When I maintain the writing habit, I get antsy if I haven’t written. It’s a feeling of anxiousness that I’ve forgotten something important. It works for me, though I know it doesn’t work for everyone. Once I’ve spent time writing, there’s a sense of relief. This sense of leaving something undone lets me know that my good habits are still working. When I lose that feeling, I know it’s time to figure out where I strayed off the path and get back on it. When I feel it, I’ll make time to do it.
What works for you? What signs are in place that your writing habit is doing its job? You’re the only one who can answer that, but here are a few signs that might mean you’re doing fine:
- You go to the computer or your writing space without thought or planning, often at the same time each day.
- You feel the nagging sense of missing something until you sit down to write.
- You find you are unconsciously ordering your day or environment to allow writing time.
- You are driven, sometimes physically agitated, until you have a pen and paper in your grasp and are laying down words.
- You recognize an excuse when you see one.
Resistance is a real thing for most writers and I find habit can help me overcome resistance to a large degree. Resistance is higher when I’m tired there’s a lot of life going on. Keeping good habits is especially hard when my schedule is in flux, as it has been for the last few months. The majority of conversations I have with writers in terms of habit maintenance usually involve changes in schedule. Most of the conversations with new writers are about resistance. We need to set guides for ourselves to create and maintain the good habits that support writing.
After decades at this craft, I know how easy it is to let a habit slide and how hard it can be to establish again. Over the years, I’ve created some benchmarks to gauge when I might be slipping. Note, these are my benchmarks. They may not work for you, but you can develop some that do.
- I keep track of my word count and pay attention when volume slips.
- I am accountable to my critique group and they frequently ask if I’m writing.
- I read over my writing journal and highlight times I’ve missed writing and make myself explain why. If the excuse doesn’t hold up, I pay more attention until I’m back on track.
- I set deadlines and weekly word count goals.
Once you know you can write anywhere and at almost any time, you’ll find you make fewer excuses for not getting at least a minimum word count every day. My preferences are still there, and yours will be, too, but knowing we can get the work done goes a long way (and sometimes it’s easier to overcome resistance if we just scribble a few lines when we can instead of sitting down for an hour-long session).
Sometimes life conspires to keep us from the page. You’ll have to decide for yourself if the circumstances warrant easing up on your expectations. Because I count all forms of writing (blog posts, journal, projects, etc.), I don’t worry as long as my volume is consistent. That allows for more journaling when life gets in the way and more projects when there’s smooth sailing. When life happens, just be aware you might need to re-establish your good habits and make a plan to do so as soon as the smoke clears.