I love tracking. Ever since I was a child I’ve counted and logged a whole bunch of activities. I’m fascinated at how things change over time and like figuring what it means so I can optimise and improve what I do. That’s why I’m now an avid streaker.
Habits can transform our lives, they can help us achieve our most ambitious goals and fulfil our deepest dreams. But it’s darn hard to make writing a habit, some might say impossible. Understanding how habits are created and focusing on the first step – how to trigger a routine – offers a glimmer of hope and a practical way to build a regular writing practice.
We’ve gone on for years now about the benefits of having a writing habit.
We used to say that in order to write automatically, you need to associate your writing session with something else you do habitually every day and hey presto – you have a writing habit. But now we’re not so sure.
When you’re slap bang in the middle of a creative project it’s hard to keep perspective. It’s easy to think that the project you’re working on right now is the big one. The best you’ve ever done – perhaps you’ll ever do. But science tells us that every time you think you’ve reached the peak of your creative powers – you’ve barely got started.
Research proves that procrastination isn’t always bad for the creative process. If you procrastinate right, you can use it to solve the thickest of thorny creative problems and actually be more productive. But if you procrastinate wrong, it can send you hurtling into a negative, nail-chewing mind spiral that makes you question the existence of your own soul.
Being a highly prolific writer is sneered at in some circles. Some people think there’s a trade-off between quality and quantity. To do truly ‘great work’ – you can’t do very much of it. Science disagrees. Most of the world’s best writers, creatives and innovators – are also hugely prolific, productive people.
Like Barack Obama, Mark Zuckerberg’s wardrobe is stuffed to the gills with exactly the same clobber so he doesn’t have to think about what to wear in the morning. He does this because even the smallest smidgen of mental energy invested in deciding whether it’s a brogues or socks and sandals kinda day could be better spent. Zuckerberg never bothers his high-tech grey matter about his daily outfit because he removes the need to make a decision in the first place. In short, he has a system.
The last few weeks for first-time novelist Wyl Menmuir have been a blur. Since finding out his book The Many had been longlisted for the Man Booker – the most prestigious literary prize in the world – he’s been interviewed by national newspapers, courted by big name agents and has headlined literary events.
You’ll never get something written if you don’t start writing it.
At this point you’ll be so awe-struck by this razor-sharp nugget of writing wisdom that you’ll have to make yourself a cup of really strong sweet tea. No?
“Ultimately, literature is nothing but carpentry. Both are very hard work. Writing something is almost as hard as making a table. With both you are working with reality, a material just as hard as wood. Both are full of tricks and techniques. Basically very little magic and a lot of hard work are involved.” Gabriel Garcia Marquez