Alexander R Davis
The Writing Habit:
Updated: Apr 17, 2020
So you want to write a book, part 3
Sometimes it seems just as hard to get into writing, as it is to get into a diet. In both cases, you are excited about the outcome, but likewise in both cases, the journey can be quite difficult to stick to. This is where the writing habit comes in. If you don’t have this important habit, then you are going to struggle through your writing, regardless of how excited you are. Let’s shed some light on one of the best ways to create this direly needed habit. First, micro steps. Second, set the time. Third, celebration.
Micro steps, or baby steps, are sorely needed by most of us. Have you ever set a goal and failed? Have you ever reached and fallen short? Maybe you have even planned things out perfectly, but never took action. If so, then you need micro steps. There are many reasons that you may not take action, or fall short, but one of the most common is the size of the goal. If you plan to do something that is drastically different than you have been doing, it is quite overwhelming and very difficult to pursue. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying it is impossible to change your life over night, but that is more rare than common. For the majority of us, when we set out to do something that is too large, we are going to either fall short, or do nothing at all. Because of this, we need to take micro steps. If you haven’t written much in the past, you aren’t going to suddenly start writing for three hours a day. On the other hand, if you build up momentum through micro steps and start by creating a writing habit, then you will achieve your overarching goal and 9 times out of 10, you will get there quicker.
Here is an example of micro steps. I was coaching a man who wanted to write a book and he was frustrated that he wasn’t meeting his lofty goals of writing each day. When I found out both that he wanted to write for an hour or more and that he currently was writing nothing, I knew we had to start small. Going from nothing to an hour of writing in a day, is similar to someone who has never run in their life, deciding to go out and run a mile. Though it may be possible, it is far from easy. For one week, all he had to do was write one sentence and that’s it. If he wanted to keep going, he could, or if he wanted to stop, he could. As long as he wrote one sentence, he was successful. After that first week, the next goal was to write one paragraph. Once he got that down, then he wrote two paragraphs a day. In this way he ingrained the habit. Consistently building the routine of it.
Creating a writing habit in the beginning, isn’t about how much you write. It’s about the consistency of it and taking micro steps is the best and easiest way to be consistent. Once that consistency is routine, then you can build your habit up to be as large as you desire.
Now, you may be tempted to turn your nose up at this, thinking that writing a sentence a day isn’t even worth doing. Again, I need to point out that this is about creating a habit, not about the amount you write. Second, there is something to consider. One sentence is infinitely more than nothing, isn’t it?
Set The Time:
Setting a specific time when you write, is paramount. If you simply say you will write that day, then the chances are slim that you actually will, particularly if you are just beginning the writing habit. So, instead of simply setting the intention to write, you will set a specific time. Once set, you should think of these times as appointments. This is going to be an appointment with one of the most important people in this world, it’s going to be with you. If you have ever seen The Grinch with Jim Carrey, the Grinch understood this principle quite well. In the movie, he is invited to go down to a party for Christmas and it doesn’t take him long to pull out his schedule. He starts reading his personal appointments and exclaims, “Dinner with me. I can’t cancel that again!” That is exactly how we should look the appointments we set with ourselves.
There is a single directive that you should hold to when setting up your writing time; keep your appointments. Maybe that goes without saying, but I say it anyways. You should see these like doctor’s or dentist appointments. When we have an appointment, we keep it. That is simply the way we have been condition. So, use that conditioning to your advantage. Realistically you should not miss these for any reason, but if there is an extreme circumstance, here is a rule of thumb. The only reason you will cancel your writing time, is the same reason you would cancel a doctor’s or dentist appointment. So, when you are thinking of skipping, then ask yourself if the reason for which you are going to cancel, would be reason enough to miss a doctor’s appointment. If the answer is yes, then that’s fine, take the time you need. On the other hand, if no, then get to writing!
This third step may just be the most important of the three. True, you do need all three, but do not forget to do this. Celebrate! Sadly, most of us don’t celebrate very often. The only time we do celebrate, is when we have accomplished some gigantic goal. Only rewarding ourselves for huge achievements, is simply foolish. Our subconscious mind, which holds all your emotions and not only stores, but helps us carry out habits, is very attached to pleasure. The subconscious avoids pain and chases pleasure, which means if you only celebrate when you finish something, it won’t become a habit, more likely than not. On the other hand, if you celebrate early and often, your subconscious mind is going to see that taking certain actions, produces pleasurable rewards and then it will more quickly develop the habit of taking those actions.
Don’t wait until you finish something to reward yourself. Do it early and often. Even starting the writing of a book, should be celebrated. You need to reward yourself for actions, rather than results. If you do this, then action will become ingrained in you and once action is the norm, then it will be easy to start producing the results you want to see. Celebrate, celebrate, celebrate!
Remember that to truly be successful in your writing endeavors, you need to create a writing habit for yourself. It is absolutely crucial. Take micro steps and set appointments with yourself, then celebrate ALL of your progress.