Habits, it is said, are hard to break, but they are also hard to create. Some say if you do something for a certain number of days or repetitions, it becomes a habit. I find that their number of repetitions fall far short of the number I require to form a habit, sadly. It takes me much longer and I experience repeated failure.
My 5 Things list is what I have developed over the last eight years as what works for me. Of course, the first thing is to show up, every day, like it’s a job. Yes, writing is our passion, but it is also our job. You’ve probably read volumes about this (including previous posts on this blog), so let’s just jump in to my list.
- Sit down. Get comfortable. Take a few deep breaths. Calm my mind. Remind myself, “I am here. It is time to write.”
- Read the last few paragraphs of what I am working on to get in the same mindset, to remember where I am and where I am wanting to go next.
But what do I do when no words come. When I can’t focus?
3. If blocked, I try to figure out what my mind is preoccupied with. To do this, I practice what Mel Robbins calls a brain dump. I have a list-sized tablet beside my computer (also by my favorite chair and my bed) and, when I feel overwhelmed or can’t seem to get my mind to stick to the task at hand, I start a brain dump. I just list everything that is on my mind. Usually the things written are things I must do, today, a week from now, or even a year from now. (Yes, sometimes it is crowded in there.) When I am finished, when I can no longer think of things to write down, I set the list aside to review and pick the things I can accomplish today, but only when I am finished writing. That is my rule. With my mind cleared, now I can write.
4. Nothing works perfectly every time, so if I am still blocked, I scan through my journal of favorite quotes about writing and creativity, focusing on one that speaks to me. Or I might go through my ideas folder (see today’s featured image) for inspiration. Or I might read a favorite passage from a book. (I often reread “The Physics of the Quest” from Elizabeth Gilbert’s book, Eat Pray Love. )
5. At this point, I repeat steps one and two, then begin writing.
When you are new to a routine such as this, it is often difficult. It does not always work. But it is important to show up, to go through the steps, to prepare, to wait for your rendezvous with writing. In my earlier days of writing, I had a hard time making anything work regularly and I just ended up reading – and feeling guilty. It took practiced discipline to train my brain and body to show up, regardless of the outcome. And to show up every day. And to develop a writing practice.
You Are a Professional Writer!
Remember, you are a professional writer, whether published yet or not. You show up and do your job, no matter what, just like any number of other professionals you respect. Make a habit of showing up. Practice your own 5 things, and sooner or later, the magic will happen.
Make a list of things that work for you, to get you started writing on those days when the words won’t come. List all the things you have tried and those new to you that you think might work. Once you have written all of it down, browse the list and consider a routine that may work for you, may spark your creativity. Write that in clear, distinct steps. Place it at your writing spot. Work through it, every day, for a week or two. Tweak it. Just remember, you must give the habit a chance to develop, give your brain time to feel as though this new routine is normal.
I would enjoy hearing steps that work for you!
Happy writing… ~T
At Stacking Stones Writers, I seek to create a community of writers, a place you can go to find encouragement for your passion – writing. Please follow the Stacking Stones Writers blog to have easy access to all the tips, tools, and ideas shared here. Thank you!