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:
- Exercise 6 out of 7 days of the week
- Meditate 7 out of 7 days of the week
- 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.
And it did. By early June, I had a 10-day streak going for all of my habits.
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!
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?
- Read Maria Popova’s “Better than Before: A Psychological Field Guide to Harnessing the Transformative Power of Habit” on Brain Pickings.
- Check Kat Moon’s “7 free tools for anyone who wants to become a better writer” on The Muse.