“People who are good at self-control … seem to be structuring their lives in a way to avoid having to make a self-control decision in the first place.”—psychologist Brian Galla, quoted by Brian Resnick in the article Why willpower is overrated.
From the same article:
“Structuring your life is a skill. People who do the same activity, like running or meditating, at the same time each day have an easier time accomplishing their goals, he says — not because of their willpower, but because the routine makes it easier.”
Willpower gets used up and simply cannot be used until it is replenished.
Habits, once established, require no willpower.
I’m planning more articles on developing the writing habit. In the meantime here are some I’ve already written:
My unconscious is apparently toying with me. Write a post Monday about being orderly and habitual to reserve mental and emotional energy for art, and then don’t write posts the next two days.
This comes, perhaps, from not having specific goals, either targets to aim for or purposes for the actions. “I should write a post every day” isn’t meaningful. “Engaging with readers regularly builds loyalty” is a bit better.
This year, my goal has been to write more mysteries. Our 3 businesses, Spinhead Web Design, Someday Box, and Chief Virtual Officer, are all doing what they do without much input or marketing effort from me.
You’ve seen the common perception of “artists” — disorganized, flighty, not always entirely in touch with reality. Mess and disorder, partying ’til all hours and sleeping in, drink and drugs and bad behavior of all kinds. Artists aren’t expected to behave like “normal” people because, y’know, they’re artists.
Truth is the more habits you institute in your life the better it is for your art. Here’s why.
Using Up Willpower
Exercise strengthens muscles. It also strengthens willpower.
After 3 days with no posts you’re probable wondering where I am.
I am in New Mexico. Tucumcari, to be exact. Fascinating as that must be for you, the story behind it is a lesson in how balance and moving forward go hand in hand.
We knew when we moved in a year ago that the house we rented was for sale. After 3 years on the market (in a seriously “buyer’s” market) we weren’t concerned, especially as seasoned nomads.
Last Wednesday we got the message that the house sold and the new owners wanted to move in April 1st. While the landlord is only required to give 28 days notice ours made a special effort and gave us 35.
A guitarist I once knew said he had a friend who wanted a band to play at his anniversary party.
I said “Take the gig, and we’ll put a band together.”
He blinked a couple times and said “I find your level of confidence disturbing.”
Since I grew up (at the age of 43) I’ve often leapt from airplanes with a silkworm instead of a parachute. It lends immediacy to the task.
I chickened out just a little and didn’t tell you about this until I was 11,000 words in, but I’m writing another light mystery, a 1,000-word chapter at a time, over on my personal blog. It’s called A Long Hard Look.
I have an idea where the story will go, just as when you leap from an airplane you’re fairly certain of your destination.
Getting there in one piece, though, is not a foregone conclusion.
I have struggled with depression my whole life. During the past 10 years it has improved immensely, especially the past few. I now consider myself a happy person, a content person. The black days which used to be the norm are now rare.
Being passionate souls, writers have a tendency to over promise, over commit and just plain try too hard.
When facing a challenging task, it’s human nature to try to swallow the elephant in one gulp. Every “getting things done” specialist in the world tells us that’s wrong — and yet we persist. If you want a jump start on eating the elephant, start with one tiny bite.
If you’re 12 years behind on your book, it’s easy to assume that it will take four hours a day for the next 10 years to catch up. And what happens is you spend four hours a day worrying about writing and zero hours a day doing it. If you missed yesterday’s post on habits and rituals, go back and read it. Then we’ll talk about why a 5-minute timer is such a great habit-building tool.
Every February thousands of songwriters converge on February Writing Album Month. FAWM founder Burr Settles lives by the Jack London quote which has always been part of FAWM culture: “You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.”
To many artists it seems nonsensical to sit down and intentionally crank out 14 songs in 28 days.
That’s not creativity; that’s just work. they say.