Cultivating The Write Habits
I write every day. At least I try to. It helps me focus my thoughts and sort out the emotional milieu of my day. Sometimes I keep a journal, some times I work on my book, sometimes I just outline new ideas – but it’s all part of the routine that helps keep me sane. This habit has been keenly important to me this last week.
This article is a little later than I normally post. That’s because I have spent the last few days out of state at my grandfather’s memorial service. I haven’t been able to write much, and even when I had time I haven’t had much motivation. My habits slipped, and so has my emotional state.
Sure, bidding goodbye to a loved one is hard – it’s only natural that I would have a lot to process this week and I think anyone would forgive me for being a day or two late posting to my blog, (especially since I have been late reasons nowhere near this reasonable in the past). But here’s the problem – it is really hard to get back into a writing habit once you lose one. And you know what? Writing habits matter.
A regular writing habit has a lot of benefits that you might not think of. I have looked into this over the years because I began to notice an upward trend in my general well-being when I was writing all the time. Writing can improve your ability to communicate, help you clarify thoughts and ideas, improve your over-all mental health, and best of all – make you a better writer. And the best part? You don’t even have to write every day in order to see the benefits. You just have to establish a routine where you are doing it regularly.
Ugh, “routine”. A writer’s bane, right? Trust me I know. I hate routines too. I can’t stick to a single method or time frame for anything on a regular basis for more than a week or two. But, you want more good news? It’s actually not that hard to do. A writing habit doesn’t have mean that you sit down in the same place, at the same time, with the same cup of coffee every day and write the same type of thing – this can help, and a lot of experts have done some research on why training our brains works better if we establish a routine like this, but it isn’t the only way. And I’m all about finding other ways.
Building a writing habit can be as simple as keeping a thought journal. I keep a small notebook in my pocket all day. It’s a tiny Moleskine notebook, maybe 2.5”x4”. Any time I have an inspiring thought, I write it down. This happens to me throughout the day and the notebook fills up pretty fast when I’m feeling good – then, when I have a moment to sit down, whether it’s later that day or two days later, I read through the things that inspired me, and write about one of them. A free write, a poem, a short story – it doesn’t matter. What matters is that I’m writing.
Still not sure you can make it work? Don’t think you have the discipline to sit down regularly and write? Can’t find the time? Scared? I get all that, trust me, I really do – I’ve been there. Here’s a few of my suggestions on ways you can start. - Because once you start, you’ll find it hard to stop.
Keep a journal – Really, I know. It’s cliché for a reason, folks. If you are keeping a journal, a diary, a dream log, or even a thought journal, it will help you build a habit. Journals a great. They give us a safe place to put down our thought in words. That’s really all writing is, after all. Keeping a journal is a fantastic, safe, and sometimes even fun way to practice letting our voices out.
Start a poetry blog – This is how I started. Well, I kept a journal too, but really my poetry blog was the first thing I used for sharing my writing with the world. I wrote poetry all the time – in school, at work, on the bus, when I wasn’t sleeping, and on every subject I could think of. I practiced all kind of different styles and forms. I even tried writing a poem in Spanish once. And let me tell you, a lot of them were really bad. But I’m glad I did it. Writing poetry helped me learn to express myself and feel comfortable connecting with readers. Even when I wasn’t writing short stories (my first love), my habit of writing poetry helped keep me going.
Write fanfiction – No, really. Seriously, it doesn’t matter if its not your original idea. A lot of writer’s forget that you don’t have to publish everything you write. In fact, in almost all cases, myself included, 95% of what you write will never see the light of day, and only 60% of it will ever be read by anyone other than you. *
Fan-fiction can be a really fun way to explore writing and build a habit without ever having to do the sometime daunting work of building a world, characters, and history. It’s OK to borrow someone else’s ideas if you’re not going to sell them, and in fact, can be a really nice way to show an author that their work inspires you.
Write down old family stories – This one is my personal favorite, at least given recent events in my family. There is a lot of history out there that we aren’t always aware that we are missing out on. Don’t believe me? Ask your grandmother what it was like when she was growing up. Ask your favorite teacher or boss who their idols were when they were children. They can tell you plenty. The elders in our lives know a lot more than we give them credit for, and so many stories are simply lost when they leave us. Talk to them, write it down. Not only are you preserving those tales for future generations, you’re building a writing habit that will serve you in good stead when it’s time to tell your own stories.
Which could be right now. Go, write. You can thank me later.
* These numbers are completely arbitrary and are only an estimate to prove a point. I didn’t do any math to arrive at this estimation. Take it how you will.