I just read another article about how to create a writing habit. It had all the same tips you normally read. Things like make a schedule, don’t make a schedule, create a writing space, set a timer, do writing sprints, find the right software, read a few books and BAM — you’ve got a routine.
If only it was that easy. I am a walking, or should I say writing, testament to how these suggestions don’t work.
I have scheduled dedicated writing time on my calendar many times. I am fairly sure I have written in those blocks of time…maybe…never. Prevailing wisdom is that if you schedule your writing time, you are more likely to put your fingers on the keyboard because it is just another to-do to get done. Perhaps for some that works well, but it is way too easy for me to drag that time to another day.
Writing when the passion strikes is also problematic. Like I’ve heard so many others lament, great ideas come while running, showering, driving, or any other activity that makes it difficult to jot down notes. Some people solve this problem with recording their thoughts, but that never works as well for me. I am much better at transcribing what is happening in my head rather than trying to dictate it. It is like my oratory functions have a short in them.
Creating writing sprints aren’t any fun alone. Put me in a room full of NaNoWriMos and I can sprint with the best of them, but when it is just me and my computer, it feels almost sad. Like no other writers want to play with me. Which is also the problem with accountability partners. Even the few times I got over my awkward writer imposter syndrome and reached out to someone, it never worked out. It is hard to find a good fit, and so, that role is unfilled.
New writing software does work for a day or so. The novelty of using something new and shiny makes writing more fun than it often is. Plus, there is the added challenge of using all the features in the most efficient way possible. But, when the newness wanes, so does the writing. And if I am honest, did I really get a lot of writing done after fiddling with all the features?
I know some of these tactics work for some, and if you’re one of them, then please keep reading articles about how to create a writing habit. For those of you like me, I am going to provide you with the unvarnished, ugly truth of how I started writing regularly.
Are you ready?
Here it is….
I decided it was time.
It is that simple and that hard.
Many times over my long writing (ahem) career, I have made this same decision, yet every other time I didn’t follow through. Perhaps I wasn’t ready to commit to writing, or perhaps I wasn’t mature enough. There are so many things you could list here, but really it came down to fear. While I was writing and sometimes even putting my words out into the world, I didn’t own my craft. When I compared myself to others and saw my dismal numbers and I thought I wasn’t good enough. Then I would read articles and blog posts that I felt weren’t even half as good as what I had written, and they were wildly popular.
The difference wasn’t that they could write better. The difference is they showed up, consistently, and owned their craft. They exuded confidence in their writing. They weren’t afraid of taking a side. They practiced and improved. And again, because it needs to be repeated, they showed up.
I follow a lot of writers who write about writing and creating in general. And every single time they write about how to be a writer they say the same thing — show up.
But, it isn’t just about showing up to the page. It is about recognizing that you are showing up for yourself. If you say you want to dedicate time to the written word, then show up for yourself. If you committed to do something for someone else, would you flake out on them? If you’re answer is a strong “NO!” then you have to ask yourself why you are flaking out on you.
This idea is so powerful, much stronger than simply showing up to the page. The page doesn’t care if I showed up to fill it or not. It is more than the page, though isn’t it? It is me. If I told someone else, I would do something, then I would do everything I could to make sure I did what I said in the timeframe I said I would do it. When I looked at how much I tried for others, but not myself, I realized there was a problem. I was regularly letting myself down by not honoring my commitment to myself, to my writing. Something I said was important to me. I would not ever allow this behavior toward others, but I was allowing it toward me.
It isn’t about the page. It is about you and honoring your commitment to yourself. Until you decide that is it time to write, time to show up for yourself, all the writing habit ideas you find likely won’t succeed. It’s up to you.