This post complements others about establishing a writing practice. I’ve been using my yoga practice as an analogy.
One of the key questions I asked myself when establishing a home yoga practice was “How do I make this easy?”. Some of the elements of my answer:
- The smallest possible amount (10 minutes to start)
- No extra clothing changes, special places, etc: in my underwear, on the floor of my bedroom
- Peg it to another activity I do daily: right after my shower, before getting dressed
I smiled when someone tweeted a link to that post this way:
— Lis (@LisaKabesh) March 10, 2015
The things that work for me may or may not work for you. Yoga and writing may be analogous in some ways — establishing a regular practice — but not in others.
How do you translate my example into something that works for you?
The smallest possible amount.
I strongly encourage you to do this. You are busy. It’s hard to find/make time for writing. You can find 15 minutes. You may think it’s pointless but you can find it. If you reframe the point as developing a habit (form, consistency) rather than whatever you produce in that time, it ceases to be pointless.
I am deliberately sticking with 20 minutes of the same thing every day for at least another month. I want to really bed this practice in. My goal is form and consistency.
I need it to be something I do no matter what is going on. Something I do when I travel. Something I do when other members of my household are away and I have more morning chores. Something I do when I’m busy.
My identity is shifting. I am becoming a person who practices yoga daily. I want to be that person.
Your goal is to shift your identity from someone who wishes they were writing to someone who writes.
(Not convinced of the value of small amounts? I’ve written about that, too: The benefits of working small)
What are the physical barriers?
What are your personal barriers to sitting down and writing? Write down everything that comes to mind right now. I’ll wait.
It doesn’t matter if things on your list are ridiculous. It is often the ridiculous things in our own heads that are the biggest barriers. So look at your, very personal, list and figure out how to deal with each thing on it.
Remember, your goal is to be a person who writes. Start wherever you need to to establish the habit. Once you have a habit you can shift what you do.
The physical barriers may shift depending when you are going to do this. If your best time of day for this practice is a time you are in the office, you’ll need to consider how to keep colleagues and students from interrupting you, for example. (You can download a poster for your door on the 15 minute Challenge page.)
(Don’t underestimate the value of the space in which you work. Does your office inspire your best work?)
Peg it to another activity you do daily
The idea behind this is that you can piggyback one habit on the back of another. Clock time is less useful for this than a place in your regular sequence of activities. By always writing before or after some other thing you do, it will begin to feel natural to shift from the one activity into the other.
What habits do you already have? Meals. Coffee breaks. Walking the dog. Going for a run. Going to the office. etc.
Make a list. Consider your best time of day for writing. Highlight those habits that are already associated with that time of day. Pick a place in your daily routine to slot writing in.
What else would help YOU establish a writing habit?
What do you know about yourself and how you have established other habits? What helps you stick to things? Do you like charts or tick boxes? Do you like to check in with others? Do rewards help?
This is your practice. Set yourself up for success however you need to.
Edited June 1, 2016.