Baby Steps to Forming a Habit

A writer friend of mine recently had a traumatic event in her life. She took time off from her writing, because she was overwhelmed, was afraid to go into that space in her head, was afraid of writing similar things in her book and having to deal with them.

Eventually she returned to her editing work, but she was still having difficulty getting back into writing.

She set a goal of 1,000 words a day. And she couldn’t do it. It was like getting over an injury and trying to run a mile. It was just too much, too soon.

She’s now cut it down to 250 words a day, double-spaced to fill the page (which is quite satisfying). A much more doable goal. Almost too easy. But easy is much more fun than overwhelming.

I’ve neglected my writing, too, so I decided to join her on the baby steps. 250 words a day. And here’s what I see in just two days:

I am much more excited to write. I’ve been thinking about my novel, but I haven’t been  writing because I had so much to figure out and then write. So I was stuck on this one idea that I couldn’t yet flesh out. I pretty much gave up on writing fiction, because it’s “just not what I do.” Now, I put words on paper and am thinking about the next 250 words. I can’t wait to write tomorrow.

I get stuff done. 1,000 words is a lot of stuff in a story–description, dialogue, a scene, an event, a new character. And you can get lost with 1,000 words being your scope. But with 250 words I get about 10 minutes to do something in the story. Anything. It doesn’t even matter if I complete a scene or description.

My creativity is fresher. With 1,000 words I get bogged down, and it can get. so. dry. Today I wrote a little over 250 words about a fawn in one of my character’s purse. Yup. That’s what I wrote. No clue where it came from, but I am pretty excited about where it’s going!

I’m giving myself a treat. I deny this part of my writing because it doesn’t and probably never will make money. But I enjoy it so much. It is very closely aligned to where I want to be some day, writing and speaking about women’s issues. Empowering women. And it’s so much more fun than my other blog about women’s issues.

I’m winning. You know how when a baby starts writing, each step is exciting? Each day for me is a small win, but man does it make a difference! I’ve already won today and it’s only 9:30 am!

So, whatever your feat is, break it down. You can build up to it, or you may find you prefer to stick with smaller steps. And if you want to do more at a time, still stop, walk away for an hour, and then come back for another 250 words.

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