Guest post by: Kimberly Lang
Oh, I know you’ve heard people tell you this. It’s one of the first pieces of advice you get as a beginning writer. It never stuck for me, though, because I couldn’t figure out the how and the why of a writing “habit.” It wasn’t until I started doing research into the process of writing that it finally made sense to me. Once I figured out that a “writing habit” would make me more productive in less time with less stress, I was all over this idea. However, in addition to joining the chorus of voices telling you to “make writing a habit,” let me sell you on the why…
Any behavior can be habituated if you do it long enough, and a habit is simply something we do without fully thinking about it. Habits are shortcuts for your brain. Ask anyone who drives a stick shift. They shift gears without even consciously realizing it. The brain knows the sound the car makes when it’s time to shift, and it knows the steps of “foot off gas, depress clutch, change gears, release clutch, press gas.” If they had to think about each step every time they did it, they’d be stalling their cars all the time. Just like they did when they were first learning to drive a stick. (Ever heard athletes or dancers talk about “muscle memory?” Same thing. A habit.)
Any series of actions done repeatedly will become habituated. Plus, because your brain loves shortcuts, it lumps them together, so when A happens, the brain goes ahead and does B and C, too. Action A becomes what’s called the “trigger.”
It’s easier to explain the importance of a trigger by looking at breaking a bad habit. For example, folks who are trying to quit smoking usually have to change a lot of behaviors. If they’re used to having a cup of coffee, reading the paper, and smoking a cigarette, the actions of having a cup of coffee and reading the paper will trigger the desire for cigarette because the brain knows that those three things go together. Part of breaking the habit is turning off that trigger.
So how does this apply to writing? Let’s say you put the kids to bed each night at 8:30, go to your desk, turn on a favorite CD, open your laptop, and begin writing. After a while, your brain will habituate those things into one action, and that action tells your brain “We’re going to write now.” Eventually, the sound of the CD or the opening of your laptop will become a trigger behavior. The trigger behavior starts flipping all the little creative switches and will get your brain fired up and ready to go. That equals less time staring blankly at your monitor waiting for inspiration to strike. And because your brain knows it’s time to be creative, you’ll probably find the ideas flowing a little better too. (If your Muse knows where to find you and when, you might find her showing up with a little more regularity… ~grin~)
It takes energy to remember and motivate an action. Habits are less energy consuming and therefore make it easier to do things. Yes, including writing – because even with all the questions of where creativity comes from, writing itself is a behavior.
And, of course, your body likes habits. Once you have the habit, your body misses it if you don’t do it. So, you may find yourself feeling very creative and wanting to write around 8:30 each night even though you didn’t plan on doing anything more than checking your email and watching a movie. That’s not a bad thing either.
So, yes, make writing a habit. And because I hope I’ve sold you on the importance of this, I’ll send you to a website where you can find the information on how to make new habit: www.stephanieburns.com/articles/article06_habit.asp
Kimberly’s October release: Boardroom Rivals, Bedroom Fireworks!
The billionaire’s business arrangement:
Jack Garrett enjoys biddable women — sharing the vineyard he’s inherited with his fiery ex-wife does not appeal. His agenda is clear: visit Brenna, make her a deal… and leave. Immediately.
Her steamy surrender!
But one glimpse of Brenna’s sun-kissed skin has Jack’s rugged body recalling their fevered nights together… As their red-hot passion erupts, ten years of ice-cold separation melt away. Now they’re back where it started all those years ago — in bed! Suddenly negotiations are looking much more pleasurable…
A realistic portrayal of a relationship in turmoil and endearingly flawed characters make for a refreshing read. – Romantic Times, 4-stars
Order from Amazon
Great post, Kimberly. I never considered the energy angle and I’m all for making writing easier to do! Thanks for the inspiration!
Great post! I never thought of writing as a habit, but I find that giving myself a daily goal actually reduces my stress because I know what I need to do and when it is done. Otherwise there seems to always be this dark cloud of “should be doing” hanging over me.
You are right about the habit thing too though, I think. I know with my kids getting them to do something that they don’t necessarily want to do is a LOT easier if we just make it a regular to be expected part of their day at certain set times.
Hi Kathy! Hope the info helps, because I, too, am for anything that makes this easier!
Thanks for having me here, Lori!