OK, resolutions are tough and pretty useless. So I’m thinking of things a little differently this year. I’ve been thinking a lot about habits because I read this amazing book: The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg
It’s about breaking down your habit and understanding what triggers it. Then you can use the same method to build good habits, the ones you want. You know, like writing. I loved this book because it totally appealed to the nerd in me. Let’s break this problem down scientifically! Only when your subject is you, it’s not that easy.
The biggest habit I’m trying to break is not a surprise: not enough time writing. I can procrastinate like you wouldn’t believe. I sit down to write and 15 Facebook posts, 40 tweets, 13 Instagram photos of my cat, and 57 celebrity slideshows later, I’m only 200 words further down the road than I was when I sat down. Argh! So I’m busting this habit. How? What’s the trigger? I broke it down to a feeling of anxiety. I start feeling anxious about what I’m writing–it’s not good enough, I’m not sure what to write next, who is this character anyway–and so I run from it faster than a vegan from a BBQ pit.
But how do I change this? The thing I learned from Duhigg’s book was that there’s no quick solution to a bad habit. There are thousands. You just have to keep trying until you find the thing that works. So right now, I’m working on analyzing what the triggers are that makes me turn from the healthy relationship of my writing and into the bad boy arms of the Internet. For a while, I was eating chocolate-covered raisins whenever I felt anxious instead of skipping off to the Internet but that was sabotaging my other habit-breaking efforts of trying to eat better. Sigh.
So right now, I’m trying music. When I start feeling that writing anxiety, I have a playlist ready and waiting. Right now it’s full of Rodney Crowell and Emmylou Harris and other old school country singers because they are all quite possibly the best song writers ever. And I also chose this method because I started listening to this kind of music because my husband John loves it and listening to it makes me think of him and how loved and safe I always feel around him (yeah, we’re still newly-weds). I came up with this because of this meme to the right here. I figured I’d use the same method for writing. I’m trying to break the anxiety habit by associating writing with love and affection. I’ve only just started this with mixed results so far. At this point, I’m just hoping it doesn’t backfire and I start feeling anxious around my husband. I’ll let you know how that works out. (I couldn’t find a good video of Rodney singing this song with Emmylou, but this is the song that tops off and ends my playlist.)
But the good news is that you can also use triggers to created good habits as well. So I’ve started this one. Tea. Every time I sit down to writer, I drink hot tea. I’ve only just started this method, but what my hope is that whenever I drink hot tea, my mind will lock into writing mode. This also is an early experiment that has only resulted in having to pee more. But it’s too early for definite results. If this doesn’t work, I may try shots of bourbon next. And just in case you’re wondering, yes, I’m drinking decaf ginger peach tea with honey right now as I write this.
So here’s to happy bad-habit-breaking in 2015! Let’s all give the world more words!