“A bad habit never disappears miraculously; it’s an undo-it-yourself project.”~~Abigail Van Buren
We all have some self-defeating behaviors, and sometimes these behaviors can cause our writing dreams to be grounded. Through my years of writing, I certainly developed some bad habits that are counter-productive to my writing. I’m still working to break a few, but most of them are a thing of the past. We all have those habits, but no matter how or why we acquired them, breaking them is an undo-it-yourself project.
Reasons or Excuses?
Quite often I hear a list of reasons why a writer isn’t writing much–or doesn’t plan to get serious about her writing until a future time. (You know, that fantasy we all harbor somewhere deep inside about endless uninterrupted hours of quiet, someone else fixing the meals, and words flowing like water.)
There will always be reasons not to write–college classes keep you too busy, babies keep you awake, day jobs take your time, teen-agers take your energy, or elderly parents require attention. There will always be reasons to feel depressed about writing: rejections, lack of family support, or poor economic predictions.
It can be good to analyze why you’re not writing. Obviously, if you can’t pinpoint the problem, you will have trouble fixing it. While it’s good to know the reasons, though, don’t let them become an excuse to stay in your miserable non-writing rut.
Plow Past the Problem
Find a way to get past it. Talk to friends. Learn more about your craft. Set goals and deadlines. I pray first, but I don’t stop there. I also take action. (Like yesterday–I finally realized that my restless ants-in-the-pants feeling in my office was nothing more serious than the fact that I had piles of books and magazines everywhere. I don’t create well in chaos, but I’d run out of room. Solution? A new book case and instant organization. The restless block magically disappeared.)
Last month I blogged about Margie Lawson‘s online course called “Defeating Self-Defeating Behaviors.” I was dragging and had been for nearly a year, thinking my writing life was about over. The only self-defeating habits I uncovered were severe sleep debt/deprivation, a need for more stretching-type exercise, and a need to give up chocolate and sugar. I kept careful records, promising myself at the end of thirty days that I would go back to the chocolate. I just needed to know if it was contributing to my lethargy and headaches. (Oh, how I secretly hoped it wasn’t so!!!) Well, it was…
I had a bad habit of eating sweets for rewards and pick-me-ups and times I needed soothing. I stayed up too late reading (while eating chocolate), and I always thought stretching exercises (like gentle yoga) were a waste of time. Wrong on all counts! Each one was a big factor in the daily headaches, which I’ve almost licked!
No More Excuses
Breaking those three bad habits became my “undo-it-yourself” projects. Was it fun? No–especially going without chocolate. But I sure don’t miss it like I thought I would. The habits (dare I say excuses?) that interfere with your writing dreams probably aren’t the same as mine, but I can guarantee you one thing. Breaking those habits is going to ultimately be your own “undo-it-yourself” project.
It’s your life. It’s your writing life. No one will create the writing life of your dreams for you. It will require effort of your own–and lots of it. So what are you going to do with your bad writing habits?
My advice is a paraphrased Nike slogan: Just Undo It! [NOTE: Make it easier on yourself. Remember the power of mini habits when making those changes! See Not Enough Willpower to Reach Your Goals? Make Mini Habits!]