Writing = habit?

Is writing simply a habit? I’ve written before in this very space that I’m an addictive kinda guy…and addictions are those things that we continue to do. We often even say we do things because of “force of habit.” Further, I once had a preacher continue to remind the congregation that it takes 30 days of repetition to form a habit (he was trying to get on a healthy kick by exercising and was counting the days)…so, is writing little more than a habit?

Writers find that just about anyone they’ll listen to talk about writing will tell them to get a regular place and a regular time. We’re talking repetition, here. When I tell my sports teams and my kids that if they want to improve at something they must do it over and over again…ie., practice, I’m talking about repetition. Repetition is good. Does repetition mean habit?

Those in-the-know will also tell us writer-types to get a regular place in which we do our writing. If you write well while sitting in the front porch swing built by great-grandpa, then do it…but do it every day, at the same time. When I was working on my first novel, we were in Loretto, Tenn. at the time and I got into the habit of sitting in my front porch swing each morning and reading. I thoroughly enjoyed it and the time there got me good and warmed up to write.

Until it became winter, that is. Then it was just cold.

And my repetition stopped. I was extremely irritated, too.

When we try to teach students how to study better, we tell them we want them to improve their study “habits.” Wouldn’t we rather say study “skills?” Don’t we think of habits as those good and bad things we can’t stop doing? Like the bad habit of chewing with your mouth open…or the good habit of letting people onto the highway in heavy traffic. So, if “studying” is a bad habit, what student wants that? And if it is a good habit…well, what student wants that either? Most students would rather have the good habit of watching tv!

So, if we write regularly at pretty much the same time and place, does that make the writing simply a habit? At what point does habit become…something more? And once a habit has “graduated,” what does it become?

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1 Comment

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One response to “Writing = habit?

  1. pat laster

    I, too, like to sit in the front porch swing (not built by my granddad, but built by somebody’s) and read the paper. Lately, it has been in the upper 40s and today it is 50. Up till today, the temp didn’t bother me; I just added layers. Good essay on habits vs. skills. My bad habit is procrastination–especially as concerns finishing the novel that you helped with last year (eons ago, it seems now). Maybe when I go back to Piggott, I can get “revved up” again. pl

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