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Sustaining a Writing Habit

April was a complicated and stressful month in our home.  As a result of some “news” I received, I spent countless hours on the phone, which led to accompanying a family member to appointments.  I’ll spare you the details, but to say I put my own life on-hold would be an understatement. Sure, I was managing to get my work done and keep the house from looking like a tornado blew threw it (My office is the exception to that!), but I stopped taking proper care of myself.  First, I stopped exercising six days a week because some days were too busy to sneak in a workout.  Second, I stopped meditating.  And, finally, I wasn’t writing for pleasure.

By mid-May, I lfelt like I had aged five years in a month.  I knew I had to start making time for myself again.  Somehow, I would have to find the hours in the day to take care of my body and my soul.  The questions I kept asking myself were: How will I hold myself accountable? and How will I keep myself motivated?  

I turned to an app I read about for help. Momentum is a habit tracker. It keeps track of how many days you complete one of your habits. The science of it is simple: “For every day you complete a habit, the longer your chain grows, and the less likely you are to quit.”  (And for those of you who are “Seinfeld” fans like me, it’s based on Jerry Seinfeld’s “Don’t break the chain” productivity secret for writing.) I wondered if something so simple could work. I downloaded the free version of Momentum on May 17th and gave it a try.

I set three habits in the app:

  1. Exercise 6 out of 7 days of the week
  2. Meditate 7 out of 7 days of the week
  3. Write in writer’s notebook 6 out of 7 days of the week

I was going strong — building momentum — for five consecutive days.  Then we went out of town for Memorial Day weekend.  I skipped a day of exercise. No big deal. My goal was 6 out of 7 days of the week.  The next day, I skipped exercising and meditating.  By the third day, I skipped doing all three things!  After skipping two days it was easier to skip the next.  By the third day, I was disappointed in myself for breaking the chain (even though we were out of town). Plus, I felt sluggish.  I was determined not to skip another day! On the final day of our getaway, my husband and daughter went out for breakfast and I dragged myself down to the hotel gym for a 45-minute workout.  As soon as I checked the green button on the Momentum app at the end of my Monday morning, May 25th workout, I realized a new streak was about to begin.  And it did.

We went out of town on May 22nd. We returned home on May 25th. I got back on track by May 26th.) Green = Habit completed White = Habit skipped manually Gray = Habit neglected
We went out of town on May 22nd. We returned home on May 25th. I got back on track by Tuesday, May 26th.)
Green = Habit completed
White = Habit skipped manually
Gray = Habit neglected

And it did. By early June, I had a 10-day streak going for all of my habits.

When you look at the "total" habits calendar, it doesn't show days you purposely skip doing your habit on the calendar. It only shows the ones you accidentally skipped.
When you look at the “total” habits calendar, it doesn’t show days you purposely skip doing your habit on the calendar. It only shows the ones you neglected your habit(s).

That said, you can drill-in to each individual habit to get a more precise look at what you skipped manually (white) vs. neglected (gray).

Tracking my habits with Momentum daily has helped me have some control over life, which is still messy and busy (and will be for at least another 10 months).  It has allowed me to find pleasure in writing since I’m making time to write in my 1 Page at a Time: A Daily Creative Companion journal nearly ever day. I’m exercising and meditating (daily), which means my body and soul are healthier. That’s good stuff!

Habit #1 tracked through yesterday.
Habit #1 tracked through yesterday.
Habit #2 tracked through yesterday.
Habit #2 tracked through yesterday.
Habit #3 (writing) tracked through yesterday.
Habit #3 (writing) tracked through yesterday.

Summer is almost here.  Have you set some writing goals for yourself? Are you hoping to draft a proposal for a professional book, work on a novel, or submit an article for an online website or journal?  Whatever it is, make the most of your summer days by turning your writing goals into a writing habit! All you have to do is cross off the days you complete your habit on a paper calendar or download the Momentum App. (Personally, I love using the app since it allows me to tick-off my habits as soon as I finish them — wherever and whenever — since I always have my phone with me. There’s something about the “ding” of a completed habit and the sea of green that motivates me.)

Need additional inspiration?

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goals, writing

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Stacey Shubitz View All

Literacy Consultant. Author. Former 4th and 5th Grade Classroom Teacher.

20 thoughts on “Sustaining a Writing Habit Leave a comment

  1. Stacey this is just the idea I need right now! I’m going through what sounds like a similar life situation. Lots of out-of-the-ordinary family care taking going on here. I stopped writing (again), and exercising. Thank you. I’m off to get the app. 🙂

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  2. I must check out this app! I love the idea of setting goals and keeping track of them in this way. Now I just have to figure out what goals to set. In the midst of end of the year craziness right now with report cards, all sorts of paperwork, gifts for my class to finish and wrap, gifts for my son’s teachers, Father’s Day….ack! I think after school ends on the 25th I can breathe a little more and reflect on what goals I want to select. Thanks so much for sharing this app with us and getting us thinking about ways to keep ourselves on the path to doing all the things that are good for us in whatever capacity.

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  3. Thank you for the post! I have wanted to sit down and write some goals for summer and have not taken the time to do it. I’m sitting down right now to do it. I’m also going to download the app. It looks like a good one! I recently downloaded a bunch for calendar and goals to see if I could find one that would work but I think this will work better for what I had in mind.

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  4. Is there something about spring that just sends life into turmoil? It seems like a busy, crazy time for many people! Thanks for this post and sharing that app, I am definitely going to use it to get back into my writing habit. The only habit I have ever been able to keep up with is meditating and journaling every day and when I miss it, I can tell, as can those around me! Now, it’s time to do the same with writing and exercise!

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  5. This is a wonderful and honest post, thank you for sharing. I have never thought of how not exercising can make you feel older, I know I don’t sleep as well or feel as energized, but the connection to aging escaped me- AHA!

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    • In the height of what was happening, I thought of adding another habit “in bed by 10 p.m.,” but realized it wasn’t going to happen. Alas, I got back to getting more sleep earlier this month without having to track it. Hooray!

      Good luck getting more rest, Cathy.

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  6. The thing I see between the lines of your post is the importance of nurturing your self. Whatever habit it may be. Even a nightly soak in the tub is a way to nurture self. I think they need to invent an app for that. How did you pay attention to YOU today? For me, writing is personal and a way to honor myself and my thoughts. I have created a habit in my day of reading blog posts. Sometimes I worry that it takes away from writing, but more times than not, it feeds my writing.
    I am looking forward to having time next week to practice our habits.

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  7. No habits going now! Just need a total reset…crazy end to the year and health issues for my dad. Things are better so I feel like today is a good day! Thanks for sharing this as a jumping off point!

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  8. Thank your sharing! I have gotten out of my own “habits” and just reading your post made me realize that I too have been feeling sluggish!! Can’t wait to download the app and get started!

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