I have been writing for so many years. When I was a teen, I thought I’d have a book published by now. But alas I am still working on my first novel that I am so scared about. There is one thing that has been holding back my dreams of being an author. No, it isn’t some hotshot publishing insider. It hasn’t been rejection. It’s habit. Or to be more precise, lack of habit. Lack of a regular writing habit had been keeping my dreams safely caged in the land where dreams go to die. But no longer.
A year ago in August, I took the first small step toward developing a writing habit. I began reading Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way* and doing morning pages every day. It was difficult at first. Actually, it was quite painful and I’m sure what I wrote reflects that, but I pushed myself to do it. I decided to give it at least a month, and I was gentle with myself when I didn’t follow through. I just got back to doing it the next day. I also numbered each consecutive entry and if I skipped a day, I’d start all over. This was enough motivation for me to first get to 30, then 50, 100, 150, 200 and so on. (I’ve stopped counting since then, but I have 5 thick books filled with automatic writing.)
That’s the thing with morning pages. There is no audience. There are no expectations. All you have to do is show up. And just move your hand for a while. If you come to it without any expectations, with a sense of adventure and curiosity, I am sure you will succeed at it. Each day is a small success. I’ve had some major breakthroughs in my journals. I feel more and more myself when I write in them.
Through doing morning pages, I learned to quickly write a lot of stuff without thinking much about it critically. This is a good skill to have when you want to get a really rough rough draft of something down. Enter National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo).
Two months in I decided to take this habit building thing up a notch. I dedicated October to NaNoWriMo prep. I made a deal with myself: If I could write at least 500 words each day in October, I’d sign up for NaNoWriMo. I spent October writing backstory and character development, and then I did NaNoWriMo in November, which I finished like a boss. I write more about that here.
I have continued to do morning pages every day. It’s become second nature and I cannot imagine my writing life without them. This and my NaNoWriMo success have emboldened me to call myself a writer.
Since January, I have been keeping a flexible writing schedule, which has resulted in several poems, short stories, and works in progress. Some days it is difficult. Some days it feel tedious. But I make myself sit down to write as often as possible.
In the course of a year, I have written several thousand (maybe even several hundred thousand) words, which is more than any other year. Most of it is crap. Some I’ve liked. Some has made it onto this blog. But the majority of it will never see the light of day.
Although that may seem a waste, I see it as practice. I have learned so much about writing and myself in the last year. I’m excited for the possibilities.
Writing is hard. That is a truth. I don’t care how long you’ve been writing. Writing is hard. Habit is what makes it easier. Habit creates steps you take with your work to make it better. Habit keeps you going when it seems all hope is lost. Habit makes you keep at it when nothing else would.
Want to develop a writing habit? Here’s some places to be accountable**:
My 500 Words Writing Challenge
On Track Course
* I am in no way being compensated for mentioning this book. I wholeheartedly recommend it without any motives or affiliations. ** These are my own personal recommendations. All three are free of charge. I get nothing for recommending them.