Wednesday, 13 February 2013

The Chain Commands!

I read recently that Jerry Seinfeld got into the habit of writing every day by putting a cross on the calendar each day he wrote. One of my New Year's resolutions is to get into the habit of writing every day, so I decided to mark my progress in a similar fashion. Using a calendar would be pointless, because I never remember to look at the bloody things, but I do have a Mslexia Writer's Diary...

I use the diary for everything and anything to do with writing: competition deadlines, to-do lists of writing tasks, random thoughts and writing plans, etc. I already checked it most days, so I started circling the days when I managed to write. I also drew in squiggly lines between the circles, to emphasize the idea that it's a chain I want to avoid breaking.

And it's surprisingly motivating. Far more motivating than I expected. So I got thinking "how can I increase and harness this sense of motivation?"

1. Keeping marking your progress and look back over the chain to remind yourself how well you're doing. An obvious point, but if you don't flip back the pages of your planner/diary/calendar, you're missing out on a massive confidence boost. Also try marking the chain when you hit 50/100/200+ days of writing in a row.

2. The earlier (in the day) you write, the more likely you are to write more. This doesn't mean you have to get up at 5am and/or write before you have as much as a cup of coffee - if you can and do, good for you, but I am NOT a morning person. I love the idea of doing morning pages, as suggested by Julia Cameron among others, but it takes me 2 hours to wake up enough to find a pen, let alone write. During those 2 hours, I do stuff like sort out my emails, reply to comments, online banking, writing a to-do list, wasting time playing games on the internet... I think of it as gently warming up my mind! But once I am alert, I tend to be more productive if I get some writing done straightaway.

3. They say it takes 21 days to form a habit, so push through those 3 weeks and it will become easier. I don't know when it happened, but at some point I began to think of writing every day as an integral part of my daily life. Most days, I do it automatically. The longer you keep going, the easier it gets - you might have to schedule it in at first, especially if you've got a busy lifestyle, but soon you will find yourself snatching a few minutes of writing time here and there without noticing you're doing it. But you will notice afterwards, when you add another link to your chain!

 
And if you want more inspiration, this Mslexia Competition is giving away Writing Maps (also available to buy from www.writingmaps.com) which contain exercises that guide you through different aspects of writing. The comp closes 28th February 2013. They sound pretty cool, so I might buy one or two - whether I win the competition or not!
 
There are diffrent types available, including My Writing Life, Writing in Cafes and Writing the Love, so you can choose the one(s) that suit you. The Writing Maps are £3.90 each and the website offers free shipping worldwide. They fold up, so the idea is you stick the Writing Map in your pocket and go forth with writing prompts available when needed.

11 comments:

  1. I have a beautiful Persephone diary this year and I am making a note of my word count each day, as well as keeping a list of books I've read. I do feel more organised. I know it's not much of a daily entry, but I have never kept a diary before, so for me it's a breakthrough!

    I get up early at 5am to write as I find my mind is looser and I can let go a bit more. As the day goes on, too many distractions filter through and my mind tightens up too much. However, I still write throughout the day as best I can. I stop at four or five o'clock when my brain gets tired.

    Thanks for all the information, Hayley. The Writing Map sounds fantastic. x

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    1. Thanks Joanna :-)

      I think the main reason getting up early doesn't work for me is I suffer from insomnia, which means I rarely get to sleep before 1/2am and am sometimes awake until 4/5am...

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  2. I have a nice new notebook for this year, and every day I write down what I worked on. There are days when I don't get any writing done at all, and there was quite a long gap when I had flu. But on the whole I am loving the extra motivation of aiming to have something constructive to put in my book every night. It's definitely true that if I start early in the day, I achieve far more. I am going to look into those writing maps too - it sounds a very unusual idea.

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    1. Thank you Joanne :-) You sound far more organised than me - I couldn't tell you how much I've written on any given day, only whether I have or not!

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  3. Love the post, Hayley - and I love my Mslexia diary! Thanks for suggesting some new ideas to try.

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    1. Thanks Rosemary :-) I think I spend more time reading my Mslexia diary than I do writing in it...

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  4. I'm taking part in the 100k in 100 days challenge. I'm not always meeting the target but it is encouraging me to write more and will last long enough for me to get into the habit of doing that.

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    1. Good luck! That sounds too scary for me - I've tried giving myself a target amount of words to write each day, but I got demotivated each time I missed the target. Having no goal other than 'write' means I don't put pressure on myself. It also allows lots of flexibility - I know there will be days when I struggle to write 100 words, but there will also be days where I write 3000 or more. I think this works for me because I have a strong perfectionist streak, so have to avoid letting it take over!

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  6. I got into the habit of writing in the mornings years ago; due to the fact that I often have to teach morning classes, I've gotten accustomed to waking up early. Also, I like walking around outside when hardly anyone else is out and about; it's the one time of day when it's quiet and peaceful. Not to mention later in the day the cafes are usually clogged with people who take up tables for hours, so the cafes are usually emptier in the morning and provide me with the space and coffee to write. I like the idea of a writing map; I'm thinking the writing in cafe one would work best for me. Thanks for the link!

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