Building new habits
Late in 2016 I set an audacious goal, I said I was going to write a book to be published in 2017 and confidently announced it to the world via my Facebook / Instagram. To date I’ve written about 10 000 words.
At that point in time I was incredibly motivated, I’d just made my way back to Melbourne after spending a month in the incredible Himalayas in India. Creative juice was just flowing through my brain, I felt light and free as I always do when I return from the mountains (hence I wanted to write about the experience). Slowly 2017 came around and still no book. Where was the book going to come from when I hadn’t been writing? What was I thinking?
Mean little voice in my head.
These things started to be a regular thing. I knew all along that I would definitely write the book in the next couple of years, I hadn’t given up but I wasn’t dedicating the time to writing for a number of reasons and that led to a tremendous amount of guilt.
Last weekend I read a post by Elizabeth Gilbert on writing. It was exactly what I needed. It made me realise the gravity of negativity I was carrying. The post was beautifully written and as I read it I could hear a gentle loving voice of reassurance. I felt releived and this burden of expectation lifted, ironically the very same burden prohibiting me from being creative.
For a very long time the voice in my head would constantly remind me
‘you’re not disciplined enough’
‘your writing isn’t good enough’
‘why do you even think you should write a book, you’re 24'
‘ you’re not where you should be’
Her post came across my internet indulgence at a much needed time, she wrote about discipline:
“As for discipline — it’s important, but sort of over-rated. The more important virtue for a writer, I believe, is self-forgiveness. Because your writing will always disappoint you. Your laziness will always disappoint you. You will make vows: “I’m going to write for an hour every day,” and then you won’t do it. You will think: “I suck, I’m such a failure. I’m washed-up.” Continuing to write after that heartache of disappointment doesn’t take only discipline, but also self-forgiveness (which comes from a place of kind and encouraging and motherly love). The other thing to realize is that all writers think they suck. When I was writing “Eat, Pray, Love”, I had just as a strong a mantra of THIS SUCKS ringing through my head as anyone does when they write anything. But I had a clarion moment of truth during the process of that book. One day, when I was agonizing over how utterly bad my writing felt, I realized: “That’s actually not my problem.” The point I realized was this — I never promised the universe that I would write brilliantly; I only promised the universe that I would write. So I put my head down and sweated through it, as per my vows.”
Yesterday I came across a blogger and writer David Kadavy who used to be a product manager in Silicon Valley but now spends his time writing and podcasting. After an hour of reading his blog posts, I stumbled across a podcast on building habits where he interviews a behavioural scientist BJ Fogg from Stanford. They talked about how often we set incredibly huge and scary goals and never achieve them.
Instead we should set a goal around a habit, for instance I will write 500 words every day. Or even I will write 50 words every weekday. And when you start somedays you will surprise yourself and exceed what you set out to do, others you’ll miss it entirely and write 10 words.
But what matters it that you start with something achievable and consistentaly show up, that is the start of a new habit. Simply showing up, it doesn’t matter how much you do — it just matters that you show up every day and try a little