November 03, 2016

Out with the Old (Habits) by Steph Beth Nickel

In order to carve out time for writing, we have to get rid of habits and behaviours that hinder us. Here are just a few of them. (This list is for me. If you can relate, feel free to join me in the creation of some new habits.)

OLD HABIT 1 – Watching TV in the Evening

My hubby and I like to watch TV while we’re eating supper. And I don’t see this changing any time soon. However, I have a tendency to veg on the couch even when I’m alone, sometimes for hours on end.

NEW HABIT 1 – Go Ahead, Press the Power Button

It probably comes as no surprise that as an extrovert, I enjoy company. What may surprise you is that sometimes I’m too tired to visit with real people. Instead, I spend time with my imaginary friends who live their lives on my television screen. I must wean myself from these “relationships.”

How will this benefit my writing?
Devoting even a small portion of the time I typically spend watching TV to writing will make a huge difference to my productivity.

OLD HABIT 2 – Leaving Creative Endeavours (including Writing) Until I’m Tired

It’s only 8:30 as I write this post, but because of an exceptionally busy weekend, I’m already tempted to crawl into bed and have a nice long rest.

NEW HABIT 2 – Develop Better Sleeping Patterns

I’ve heard it said that going to bed and getting up at the same time seven days a week is important. Consistency in this area and others like it isn’t my strong suit, but I aim to do better.

How will this benefit my writing?
If I get enough sleep, I will be able to think more clearly and work more efficiently. Both are necessary for maximum productivity.

OLD HABIT 3 – Shoving Writing to the Bottom of the Priority List

There always seems to be other things to do, many of them important, others not so much.

NEW HABIT 3 – Create—and Stick to—a Writing Schedule

I’m great at making schedules—and ignoring them. I have to find the balance between creating an unrealistic schedule and one that I can actually follow.

How will this benefit my writing?
If I honestly evaluate my weekly schedule, I’m certain I can come up with a doable plan that will allow me to devote consistent time to writing.

OLD HABIT 4 – Accumulating too Many Skills Development Resources

True confession time. Many of my writing books are in pristine condition—because I’ve never read them. My Gmail folders are overflowing with posts I intend to read—someday. I have courses on the go that I may never complete.
At some point, I have to say, “Alright already, enough.”

NEW HABIT 4 – Make Use of the Resources at My Fingertips

This is a case of both / and rather than either / or. I do want to read these resources, but I also want to take the time to apply what I learn. It comes back to scheduling again.

How will this benefit my writing?
If I learn skills related to my current projects, I will be much more likely to apply what I learn than if I focus on what I hope to write “one day.”

OLD HABIT 5 – Neglecting Physical Activity

Letting my gym membership gather dust is not helping me get more words on paper (or the computer screen).

NEW HABIT 5 – Get Started … Again

I would love to exercise from 30-60 minutes six times a week, but if I make that my goal going out of the gate, I know it won’t happen. Instead, I must set incremental goals until I reach “the ideal.” So this week, I will exercise for 30 minutes at least once.

How will this benefit my writing?
Exercise doesn’t only help us lose weight and build strength. It helps us think more clearly and work more efficiently. Regular physical activity also releases serotonin and endorphins. When we have a positive outlook, we are more productive.

OLD HABIT 6 – Failing to Eat Healthy

Who says a writer can’t survive on a diet of iced coffee and Rice Krispie squares? Okay, since the weather has turned cold, I prefer Timothy’s Dulce de Leche or their Chai Latte. But still …

NEW HABIT 6 – Meal Planning, Anyone?

Planning ahead … that’s all I have to do.

How will this benefit my writing?
If I devote a day every week or two to 1) creating a meal plan, 2) shopping for needed supplies, and 3) doing as much prep work in advance as possible, I will prepare healthier meals that will nourish my body and my mind—as well as freeing up time to actually write.

What good habit will you implement this week?


  1. Thank you, Steph, for all your practical recommendations. I appreciate your approach and look forward to your posts. This time, I was really drawn to your comment:
    If I learn skills related to my current projects, I will be much more likely to apply what I learn than if I focus on what I hope to write “one day.”
    I, too, have had periods where I read and read and read, but in the end I learn much more if I focus on developing the skills necessary to develop and polish the article/project in front of me.

  2. This is a very practical list and one that I am sure many of us can relate to. (Confessions anyone?) One of the reasons i always participate in nanowrimo in November is it forces me to quit watching TV in the evening and stick to a writing schedule.

  3. These are all Habits I fall into as well. Good reminder Steph. For me, it's the writing schedule I need to get back into again.

  4. Fantastic, Steph, but what are you doing inside my head. I can so relate to what you are saying are you bad habits. I also appreciate the new habits you are planning--like starting with 1 session per week of exercise. Maybe even I could do that. Thanks.


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