Breaking (In) Habits

What's the old saying? Something like, "Habits are easy to form, but hard to break." And it's a cliche because it's absolutely true. However, in that trait lies power for a writer. Writing habits can do anything from creating ridiculous efficiency to making us crazy. So how does one break the bad habit or break in the good?  Here are a couple of things I've learned in my days.

Identify. If you're establishing a new habit... first decide what it is you want to do. The more specific, the better. "I want to write 1000 words a day," or "I want to get up at 4:30 every morning to write." If you're taming a bad habit, do the same. Examine what you want to change. "I want to spend one hour less everyday in front of the boob-tube and use that time to write more." Whether good habit or bad, make sure the goal is achievable...even if it's in the distant future.

One Step at a Time. In rare cases, going cold turkey works for the distance. But for the rest of the time, easing into a new habit or out of a bad is much, much more effective. For instance, if you normally get up at 7am and suddenly decree you're rising at 4:30am...well, good luck with that. Better (and longer lasting) would be to set the alarm ten or fifteen minutes earlier every day or every other day. Same for breaking a bad habit. Cutting back to 45 minutes of TV and then 30 minutes the next week is easier.

Flex. We are often the hardest on ourselves as a direct result of these habitual routines. Getting 976 words down is something to celebrate, even if you wanted the full 1k. Slipping on a Sunday night to watch all of THE AMAZING RACE and GAME OF THRONES is okay, honest. Don't stop forming/unraveling a habit just because you fell off the horse one time. Saddle up again on Monday.

Side note: Not all habits are possible and not all are breakable. Talia's characters will likely always hold their hands up in mock early drafts. And, as she said, she embraces this and is on the lookout to cut it in later drafts. In this case, managing this bad habit is a more effective use of time than trying to destroy it.

With these tips in mind, I truly believe anybody can control their habits versus the opposite.


How about breaking the bad habit of not starting good habits? Huh? HOW ABOUT THAT?

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