I’m a full-time believer in writing habits…You may be able to do without them if you have genius but most of us only have talent and this is simply something that has to be assisted all the time by physical and mental habits or it dries up and blows away…Of course you have to make your habits in this conform to what you can do. I write only about two hours every day because that’s all the energy I have, but I don’t let anything interfere with those two hours, at the same time and the same place. ~Flannery O'Connor
Four months ago I quit my job. There were many reasons for that decision, but one of the things I hoped to do was to spend more time writing. Within weeks of making that decision to quit working, I learned that my first grandchild was on the way. This pregnancy was a long hoped for event, and one that was very important to me and to our family. Now I would be able to spend more time with him, help my son and daughter in law in this new adventure. So I felt confident that the gods had lined things up nicely for me, and were in fact smiling upon my decision.
Since it's been over 30 years since I cared for an infant, I started doing some reading about the latest thinking on the subject. During those first few months at home, new parents are advised to let the baby take the lead. Don't try putting them on a schedule, let them eat as often as they want. When they cry, pick them up and cuddle them, give them lots of attention and together time.
Indulge their every whim.
That fits quite nicely with my ideas about infant care. And it also mirrors the relationship I've had with my writing in the past four months. I've indulged my muse, let it take the lead with all this new free time. I've been writing whenever I felt like it, and if that meant three hours one day and 20 minutes the next, that's how it played out.
After three or four months, the child rearing experts advise parents to try and develop some semblance of a schedule. The baby is older now, feeling more secure about his place in the family. It won't hurt to let him cry for a few minutes after he wakes up, leave him alone in his crib while you take a quick shower or put in a load of laundry. Figure out a schedule that works for your family, and ease the baby into it.
I think that's probably good advice for my writing life as well. "You have to make your habits in this conform to what you can do..." O'Connor writes. Because she suffered from a chronic illness, she "only had the energy" to write for two hours per day. "But I don't let anything interfere with those two hours, at the same time and the same place."
Forming any kind of habit takes willpower. Part of that willpower involves creating a schedule - the same time and place - and sticking to it. But I also also have to be realistic. Although I spent seven or eight hours every day at my office job, I know I'm not ready or able to commit that kind of time to my writing - not yet anyway. I've chosen to dedicate two hours every morning to writing...not internet surfing, not blog reading/commenting, not social networking.
Putting words on the page.
To help me be accountable, I'm putting my blogs on a similar schedule. I'm committing to posting daily, alternating between the three blogs, so there is new content somewhere every day.
Here's to forming good habits for the writing life, and for life in general.
Do you believe in writing habits? Do you have a schedule? What works best for you?