a habit?
My daughter, Lorilee, suggested I try doing NaNoWriMo that November. I had heard of this acronym but did not really know what it was all about nor how it might help me write more consistently or even have it become a habit. She explained that it stood for National Novel Writing month and that you write each day until you reach a goal of 50,000 words in one month. You edit your work later.
I Do Not Write Novels
My first thought was that I do not write novels. When I do write it is short pieces. I had tried to keep track of how many words I wrote one month but I had been discouraged. Therefore I was sure this month of writing a novel was not for me.
Lorilee said she planned to sign up and I should too. We could do it together and keep each other accountable. I did have an idea jotted on a piece of paper if I could actually find it. I had a challenge issued by my grandson to write fiction. I needed to develop a habit of writing and this offered thirty days to establish a new habit.
There is the quote that floats around about how it takes twenty-one days to form a new habit. This offered an extra nine days of time. But can a new habit really be established so quickly?
I looked into the origin of that quote. It comes from Dr. Maxwell Maltz back in 1960 and says,
“These, and many other commonly observed phenomena tend to show that it requires a minimum of about 21 days for an old mental image to dissolve and a new one to jell.”
I read this and realized it says a minimum of twenty-one days, not that it is a for sure thing in that length of time. I kept reading other articles and came across this bit of information from Phillippa Lally, a health psychology researcher at University College in London. She conducted a study to see how long it actually takes to form a habit. The study is published in the European Journal of Social Psychology. In Lally’s study, it took anywhere from 18 days to 254 days for people to form a new habit.
A Good Writing Habit
I might be able to develop a good writing habit in a month but it might only be the beginning. I signed up wondering if I could really write every day, allowing myself Sundays off. I planned to succeed. My competitive nature kicked in. If my daughter could write 50,000 words again this year like she had last year, I needed to do it as well. I did not want to be left behind. Armed with an idea, a specific goal to write daily, and an accountability partner I sat down and began to write. I would worry about editing later. I could also decide later if this writing would be worth working on more or let it go and say it had helped me learn to spend time writing. I hoped to also get to that 50,000 word count goal.
By the end of that November, I had written just over 60,000 words. I met the challenge to write daily and the word count. I had something I could edit.
I wish I could say I continued writing daily but that did not happen. I did write much more frequently than previously so a habit had begun to form. The next November I took up the challenge once again. I had another idea born out of the work the previous year. Once again I planned to succeed in the word count and not be outdone by my daughter or my own hesitancy. I sat and wrote – word after word without worrying about the editing as I went. On November 30 I had 70,000 words written.
A Decision to Change
Establishing a new habit of any kind means it has to begin with a decision to change. Then the new behaviour needs to be practiced faithfully. There must be a resolve to persist and a reason to continue. How will it benefit our lives? Having a good support system and an accountability partner helps us stay on track. It might take twenty-one days to have that new habit firmly entrenched but if it takes longer we need to keep working on it and not give up.
Aristotle is credited with saying, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then is not an act but a habit.”
What habits are you trying to cultivate? What goals have you set for yourself? How will they help you organize all those puzzle pieces of your life?
Listen to Carol’s program Puzzle Pieces Of Life.
Carol Harrison B.Ed is a speaker and published author with one book, Amee’s Story and stories in twelve anthologies. She is passionate about helping people of all ages and ability levels find their voice and reach their fullest potential.
She knows, through personal experience that some of life’s experiences are tougher than others. She encourages people that even in the twists and turns of life God’s amazing grace provides hope. She lives in Saskatoon, SK with her husband Brian. They have four adult children and a dozen grandchildren.
Visit Carol’s website carolscorner.ca
Check Out These Posts
You May Also Enjoy These Podcasts:
Typing – JaneMarySnyder
Books – MorningbirdPhoto
Keyboard – itkannan4u
November – AnnieSpratt