Making Writing a Habit

Posted: April 19, 2014 in Writing Advice
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The Muse Theory

You have to be aware when you’re writing. Your work space must be created in such a way that you’ll want to return to it. You must be stimulated so you’ll never run out of ideas.Ray Bradbury says this in Zen in the Art of Writing about the muse that guides our writing.

We stuff ourselves with these impressions and experiences and our reaction to them. Into our subconscious go not only factual data but reactive data, our movement toward or away from the sensed events. These are the stuffs, the foods on which the Muse grows. This is the storehouse, the file, to which we must return every waking hour to check reality against memory, and in sleep to check memory against memory, which means ghost against ghost, in order to exorcise them, if necessary.

You muse requires a constant center to practice a disciplined craft. You must provide it with feedback about your self-knowledge (also called metacognition). To sustain a muse, you need time, energy, diligence, and persistence. But most of all you need to have joy when you sit down to write. Bradbury says, if you are writing without zest, without gusto, without love, without fun, you’re only half a writer.”

The Writing Habit

But what happens when the so-called muse leaves? What happens when the dreaded writer’s block sets in? What happens with there are no words? Are you left with unproductive hours of sitting and staring at a blank page or screen? I’d say no. You haven’t lost your muse, and you don’t have writer’s block. You’ve merely gotten out of the habit of writing. To read more about my writing habits, read:

Habits are founded inside the part of the brain called the basal ganglia, which recalls patterns and acts upon them. Habits allow the brain to settle down as it chunks information and becomes more efficient. To trigger a habit, the brain requires a simple, obvious cue followed by a routine that is a procedure familiar from beginning to end. The routine should be followed by a clearly defined routine. This pattern works because the anticipation and the expectation of the reward’s sensation. A loop is created through repetition. This loop can encourage you to persist in healthy (or unhealthy) behaviors. The loop can sneak into your subconscious and make you buy, buy, buy. You’re triggered by the cue, crave the reward, and wander around doing the habits that are second nature to the synapses in your brain.

What if you could kill your procrastination and make writing a habit?

Consider that your procrastination is a habit you want to break. Changing a habit occurs when the routine shifts but the cues and rewards remain the same, which results in a craving being satisfied. To start, begin with with a self-inventory of your behaviors and their triggers. Consider these questions:

  1. What do I fear will happen?
  2. What would it mean if event/consequence happened?
  3. How will I feel if that event/consequence happened?

I’m sure that if you track these thoughts for two weeks you’ll discover procrastination is just another way you cope with stress and anxiety. Practicing Stephen R. Covey’s 8 Habits of Highly Effective People is another way to track your behavior. If you’re not following these eight steps, you’re not breaking your habit and therefore cannot get the most out of your daily living.

  1. Be Proactive: become responsible about your self-awareness, take the initiative on having a more positive outlook, actively determine where you place your time/energy
  2. Begin with the End in Mind: have a vision for what you hope to construct, rely on your personal leadership abilities, ask yourself “How can I best accomplish my tasks duties, tasks and responsibilities?”
  3. Put First things First: focus on your highest priorities that are of most worth to you, allow yourself to say no
  4. Think Win/Win: life is a competitive arena, seek mutual benefit
  5. Seek First to Understand, Then Be Understood: display empathy by listening 1 of 4 ways (evaluating, probing, advising, interpreting)
  6. Synergize: engage in creative cooperation that brings together experiences and creates new insight despite differences
  7. Sharpen the Saw: practice self-renewal for your physical, emotional, social, mental, and spiritual needs
  8. Find Your Voice: trust yourself and your ability to execute, be empowered by your chance to influence and serve

Affirmative Growth Statement

Keeping the faith that things will get better is also a powerful tool in breaking a habit. Another option is having an affirmative growth statement to acknowledge and replace negative emotions. An affirmative growth statement might be closely aligned to Covey’s Step 2 “Begin with the End in Mind.” An example of this statement comes from Tapping into Ultimate Success, “I deeply and completely accept myself. I am open and willing to change even though I belief I was made a certain way. I am willing to look at a new perspective.” If you truly struggle coming up with an affirmative growth statement, your capacity to believe in yourself might instead come from social interaction or group support. Communities can make change believable because there is not only safety in numbers but also help and empowerment.

My affirmative growth statement comes from Taoism. Tao translates to mean “the way, the underlying natural order of the universe, the un-carved block.”

To return to your fate is to be constant.

To know the constant is to be wise.

The way does not compete. It has no self-interest.

The way files down sharp edges; unties the tangles;

softens the glare, and settles the dust.

Do you have the patience to wait

‘til your mud settles and the water is clear?

Can you remain unmoving ‘til the right action arises by itself?

Practice not-doing, and everything will fall into place.


Manifest plainness, and embrace the genuine.

Lessen self-interest, and make few your desires.

Eliminate learning, and have no undue concern.

Maintain tranquility in the center.


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