The writer’s practice is tough. Just this past Monday night was a perfect example of it. I wanted to sit down and watch television and maybe get 300 words into this sci-fi story I’ve been working on since August. Of course, it should go without saying that I was setting myself up for failure by combining television and typing 300 viable words.
My wife was preparing schoolwork in our office. She has the uncanny ability to be able to work and catch up on her favorite shows at the same time. So I decided to work in the living room and re-watch the mid-season finale of The Flash. Unfortunately, I do not have my wife’s skill at multi-tasking. I quickly became blocked, as you might imagine. The new ideas for my story were few and far between.
When my wife finished her work and decided to join me, she suggested that we watch an episode of The Walking Dead on DVR instead. We were two episodes behind for God’s sake! Foolishly, I agreed. As the show’s signature opening credits played after a thrilling opening scene, I realized I wasn’t going to get any work done. I looked down at my trusty Scrivener word count and found that I had only typed 90 words; two paragraphs. Annoyed at myself, I closed my laptop in defeat and watched the remainder of TWD with my wife. The typically awesome performance of Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Negan, brightened my spirits only temporarily, but once the episode was over I slipped back down into the trap of what I like to call ‘writer’s regret’. 300 words-a-day missed again.
So what’s the takeaway from this? I must guard my writing habit. Did you see what I did there? I called it a ‘habit’. It’s not inspiration. The late great Octavia Butler once said:
“First forget inspiration. Habit is more dependable. Habit will sustain you whether you’re inspired or not. Habit will help you finish and polish your stories. Inspiration won’t. Habit is persistence in practice.”
I’m trying to take this to heart. Write as a habit, not from inspiration. That is so tough. We think the greats must have been writing from inspiration, but if we investigate we’ll find that they wrote everyday. Stephen King writes 2500 words a day. Heman Melville secreted himself away from friends to guard his writer’s practice. The initial story idea maybe came through inspiration, but that’s about it.
Some say the key to creating a habit is to do the action for 21 days. After 21 days, your body and your mind become conditioned to doing the action.
This is the third day I’ve worked on this blog and the first day since refocusing my writing efforts. So let’s say that I have 18 days to go. God, I hope I can do it. I have to dig down deep and put my nose to the proverbial grindstone and just do it. Thank you Shai LeBeouf!
21 days is the goal! At this point in time, this goal is more important than what I produce or the quality of what I produce. Just write for 21 days. I can do it!