Habits and Writing

Two summers ago I took a writing class at the Loft writing center in Minneapolis. The class was called ‘The Writing Habit’ and taught by Roseanne Bane. The main thrust of the class was to work on writing as a habit, something that you do regularly, day in and day out. The same sentiment was expressed by Jane Yolen at Wiscon this year when she said, “a writer writes.” The advice to do it, and do it consistently, is one of the main themes I’ve heard from writer’s offering advice to other wannabe writers. Jay Lake says something similar in a recent interview at Locus.

I made a decision in December of 2000. After I went to my first Orycon I got hooked up with Wordos, the writers’ group in Eugene – which, for the record, is 100 miles away from my house. It meets weekly, and I decided (for no good reason that I can now remember) that I was going to take a story into the workshop every week. So I got on this kick of writing a story every week, and I’ve done that ever since. Once I started working on novels, I had to amend that and say a chapter counted, but essentially that’s been my underlying discipline.

At the end of one of my classes last semester we discussed expertise. There were a lot of terms we learned such as ‘deliberate practice’ and the estimate that it takes 10 years to become an expert in any given field.

I have two problems with this ten year metric for achieving expertise. 1. I’m not sure what field I want to become an expert. There’s too much of interest in the world and too much reluctance to close doors behind me, even if time is doing that already. 2. I’m impatient. I’d like to find a quicker route to that expertise. But that’s not going to happen.

So here I am trying to put Roseanne’s ideas into more regular practice. She suggested finding a routine in three different areas of life:

  • The actual writing that you want to do. My work on Eccentric Eclectica for the past 10 days is a start on that. Sometimes I need to just get the words out there in order to discover what even I myself might not realize about my thoughts.
  • A physical, self-care habit. I’m hoping to start doing more regular exercise this summer. The consistency on the weblog has been a good start to getting myself ready to make this move. I walk almost every day, but I’d like to add some strength training.
  • A creative outlet, something that doesn’t have to be a product or have an end goal. Drawing, sketching, making collages have all been possibilities I’ve considered. I’ve added a larger table in my office work area so making collages might be easier now than a few weeks ago.