In Pursuit of Good Habits

For the past year or so, I’ve struggled to create good habits in my life. As I am in the midst of a transition, I want to create some good habits. For some reason, I am struggling to do so.

I have always thought about the fact that it takes 21 days to create a new habit. And all you had to do was power through until that point and you would have a habit. Except that misses a very important point:

How do you find the motivation to repeat something every day for 21 days or more?

I knew I wanted to begin a few things to add to my life:

I want to rebuild my writing habit. In my pursuit of my transition, writing daily is one of the things that went by the wayside. With novels and flash fiction to write, not to mention blog posts, daily writing is important to me.

I want to meditate. In my recent studies about anxiety and well being, meditation is one of the best ways to help, even better than medication. Even more importantly, I believe in the power of meditation.

I also want to read more. Reading is one of those things that seems to be last on my list. However, it is important both to working with clients and with my writing. I also love to read and have missed losing hours in a good book. I’ve even created a reading list for the year. The idea comes from Ninja Writers.

I also want to keep up on the housework, make my bed, take walks and attend yoga.

And, how hard this has been.

Since the shift in my life has begun, I have struggled with each of these. I sometimes work long hours and am exhausted. It is easy to “forget” to work on my habits.

So I went looking for some ideas to help me build my habits. Turns out it is more than deciding to do a thing over and over until it becomes a habit.

Interesting thoughts about habit building

According to Routine Excellence, habit building takes an average of 66 days. Seriously, 66 days? How do I do the same thing over and over for 66 days?

Apparently building habits aren’t the simple act of doing a single task over and over again. Habits are an action you do frequently and automatically in response to your environment. The idea is to create an environment that triggers and rewards your habits.

Fascinating!

This is why we set up spaces to write, meditate, read, exercise etc. To me the idea is to have a space that is just for writing so that when I see it, I will make the connection and write. I think this would go for having the tools already set up such as your notebook and favorite pen at the ready.

Here are some other tips for setting up habits (for the purposes of this article, I will focus only on my writing habit):

1. Start with a small habit. If my goal is to write every day, I begin with something small, i.e. the act of writing each day, no matter how small. For example, to write 100 words. That’s easy. It’s a paragraph, or a sentence, depending on how wordy it is.

2. Increase in small increments. Some suggest 1% each day. For me this would require math. So if I am writing 100 words per day, perhaps I increase by 25 words each day. Again, this is a sentence or two. I can do this.

3. As you build up, break it down into smaller chunks. Okay, so this means to take my goal and divide it up into parts. Perhaps writing 50 words at a time throughout the day. As the days go by and I am increasing my word count by 25, by breaking it up into smaller chunks, it makes the task seem more reasonable.

4. When you slip, get back on track quickly. I need to remember this one. When I miss a day, it is so easy to just give up and believe I am a failure. Except that if I remember to be gentle with myself, I can just begin again – where I left off.

5. Be patient with yourself. Stick to a pace you can sustain. It would be difficult to add 25 words each day to my goal. If I did that I would have to write somewhere around 9200 words a day. That isn’t sustainable for anyone. For me a reasonable goal is to write 500 words a day. That would be a good pace for me but everyone is different.

*the above information came from James Clear.

One of the other things I often have to remind myself of is the intention of my habits. Why do I want to do these things. Why do I want to improve my life or add these habits? That is a question that each one of us has to answer on our own.

I hope that you can use these ideas to begin to build some habits of your own.

Until next time,
Angela

No One Loses NaNoWriMo

Any long time reader of this blog knows I love NaNoWriMo. For those who don’t know what that is, it stands for National Novel Writing Month and happens every November.

Each year for the past 4 years, I have awaited November, more or less, eagerly. Until this year that is.

It wasn’t that I didn’t have stories to write. In fact I’d spent some time working with a story that I’m quite excited about still.

It wasn’t that I didn’t have companions to go on this journey with me. TC Wrimos is an active group and within driving distance. We tend to meet up throughout the year for this alone.

It wasn’t that I couldn’t write the requisite 50000 words, 1676 words daily. Quite the opposite, I’d proven over and over to myself that I can be a prolific writer.

Earlier this week, I announced that I was giving up on “winning” at NaNoWriMo and I am still amazed at the outpouring of support.

I felt shitty about giving up because I knew I could make it. If I tried hard and got less sleep than I was getting, I could reach that magical number.

One of my writer friends as she was supporting me said the following words: “No one loses NaNo.”

Now, these are words I’d said many times over the years and on one level, I truly believe that. This year, I’m working on believing them on a whole other level.

What was different this year?

What made the difference this year in my conceding my “win”? Well, sit back, the list is long:

1. I haven’t been writing daily. For so long, this habit was the foundation for my NaNo “wins” and I was quite proud about that. I love writing and to write every day keeps the creative juices flowing.

2. “Time is always against us.” Morpheus from the Matrix. This is one of my most remembered quotes from that movie. I’m not sure if it is truly a memorable quote or if it is so relevant in my own life. But this year, during this time of transition, time was something that wasn’t on my side.

3. I wasn’t excited about NaNo. This one is hard for me to admit but I wasn’t. I knew I wanted to write a particular story – after all I’d been trying to write this one for a few years but I wasn’t excited about all the effort that NaNo takes.

4. Energetically, I’ve been low for several months. The energy it takes to keep life going and be creative is low, oh so low, right now. I had the basics premise of my story but I struggled to keep the end in sight.

5. There was simply so much going on in my life that to add something as big as writing a novel in 30 days was crazy to begin with.

6. The mind may be willing but the body says no. Sometimes, our bodies know better than we do that we need to stop and rest. Mine protested and I wasn’t able to summon the energy to fight through. So I rested.

I could go on but I think you get the picture.

Lessons Learned

Life always throws lessons at us, whether we want them or not. I’ve learned a few things about my less than stellar “win” this November.

I’ve learned that letting go of outcome is important in all areas of my life. Now, I’m not fabulous at this – hence, the lesson. But it is something that keeps coming into my life.

I’ve learned that having fun and laughter are good for the soul. Spending time with people I am getting to know, and in some cases complete strangers, writing, laughing, learning, is the best medicine for a weary soul.

I’ve learned that I can still write, even when my life feels out of control. I may not enjoy it, but I can get the job done. Or in this case, write some words.

I guess that is what makes even this NaNo a “win”. The fact that I managed to get over 31,000 words is fabulous. I have this story to build on. I have a story that will fill my soul as I write it as I transition in my life.

That is the most amazing lesson of all: the story is in there, I just need to write it down. It doesn’t matter what else is happening, if I am meant to write a story, it doesn’t go anywhere.

So, I’ll take my 31,000 words and declare myself a winner. I stood up and gave it my best. I will take what I’ve written and build on it, my novel will get written. It will just be a bit slower.

But isn’t that the point? To get the story down, novel written?

After all, there is always Camp NaNoWriMo, which means I have two more chances before next November to proclaim a “win.”

I may be an overachiever.

Until next time,
Angela

A Perfectly, Imperfect Wedding and The Return to Writing

It’s been a while. The summer flew by so quickly it is difficult to believe that we are officially into fall. Yet, here we are.

A Perfectly, Imperfect Wedding

Much of the past few months have been focused on my daughter’s wedding. I’d forgotten how much work planning a wedding can be. Even when you attempt to plan for every contingency, something always happens. Like, wardrobe malfunctions and insane weather.

Wardrobe Malfunctions

Turns out I forgot one of the main items to have on hand for weddings: Safety pins.

Really?

Yes, one of the zippers broke on one of the bridesmaids’ dresses and she had to be sewn into it.

Safety pins would have saved the day.

Insane Weather

Now, if you live in Michigan, September generally means some seriously beautiful weather. The days tend to be warm, but not too warm and the nights cool enough for sweatshirts. September and October days tend to be the gift just before winter hits and reminds us that we should all move south.

But, not this year.

No, this year we have had insane weather and not just in Michigan. At the time of this writing, a hurricane is barreling toward North Carolina. Marie is her name and she is the 4th or 5th one to hit the US and it’s territories.

Hurricanes tend to change the weather in other parts of the country and when there are so many in a row, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that we, here in Michigan would be affected too.

I must confess I didn’t really look at the weather forecast much in the week before the wedding. I worried mostly about rain as our contingency plan would have to be implemented.

A couple of days before the wedding, temps began to climb. By Thursday before the big day, we were seeing highs in the 80’s. On Friday, the thermometer reached 90 degrees.

A fun fact: on Friday, September 22, the 2nd hottest place in the United States was Mt. Pleasant, Michigan, about an hour away from where the wedding would be held.

Needless to say, on the day of the wedding, temps hovered around 94 or 95 degrees, with humidity.

We didn’t plan for the heat and it affected so much.

The show must go on and so it did.

In spite of the heat, the wedding was beautiful. Everyone seemed to have a good time.

Of course, that doesn’t mean I’m not happy that it is over. I’m just so ready to get back to real life.

A Return to Writing

I’ve been absent from my writing for some time. I’m not even sure when I posted the last time. Apparently, it’s difficult to stay focused on goals when planning a wedding.

But I am back and slowly building my writing habits again, which includes publishing blog posts regularly.

Slow is a relative term.

As we have reached the fall season, I am not surprised that NaNoWriMo is coming. That means I have deadlines to meet and a novel to plan.

I need to spend October planning or something close to it. All I have is a character in mind. Not much else. This should be fun.

So, there you have it. My life in less than 600 words. I am grateful for all of my readers and the chance to share these words with you.

As I close, I leave you with this cuteness:

Abel refused to take his hat off.