It’s “gift list” time again. Magazines, talk shows and the internet are replete with lists of perfect gifts for women, men, teens, kids, athletes, introverts, travelers, health nuts, foodies, book lovers, and even writers.
Forget the lists for writers. Forget the gimmicky games that include “plot twist spinners.” Forget the stylish pens and blank notebooks. (One blogger opined that a writer can never have too many notebooks. Oh yes we can! There are times when the sight of so many empty notebooks can fill a writer with despair and arm the Saboteur with comments like “Real writers fill their notebooks with brilliant ideas and scintillating prose; I’ve got diddly-squat.”)
The one gift a writer truly needs can only be given by the writer her/himself – a writing habit. Without writing habits, the fancy pens and notebooks gather dust. Or get used to make grocery lists.
Without writing habits, all the tools, techniques and talent in the world are a waste. With writing habits, tools are applied, techniques are learned and mastered, and talent is developed and more importantly, directed onto the page.
Writing habits are the thoughts, actions and routines that lead you into writing. Every writer has her/his own unique collection of writing habits. We also have resisting habits — the thoughts, actions and routines that lead us away from writing.
For example, consistently checking your email and social media before you write decreases the chances you will get around to actually writing, and is therefore a resisting habit.
I know that the urge to check my email “just to make sure there’s nothing there I should take care of before I write” is a sign of resistance. The more days in a row that I sit down and start writing without looking at email, the smoother, more enjoyable and more productive my writing sessions are because I’m strengthening my writing habit of “Do Product Time first thing in the day.”
One of my clients has a brilliant writing habit of turning off his internet connection in the evening to remind him to refrain from using it the next morning until he completes his first writing session.
Joel Canfield describes the habits and routines that lead him to his writing in his recent blog post “You’re Not Getting Your Writing Done Because You’re Building the Wrong Habit.”
To ensure you’re giving yourself more writing habits than resisting habits, you need to know a little more about how habits work in the brain. We’ll explore that in our next post.
In the meantime, inventory your writing habits and your resisting habits. What do you think and do that makes it more likely you’ll write? What do you think and do that makes it less likely you’ll write?