Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Writing habits – what we need to do


They say, "If you do something you enjoy, it will never feel like work." I believe in this, but I don't think it comes that easy. I love playing volleyball, but I have never put in the work required to play more than two or three games and not collapse into a sweaty heap. Maybe a little more effort and dedication would save me from a few days of ice packs and Ben-Gay, but I never put in that time. It didn't seem worth it.

Since this blog is about writing, I will use that to discuss what I hear from a number of workshop members when I prompt them to "keep on writing."


Q: I don’t feel like writing everything all the time

A: I would hope not. Trying to become a writer by constantly writing the Great American Novel might border on the obsessive. But more to the point, it can lead to a boom-bust cycle of massive creation followed by massive burnout. Where’s the fun in that?

The best advice I was given about these habits came with a comparison to working out. I am hardly a fitness guru, and gravity is not my friend – trust me. However, when I started exercising regularly I thought I needed to dive in and work myself ragged whenever I had the chance. This gave me a great rush the first time, followed by stiff, achy joints, a sore back; and second thoughts about the whole scam called “exercise.”

And that’s when I got this life-saving advice. A friend of mine said that it wasn’t about doing as much as possible when I could, but doing something every day whether I wanted to or not. Starting to exercise wasn’t about finding limits, but first generating some discipline. So if I was feeling in the mood, I could follow a warm-up with a whole core routine, upper-body circuits, or whatever I felt I could handle. On days like those, exercise is the easiest thing. But on those days when I didn’t want to even think about extra movement, it was that much more important to spend at least twenty minutes on the treadmill.

As far as writing goes, it’s very similar. I set aside a half-hour which is my writing time. I can do more if I want, but thirty minutes is the bare minimum (finding the time is discussed in another post). When I want to write, I can step right into it. It’s simple, natural, and I don’t have to stretch as much beforehand. But the important part is that when I don’t feel like writing, I still sit down and write something. Anything. A haiku (several, actually), an idea about a character sketch, memories of the home I grew up in. It’s okay if what I write isn’t the best thing I’ve ever committed to words, as long as I create something. If I can’t seem to type something, I force myself to type anything (the problem of Writer’s Block will be covered in its own piece soon enough).

The first part of becoming a writer, therefore, is developing the discipline of a writer. It may sometimes not be as fun as we like, but as our skills improve, it becomes easier, more exciting, and we start realizing our potential as a writer is much greater than we ever knew. In short, as we develop the discipline of a writer, we start convincing ourselves that we are writers. Once we realize that, we create the mental fitness a writer.

And it’s a lot easier on the knees than a treadmill.

4 comments:

  1. Excellent advice!

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    1. This is great advice.
      So true.
      Routine and habits are essential for a healthy brain ... they’re the last to go when brain injuries occur.

      (Been reading too much Charles Duhrig? and the story of Eugene.)

      But yes ... commitment ... discipline ... are required to build habits ... start simple and go from there.

      Jane

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