I know very well what you are thinking: is Gabriella talking about habits AGAIN?
Some. Others of you are thinking about much more important things, and as much as I would like to, I still cannot force you to think about my blog during all your waking hours.
In the meantime, let’s talk about habits . Yes again.
You know that I defend daily writing. No rule is perfect for everyone, but “write every day” is the rule that , from what I can see, works best for the writers I know.
As fantasy writer Mercedes Lackey says , writing is like exercising:
What does it entail and what is it like to write a book?
Discipline. You absolutely must sit down every day and reach your daily writing goals. It is exactly like the exercise: if you leave it one day it is much easier to leave it the next, and the next and the next.
Good reasons to write daily
Reasons, reasons, plump, sexy and persuasive reasons !:
1. If you want to professionalize yourself, you will have to work like a professional . A job usually involves a daily delivery (or, at least, during the weekdays).
2. If you write every day, you avoid excuses . There can never be a “today do not feel like me”, “today I have no inspiration , ” even a “today I can not”: writing is something you do or yes, rain, shine, shine or get the apocalypse ( the leviathans catch you writing ). Lose the fear of the blockade, because it no longer has power over you.
3. I am more and more certain that Sturgeon’s revelation is true and that 90% of all fiction is bullshit (1). 90% of what we write is shit. You’re going to have to write a lot for the good 10% of what you do to perform their big appearance act.
4. In general, quantity is important . Greater quantity is not equivalent to higher quality if you insist on not progressing, but it is if you accompany those quantities of a conscious training, if you carry out a deliberate practice . You cannot develop deliberate practice by writing three times a month.
Now that I have absolutely nothing to do in my life and I have passed Twitter, I am going to start writing.
5. There will be bad days , days when you will write a hundred words and it will be a hundred words of crap and very disgusting slop. When you write daily, that does not matter to you, because there are also good days that compensate . You learn to give in, to break through your resistance and shake it off your shoulders – it’s just been a bad day at work.
6. Marathons have their uses (one does not write in the same way after an hour and a half of work than with fifteen minutes a day), and a disciplined writer can substitute daily work for long weekly marathons, for example. But unless you’ve been writing fiercely for many years, I don’t recommend such a substitution. Marathons are tough and you will try to slip away . Let’s say that the temptation not to write almost disappears when you implement the daily habit, something that does not happen with the occasional marathons, where the temptation to “save it for tomorrow” is powerful.
Some common gaffes
If you have ever tried daily writing, you will know that it is not easy . When I worked with groups on daily writing challenges, I observed a series of recurring problems.
For starters, there were always those who started out with grandiose goals of thousands of words. They always thought of the best possible day of writing instead of the worst . They did not consider what would happen at the first obstacle. After three or four days they were already failing and, instead of recovering, they abandoned completely .
Half an hour to find the perfect environment, fifteen minutes to decide between the range of 300 coffees on the menu, one hour to take the ideal photo, fifteen minutes to upload it with the ideal text to Instagram… you won’t expect me to write too, right?
This is why so many people fail at NaNoWriMo . People unable to write 100 words a day try to write 1600 . That may be the boost they need, yes, but it is often a recipe for failure. If not, why do so few participants make it to the 50,000 word goal? (2).
In these challenges, it is the correct implementation of a habit that marks success :
1. Too ambitious goals were set from the beginning, instead of increasing them little by little.
2. They wrote when they could, they decided to write on the fly , instead of having an assigned time (always the same).
3. They did not associate their new habit with another they already had , so it was easy for them to forget to do it.
4. Frequently, they took the opportunity to join other positive new habits to that of writing . This, needless to say, only complicates matters.
5. Writing was not really important to them . They liked the idea of writing, but not so much the act itself. It was not a priority, and it is absurd to force something if you have not accepted it as important in your heart.
6. They made the common mistake of thinking that writing is always nice and fun . Accustomed to writing in states of flux , they were unaware of the difficulty of real and conscious learning of a skill.
Proven ways to implement a habit well
I already have a complete article where I explain how habits are implemented and how to write every day using said implementation. I have also spoken on several occasions from my own experience in this area . But today I would like to go a little further.
We know of a very efficient and general way to implement habits (the one I explain in the aforementioned article), but there are many different habits and many different people, so we could try different tactics and see which one works best . In a recent article by Scott H. Young , he discusses seven different types of implementation, and I’m going to explain them one by one, adding some concepts Young doesn’t cover and applying them to our field: writing. Like him, I have tried several of these methods, so I also speak from my own writing experience.
Since we brought up the subject, I leave here a descriptive image of my own writing experience
First of all, I would like to clarify that I can give a thousand methods and they can work, but the subject of habits is much more complex . There are many environmental, psychological and even cultural factors at play. This article can help if you are already in the right place mentally , but for more complete information on all this I highly recommend The Power of Habits , by Charles Duhigg. That is the book with the most important content. For practical aspects I recommend Atomic Habits by James Clear and the essay books by Isaac Belmar , already oriented to the mindset after writing.
There is a lot more bibliography , but I think those works are the best to stick with the basics and get started.
Item: Habit as a tool for substitution
I would also like to insist on something that is rarely mentioned in all this of habits. Before entering the process of implementing a new routine, it is important to analyze what habits you have as they would hinder this process . For example, if you have poor sleep hygiene, it will be difficult for you to write daily as soon as you wake up. If something is affecting your daily life, dealing with it (where possible) should be a priority.
It could also happen that you find a way in which your new habit replaces the old negative habit . For example: if every night you have four beers and two bags of chips watching Netflix, that routine could be replaced by sitting on the couch with an infusion and your writing supplies.
Seven ways to implement the habit of writing
1. The 30-day trial
Both Scott Young and I learned this method from Steve Pavlina . Pavlina is a revolutionary blogger who liked to use 30-day “experiments” to test all kinds of things, from daily blogging to diet (vegetarianism and later veganism), types of sleep (made famous by his experiences with polyphasic sleep) or daily visits to Disneyland (something … curious, of course). Since then he has adopted a slightly mystical rhetoric for my taste, but it must be admitted that his dedication to these experiments was (and is) fascinating.
The 30-day trial consists of choosing an activity and doing it, daily, for 30 days, no matter what . You beat resistance and procrastination, because, as difficult as it may be, you think it’s only 30 days . After those 30 days you analyze the results and, if they convince you, you go for 60. That is how I reached 1095 days .
This is, without a doubt, my favorite method . When I tried it, I was in a terrible personal and professional moment, and with very little self-confidence. After just one month of writing 200 words a day, everything changed for me. That confidence gave me the confidence to make important decisions, and to develop a discipline that I did not know I had.
Warning: 30 days is not enough to implement a change well (the necessary average tends to be around 66 days … and even that depends on several factors), but it is an excellent start and will help you to prove to yourself what you can achieve.
1 B. Micro habits
Young does not discuss this in his article, but I think it is worth mentioning.
When it comes to certain key habits, you can start by implementing ridiculously easy versions of the habit that you want to achieve in the long run . People laughed a bit at me with just doing 200 words, but knowing what I know today about the behavior of people who want to write, I would take it a lot further and say do 10 words a day.
Because the important thing, at least in the beginning, is not to write a lot or write well. If you focus on that, if you want it all now, you’re going to fail. The important thing is to develop the habit of breaking procrastination and getting started . That is the true habit, not the habit of writing.
It is about overcoming the resistance that Steven Pressfield was talking about . If for ninety days you are able to sit down to write (even if you only write 10 words), it will start to be inconceivable for you NOT to sit down to write (especially if you always do it at the same time).
And that is only 10 words. It is so easy, so easy, that there are no valid excuses.
2. Don’t break the chain
I’ve seen this a thousand times out there, popularized by comedian Jerry Seinfeld, who said he wrote a new joke every day and marked it on his calendar. The time came when I had so many marks that I kept writing for not breaking that chain.
This is my private chain , which began on Monday, August 19 and aims to reach, at least, 100 days in a row of writing:
The image shows the chain that he wore as of October 24, when he wrote the first draft of this article. The numbers in the margins represent the duration in minutes of each session (which I go up every 10 days)
When I put this photo on Instagram there was more than one curious comment, so I will explain it a bit.
Every day I write as soon as I get up . The first week I started with 25 minutes and I have been adding 5 minutes of duration every ten days, so that the progression was gradual and more comfortable. Right now, while editing this article, I write 60 minutes in each session. I alternate days of fiction writing with days of blog writing.
I also include in “writing” the act of rewriting, because for me they go hand in hand, but you can adapt that to your liking. What I DO NOT recommend is putting promotional and marketing activities in this block: limit yourself to writing only activities or, at most, proofreading . Including other types of tasks will give you the perfect excuse to avoid the most difficult task of all (writing).
Warning: The advantage of the chain is also its biggest disadvantage. You don’t want to fail, but if you fail it can be very difficult to muster enough motivation to start over. I recommend creating a series of assumptions that cover what to do in situations where writing is difficult. For example: although I write 60 minutes, on days when I travel and have to get up early, I only have to write a minimum of 200 words. It is the act of writing that matters , so the fact that there is a loose day where I write little and badly is indifferent.
3. Don’t miss two days in a row
With this technique, you carry out the habit every day, but if you fail one day, nothing happens: the important thing is that you never fail two days in a row . This is because a single failure is not the end of the world (3), but two days already convey the feeling that the habit is no longer necessary or important, and hence it is very easy for those two days without writing to become three , in four and in eighteen.
Warning: This technique is also very user dependent. In my case, knowing that I have “permission” to fail one day already makes me fail, because the habit is not “mandatory”. There are those who work very well with this mentality, and others, as a servant, we only function with an all or nothing attitude. The important thing is to observe your own behaviors, try different tactics, and understand what is most natural and effective for you.
I’m talking about the technique of practicing a habit in an artificial , simpler situation, to prepare yourself for a harder habit.
An example? This is also proposed by Steve Pavlina. Imagine that you want to implement the habit of waking up early and suddenly, without lingering. You can take small naps of 25-30 minutes and practice waking up as soon as the alarm goes off. This practice is used to teach the body to stretch immediately as soon as an alarm sounds, a practice that you can then apply in the really tough situation: getting up in the morning after a whole night of sleep.
From the outset, it did not occur to me that this had an application in the world of writing, but I think the closest thing would be the nano camps , NaNo Prep and the like , which serve to plan your novel, test projects without such demanding deadlines And get into a certain work habit before getting into something much more demanding: the NaNoWriMo .
Totally true and real picture of writer preparing for NaNoWriMo
Any “homework” writing workshop (projects, papers, samples, etc.) would also serve as practice for unsupervised daily writing. We could also set up a “warm-up” on our own , a progressive preparation to reach our long-term writing goals.
For example, if you need to write 2000 words a day to reach the writing rate you would like to have and to produce a certain number of books per year, it would be absurd to start a habit with that daily number . It would be much more efficient to do 30 days of pre-training, doing only 200 words, then uploading them to 400, then 800 … and so on little by little until you reach the number you need.
Of course, here I use the number of words as a measurement, but you can also use time measurements (especially if you include rewriting and review sessions). Or you can do both (“I have to write 200 words in 10 minutes”: something great for developing creativity and loading blocks).
5. Project-based habits
There are those for whom the opposite approach works better: focus on the project you have and the habits will come by themselves , determined by it.
In principle, that is the approach that we all have . I want to get X so I put on and have an expectation that I will automatically sit down to work on X every day.
These are the habits that appear alone. We want to submit a 5000 word story to a contest and the deadline is one week, so we know the number of words we must do per day. We are excited about the idea of entering (and winning!), So we jumped at it.
Also totally real and true image of the writer the night before the end of the deadline for a contest.
For certain projects, especially those that are not very long, this can work, but I do not rely on habits based only on motivation . If there is an obligation behind (for example, if you have deadlines and eating this month depends on whether you meet them), sitting down every day to write is not a conscious habit, but something unbeatable. However, for those of us who write novels, for example, or for any other project from times more difficult to define and with a more intrinsic motivation (“I like to write, I want to write better, I want to write a book”) than extrinsic (“I they will pay money for this book, money I need; my current state of life depends on my delivering the book on that date ”),It is usually necessary to implement the habits first and then worry about the project itself.
In any case, I will probably elaborate on this technique later , as I am preparing another article on ultralearning (or how to develop skills in an intensive way, which is usually associated with the forced implementation of habits).
6. Public commitment
I have mixed feelings about this method. The idea is that you publicly commit to doing your habit (or, at the very least, to achieving a certain result). Young also talks about penalty : not only do you commit, but your audience has the right to punish you if you don’t comply.
This punishment could be approached from the point of view of daily habit, or considering the end result. For example, you could say on Facebook that you are going to write a thousand words a day for a month, and that if one day you do not comply, you commit to donate 200 euros to an association or NGO to which you have a special pain. You can also do the same, but with the commitment to have 30,000 words written by the end of the month (and you will have to show those words).
If I don’t finish my novel this month, I will donate all my Funko to # HazteOír, I will personally give my signed Harry Potter books to Melania Trump and I will also dance the Despacito at the Puerta de Alcalá in Madrid. Because some hits never die.
Again, this depends on the type of person you are and the level of demand of your audience . Maybe you say that you were sick that month and your audience forgives you and does not demand that you pay anything. There will always be those who find ways to drain the bundle. In the writing groups mentioned above, public engagement was very efficient for some; others simply disappeared , embarrassed, when a couple of days went by without writing.
I think that for this to work, the following conditions must be met:
- Having someone to answer to who does not accept excuses , who is demanding and with a heavy hand.
- That you act with absolute honesty and transparency (also with yourself).
- That you are the type of person who cares what others think of you . Most of us are, in fact, but this kind of challenge can awaken the rebellious streak of more than one, so that having to respond to others causes the opposite effect to the desired one.
If you think this type of tactic might work well for you, you can either make a public engagement like the one mentioned above, or participate in joint projects with other writers (anthologies, writing groups, etc.), which is another way to Take responsibility for your work in a commitment to others.
7. Create habits associated with identity
This seems to me to be one of the most interesting points. I think its optimal use is in conjunction with one of the previous methods.
This principle states that you can try all the techniques in the world: they will not work if you do not associate your identity with the habit you are implementing . If you don’t consider yourself a person who writes, you will never write.
This tactic seeks to use cognitive dissonance to our advantage. If you tell yourself “I am a writer” and then you don’t write, you feel weird, guilty, because the image you have made of a writer is that of a person who writes. What is the point of someone who defines himself as a writer but never places his beautiful ass in front of the computer to place little words?
This is a concept that is widely applied in diets and addictions , to give two interesting examples. If you decide that you are a person who never eats cake, and you tell everyone who crosses your path that you never eat cake, it would be a bit strange (and somewhat embarrassing) if in front of all your friends you asked for the most piece of cake great pastry shop.
Give me just eight of each, please, I’m not very sweet
In the same way, it is more effective to say “I am not a smoker” or “I do not smoke” than to be thinking “I should not have a cigarette” every time you feel like smoking. In the second case you have to impose your willpower several times a day (and you will fail at some point); In the first there is no decision : you are not going to take a cigarette because that is not conceivable: you are a person who does not smoke, that is your identity.
It is true that identity is not something that changes immediately, unless you have a very magical godmother like Cinderella . It took me several years to go from “I am a person who writes from time to time” to “I am a writer”, and it was the 30-day challenge that served as a catalyst for a habit that was perfect for the new identity I wanted. adopt . Without that mental preparation, let’s say, maybe he would have failed the challenge.
I believe that identity change, even progressive, is necessary for any of the methods already described to take root. You can follow all the tricks, tips and advice you find online to write more and better: if your identity is still anchored in the point of “I am a person who writes from time to time”, the habit will not take root . And let’s also think about other identities that do not help at all , identities such as: “I will never write well “, “I do not deserve compensation for my work” or even “I am a great writer and my texts are perfect”.
Some identities are not what we seek or want . I would like to have the identity of “I am a person who eats bread until I get bloated and who consumes alcohol in spades”, because when I had that identity my life seemed easier and I could go partying with my friends and eat pizza like normal people . I confess that the identity of “boring sober person with whom we can only go to strange restaurants” does not excite me at all. But it is what life has: what you think about it does not matter too much to him.
Not all identities are what we seek or want.
All the more reason to have some that we do choose , that we can change.
There is an identity that I do like a lot and that I have built for myself. (How good it feels to have a certain illusion of control over our existence, right?).
It is the identity of the writer . It is the identity of “person who writes every day and finishes books and publishes them.”
If you want me to lend it to you, it’s all yours .
(1) To those of you who complain (with good reason) about my unnecessary and insistent use of foul and vulgar words: you can substitute this word for poop .
(2) Be careful, no one understands this as being against NaNo. I think it has very positive characteristics (especially because of the sense of community it creates), and it is also a powerful example of the discipline necessary to write professionally: it is just that it is not an ideal way to implement habits. But if you’re going to do the NaNo, hit it hard and go ahead. The worst thing that can happen to you is that you get to write a big and beautiful handful of words!
(3) Well, it depends on what you write I guess. If you are writing a manual to avoid the zombie apocalypse, you better not miss a day.
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- Image of a girl who can only write about Andrew Neel on Unsplash
- Image of young writer in cafe surrounded by cacti by Tyler Nix on Unsplash
- Photo of my writing experience by nikko macaspac on Unsplash
- Image of couple very convinced that they are going to leave Netflix, by Alvin Mahmudov on Unsplash
- Photo of NaNoWriMo contender, somewhat less protected than last year, by Roberto Catarinicchia on Unsplash
- Photo of writer near deadline, by Jaesung An on Pixabay .
- The image of the lady promising everything to finish her novel is actually Lisa P. Jackson in Chesapeake Bay, from the free domain archives of The US National Archives .
- Photo of colorful cupcakes, by Hanh Nguyen on Unsplash
- Header image by Drew Beamer on Unsplash