Why I write…

a blog … and how NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) altered my whole approach to living, not just writing. Or perhaps the two belong together

 

Glasses

These are my husband’s glasses. I had to concentrate on them to draw this too! I drew this last NaNoWriMo – can you believe it? I’m surprised that I did actually draw something that month. © Laura Eades 2012

Writing is a conversation with yourself

When I was writing every day for NaNoWriMo last year, I didn’t know in advance what my characters were doing. I had half an idea, and then when I sat down to write, I found they got bored and did other things that were more inventive than the plan. The plan was good, but it was limited. Their instincts – or my instinct for their mischief – was better.

I’m like a character in my own novel: my life. I make plans, and when it comes to it, occasionally I rebel – sometimes I stick to my plan. But the way forward is not always clear. When I want to work something out, I write in a notebook and the thoughts show themselves to me.

After NaNoWriMo, my planning got better

This is going to sound contradictory, but I also learned to plan for success thanks to Chris Baty’s No Plot No Problem. (I swallowed that book whole and will never stop extolling its virtues).

Planning process is different from planning outcomes. I planned the little circumstances around what I wanted to achieve – I wanted to write every day for a month, so I made sure I had pledged my commitment in advance, enlisted the help of my family, made my desk space appealing, cooked some meals to put in the freezer, thought about what I loved about fiction, had a chart to monitor my progress, decided which times of day I would write…

All of these ways of ensuring success have helped me with other life-enhancing habits, like running, and cutting caffeine.

Writing feels like coming home

As solitary passtimes go, writing is a really great voyage into the beyond. Where have you been today? What aspect of life have you put under your microscope? Who have you spent the day with? Which cafes did you use for productive ends? Fiction is, by its nature, mind-expanding. But for some reason, when you sit down with a notebook, you also come back to yourself. When you’ve lost your centre, you feel like you again.

Habit change experts tell you to write every day

Not blogging, as such, but daily writing. Every advice on habits. On sorting out eating problems. Doing a Mindfulness course. On sticking to things. Everything, without fail, says this: keep a journal.

I don’t know about you, but when I read something that tells me I’ve got to do something new, and time-consuming, every day, I usually roll my eyes. I’m quite pleased with my accomplishments if my child has a bath every day, and we’ve all had a hot meal, and there aren’t any mysterious crumbly granola-like bits in the sheets when we climb into bed. Blogging makes writing frequently palateable!

Writing helps you stay focused

When you’re trying to change your life, you forget what you’re doing. I’m not joking. Scott Young’s week-by-week breakdown (from his personal experience) of what happens when you try to adopt a habit is bang on here.

  1. The first week is a cinch, he says, because you’ve got motivation on your side.
  2. The second is tough: the habit requires a lot of work and the adrenaline rush of beginning has died down.
  3. The third week, things get a little easier and you reach what he calls ‘the plateau’. It feels like you’re in control of your new habit. You’ve done it for two weeks, so you won’t forget it if you just have an extra coffee/a cream cake/a cigarette, will you?

In fact your new habit is incredibly vulnerable. Jeremy Dean (Making Habits, Breaking Habits, and Psyblog author) cites research that shows it takes as long as 66 days to bed in a habit properly. So forgetting what you’re focusing on in week three is to be avoided at all costs.

Blogging provides a community

When I’m about to do something I don’t want to do, I can delay it. I can blog first. Stall. Hopefully, I’ll be onto something better by the time it’s over. And it goes both ways. Open the comment thread at the end of the post and give me your view (click on the grey dot with a plus sign).

Write it, and you’ll increase the chances of sticking to it

Specifically, pre-commitment. Telling people in advance what you’re attempting. Pre-commitment means making tougher choices now so that when your willpower is weak, you’ll hold yourself to your promises.

Incidentally, I also picked up this trick from Chris Baty’s book No Plot No Problem, where he describes preparing to undertake a novel-writing challenge (NaNoWriMo). I followed his advice, and pledged the price of a parking ticket to my husband’s rival football team. I don’t even love football; and this kept my husband and me both invested in my success all the way through novel-writing month.

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Ever effectively pre-committed to something? Find writing has positive side-effects? Click on the grey dot with a ‘plus’ sign to open the comment section