10.29.2020

Creature of Habit

By now everyone is complaining about being cooped up during the Covid crisis, and the winter is only beginning. Yet one silver lining is the extra time people have to drag out that old manuscript from a desk drawer, literal or figurative. If entertainment cannot be found without, it can be uncovered within.

I have long been an advocate of writing daily, keeping a finger on the thrumming pulse of your creativity. In the past, with commutes of an hour and more, such a regimen was nearly impossible for those who work in an office. Only those willing to rise before dawn or to burn the midnight oil could keep up. 

That stricture no longer exists, however. That is, essentially, new free time if you want it to be. The problem is switching over from a more sporadic schedule of toiling for hours on the weekends to a daily grind. You have biorhythms and you may not feel like writing every day. 

Therein lies the false belief you are telling yourself. You are not used to writing that way, and so you make an excuse based on habit. If you can show proof that storing up your subconscious juices until they bubble forth actually works, that would be fine. It even chimes with a nice ring of making logical sense. 

If we were all cauldrons, that is. The fact is, a habit is what you make. I used to smoke Lucky Strikes, but then I realized that wasn’t such a great habit. I also have written (nearly) every day for years, and I know very well how easy it is to lose a story thread after an absence, even of a few days during a weekend. 

Writers have to retrieve interesting bits and pieces from a mind that is always churning with mundane garbage. That is really what bubbles up: constant reviews of what you did and said yesterday. Setting aside a daily time period means locking yourself into a type of purity regime. That time is sacred because you have declared that is when you aren’t going to be ordinary. 

Forcing yourself to write every day has an added benefit: you’ll find the book is being finished faster. Someday the pall of Covid will lift, and then that new free time will be stolen away by your normal schedule. You’d better be done with the book by then.

Exercise: Dedicate a block of time at the same hour every day and put it on your calendar as a repeating event. I prefer early in the morning, because that’s when dreams edge onto being awake, but stretching the lunch break to include an extra hour works too. Grow protective of your new habit, and you’ll soon find that any family members will work around you—because they’re proud of your dedication too.

“The road to hell is paved with works-in-progress.” —Philip Roth

Copyright @ 2020 John Paine. All rights reserved.

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Copyright © 2020 John Paine. All rights reserved.