Getting Back in the Habit

I often fall behind on my writing during the month of December. Sometimes that leaks into January as well, but I am currently doing my best to make sure that doesn’t happen.

November is almost inevitably one of my most hectic months. Classes tend to amp up in November (which affects your schedule whether you are a student, like I was, or a teacher, like I currently am), Christmas shopping begins, Thanksgiving becomes a fuss and family holiday time starts cracking into your normal routines. However, November is a dependable month for me as far as writing goes, because on top of the already-busy schedule, I have, since 2010, added “National Novel-Writing Month” to my November to-do list.

While this makes November a particularly busy month, it also sets in place some marvelous discipline. After all, you don’t make it to fifty-thousand words in one month without keeping up the habit. Or at least, I don’t. (Of course, I have days writing more or less, and I will occasionally skip a day if necessary… but I do best when I keep up a fairly consistent 1,000-2,000 words a day.) November, for all it’s jam-packed with goings-on, tends to remind me of all you can do, when you’ve got a looming deadline, a respectable goal, and habit-making word-writing on your side.

The problem is, of course, that December pops up with yet more holiday hype, families demand more time, the promise of vacation pokes its lazy, enabling head in. The excitement of finishing NaNoWriMo lures you into a false sense of security. The habit slips.

I will readily confess: my habit slipped. I was fortunate, I think, to have eeked out a few thousand words at most during the month of December. This is no devastating catastrophe–breaks are natural and healthy, after all, and I firmly believe that the act of thinking about writing, and consuming media to better inform one’s writing, are both as crucial to the health of a writer as the act of writing, itself. But, with January here and the coldest months teasing their icy fingers into the corners of our homes, I believe it’s high time to start enforcing the habit, again.

In my experience, here are a few things that will help reinforce the writing habit as you press on into January:

  • Set reasonable goals for yourself, and do not be afraid to adjust them as needed. I recommend starting low. Can you do 500 words? Give it a shot, and see how it feels. If that went by quicker and felt easier than you expected, maybe try for 500 more.
  • Use a reward system. What can you reward yourself with when you’ve hit a milestone? Some of my favorite rewards include a cup of tea, a cup of wine, one half-hour show on Netflix per 500 words I write, a shared snippet of 100-200 words for every 1,000 words I write… Find what best works for you, and go for it!
  • Find others to hold you accountable. One of the joys of NaNoWriMo, for me, is that my progress can be seen by other people. A natural pleaser, I want to prove that I am making my goals and doing well. So include friends in your writing, now. You can share successes or challenges with them, or even ask that they check in to remind you to write.
  • Surround yourself by other writers or creative people. I cannot emphasize this enough. Other people who understand the creative process will be sources of inspiration, will sympathize with your frustrations and celebrate your successes, and often will encourage you to keep going. Additionally, I have found that when I follow the creative efforts of others, I am encouraged by their successes, and often refreshed when I go to tackle my own goals.

When all else fails, simply write what you can. Only you can know if today is a one-sentence-only day. Even then, you will be one sentence ahead of where you were, before.

Here’s to setting the habit!

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