Create Before 8 · NaNoWriMo · SeptNoWriMo · writing

How I built a writing habit (cat included)

Ever since I was little, I’ve wanted to be an author. Maybe once or twice, I wanted to be a teacher, but mostly, I’ve just wanted to write.

Tl;dr version: skip the back story and jump to the tips

They started me young: my mother had me saying the ABCs at 18 months (I have no children, so I have no context to whether this is normal or not).

My earliest school memories were of tracing the alphabet with those stencils- I probably made a hundred of those pages- and giving them to my teachers.

By third grade, I would be annoyed by page limits. What do you mean, you’ve run out of Christmas-themed stationery paper? Can’t you just copy more??

Remember paper like this, with the pictures in the corner that you had to color in? Or was that just me?

In sixth grade, surrounded by a new (public) school and the uncomfortable nature of socializing, I wrote my first long story: I filled two-thirds of a composition notebook with a handwritten story called “Space Trekkers.” I had a dozen characters exploring different worlds and learning about God on their way.

Seventh and eighth grade got their own composition notebooks, too, also about 2/3rds of the way full, but by high school there were harder classes and drama to think about, and all that kept me from writing anything more than school assignments and short stories.

Sophomore and Junior years saw a lot of teenage angst and dramatic poetry; senior year saw my first real boyfriend and lots of love letters.

College required a lot of research papers, but also a creative writing class that taught me a hundred-fold about the incredible power of revision. I hated and loved that quirky teacher who pushed me to be an infinitely better writer, and not to settle for the first draft.

And then, it hit: NaNoWriMo. I did my first one with more enthusiasm than is probably healthy. Followed by another. The third one didn’t get completed, because I was about to get married and life got complicated.

And then I graduated, and I quit writing. So I started this blog (hurray!) to share my stories. And after a year and a little more, I quit blogging.

And now, here I am. A month of picking the writing habit back up.

What changed?

I started running.

Wait, what? Yep. I started training for a 5K Color Run with my sisters. And running was SO BORING, so I started listening to podcasts: religious stuff first, then some fiction, and then a series on the craft of writing.

And then my friends wanted to start a cooperative blog. So I helped them build one, and then I revamped my own, since I’d already acquired a teeny following of 150 readers; I figured, what the heck. Give this writing thing a shot.

Here’s how my daily writing habit goes:

  1.  Get up at 6am 6:20am. I roll out of bed around 6:20, after checking social media and WordPress. Throw on a sweatshirt, because it’s getting chilly in the mornings, and head downstairs.
  2. Feed the cat. Precious loves attention, so I pet her for a minute and fill up her food bowl. I get a glass of water (if only I could stand the taste of coffee!) and come back upstairs to Spare ‘Oom, where the desk is.
  3. Turn off distractions. Set the phone on silent, make sure that the hubby is still at work, and turn off the internet… oh wait, that’s right. We don’t have internet at home. That distraction has taken care of itself!
  4. Writing sprint for 25 minutes. This is the best way for me to get. crap. done! At first, I tried writing for the whole hour, but would find my mind wandering. I use Writeometer to set a timer (which I can’t pause) and a spreadsheet to track my daily writing speeds. I can usually get pretty sufficiently lost in 25 minutes; also, I hate to waste time and ruin my word speed goal, so I have to keep writing, and fast. First batch of writing cranks out maybe 1100 words.
  5. Find the cat and play with her for 10 minutes. Because she’s come by my desk at least four times by now, crying for attention, or running up and down the stairs like a psycho kitty. I make her sit in my lap and snuggle. She tolerates me for the ten minutes, and then we both get bored and go our separate ways. This is a good mental stretch, too!
  6. Second writing sprint for 25 minutes. This one is always about 100 words slower, but I’ve already built momentum from the first sprint, so I can push through to the next chapter or so.
  7. Make breakfast. Three eggs, three pieces of turkey bacon; my husband gets the bigger helping of both. Then I get ready  for work, and am done with writing for the day!

The core components of my habit are this: remove distractions, sprint, relax, sprint, eat. It keeps me focused, gives me a reward, and frees up the rest of my day so I can get other things accomplished.

If you had to narrow your habit into a short list, how would you describe yours?


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s