The Case For and Against Habits


I have
struggled with a racing mind and lack of confidence for most of my life. In my mid-fifties while interviewing, I began to allow myself to see a different path. I've been on this journey for quite awhile now and honestly, it's still a roller coaster ride at times. I move along happily getting my work done and enjoying the process, and then something derails me. The struggle is real to get back on track.

What has worked best for me was creating a habit of showing up.  It took reading three different books on habits before I made any progress in this area, each offering one piece of the puzzle. The shift was profound.  The key for me was to tuck the habit of sitting at the computer every day to write into the middle of another sets of habits. 

My morning
routine initially was get out of bed, check out news and friends on my iPad while having a cuppa, snag a second cuppa to drink while sitting around wasting time, then get dressed. The shift that worked was after making my second cuppa, I now headed directly to my computer.  Suddenly instead of struggling to write every day, I was creating tons of content. When I cut back to one cuppa, I chose to wait 40 minutes to make it while I checked the news and touch bases with friends. Then I would head straight to the computer as soon as this single cuppa was brewed. 

This one simple habit changed everything for me as a writer.  The more I wrote, the more ideas of things to write arose. I still struggle to finish new books, but I am writing every day I am at home. It feels good. Then I was thrown the other day while listening to an audio book that had the opposite comment on routines - "You feel content because routine consistently reaffirms a decision you already made."  Wait, what?  So routines have a negative side, too?  After thinking about it I had to say of course them must.  Everything has the capacity to be positive or negative. 

To break up the feeling of being in a rut as a writer, I have been taking writing classes and exploring other types of writing such as poetry, flash fiction, and a writing my first murder mystery. I love my nonfiction writing sharing my thoughts and the stories others share with me. It will always be my first love and main focus. However, over time I found myself writing from my head and experience instead of from my passion and heart. Every time I take a breath and work to stretch my writing wings, it helps re-center me.

My daily habit of showing up to write is positive in that it helps me create new work continually.  What it doesn't do is provide the framework to take a project from start to finish. It's been five years since I published a new solo book.  It's time to look at how I can change up my habit, my routine, in a positive way that will  help me not only continue to create content, but help me reach the finish line.

Creating habits that help you achieve your goals is great, but it is important to review those habits on a regular basis. They can turn into ruts which just keep reinforcing what you've done before without helping you grow in new directions. Every once and awhile you just have to look at them with a critical eye.  Where are they positive? Where are they lacking?  How can they be updated to be more affective in taking you where you want to go.  

I am sure these questions will be front and center in my mind over the next few weeks.  And hopefully the best shift to make in my routine will become clear quickly.