I’ve passed the two-year mark for exercising every day. Feel free to applaud. I started this 21-day program two years ago, and after those days were up, I wondered how long I could continue the streak. I’ve been exercising all my life pretty consistently but never every day. After two years, I’m still going strong with no plans to quit. When I tell people what I’ve done, they are amazed. But I must admit that I’m not. It’s easy for me.
I get up every day and the first thing I do is exercise. When I hurt something, I change the type of exercise. If I am on vacation, I walk around the hotel neighborhood. I’ve learned to adapt so I can continue my streak.
So why is this easy for me and not for someone else? The answer is simple. I want to.
The more important question though, is why can’t I apply this same motivation to my writing? If I wrote every day for 21 days to create a habit, would I be able to stretch those 21 days into something longer?
I doubt it. Exercising is easier than writing. I plop in a DVD and follow along with what someone else is doing. If I walk, I head out the back door and put one foot in front of the other for 30 minutes until I find myself back home.
I don’t have to think about what I’m doing. Instead, I get to think about writing which, truthfully, is the fun part of writing. My mind can wander about topics for the next blog, explore a possible grammar post for Two Drops of Ink, plan to read more about flash fiction so I can get enough stories together for a book or figure out when to send those letters of introduction to get that writing career going. Oh, and let’s not forget about that airplane article that needs writing.
The fun part of writing is the daydreaming. We imagine ourselves in that busy cafe, sitting in the corner typing away on our laptop, oblivious to the noisy customers, or sitting on our front porch seeing the cars drive by in our peripheral vision while listening to the robin’s tweet in the nearby tree.
Sometimes when I exercise, I notice that I’m on autopilot following along with all the moves on the video, yet, I’m not hearing a thing that Autumn is saying because I’m thinking about what subject I want to write about next.
Thinking about writing is fun. Writing is not. Writing is hard work and so easy to put off until tomorrow.
We live in an instant gratification world which is not conducive to writers. To glean gratification from writing is a learned skill. When I eat mocha, caramel ice cream, or a dark chocolate truffle, or my homemade pumpkin pie with a dollop of whipped cream after Thanksgiving, I am in gratification heaven. When I slide into a hot bubble bath, or silently correct my boss’s grammar, I’m in gratification heaven.
When I write, it can take hours before the gratification wave washes over me. Am I gratified after a rough draft? Maybe. Or, do I have to wait until that final draft is accepted?
You can promise yourself you’ll write every day for 15 minutes. Let’s say you do this for a week. Will you be happy after a week? Obviously, there is no instant gratification. For me, I would not be satisfied. I’d think to myself, big deal. Fifteen minutes isn’t enough.
I say it’s time we retrain the brain. Fifteen minutes is a start, and if we do it for 21 days, we’ll be on our way to creating a habit.
Take the knee-jerk reaction out of the gratification equation (Double metaphor? Probably, but I like it.) Think it through. You have written almost two hours by the end of the week; chances are, you’ve written more because once you sit down to write, that 15 minutes easily flows into more.
Learn to pat yourself on the back and feel good about what you’ve done. I know it’s hard. I still can’t do it. But like my mother always said, “Those who can’t do, teach.”
Once you’ve plopped your sorry arse down in the chair for a week and have two hours of words on your laptop, look over what you wrote. You might feel discouraged and feel you’re no closer to gratification when you find yourself asking, what the heck is all this gobbledygook?
Again, retrain and rethink. I know for a fact that in that morass you have at least one (if not half a dozen) idea that will work. You’ve exercised your brain this week, and that’s a good thing. I’m willing to bet you have one or two great paragraphs in there that you really like. Take time to read it over, relish in that construction and admit that you can do this. Then turn out the lights and get a good night’s sleep because tomorrow you’re going to get up and do it all again.
Published posts on Two Drops of Ink:
Two Drops of Ink: The Literary Home for Collaborative Writing
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