It takes 21–28 days to create a new habit—though some research has found it takes as many as 66 days. It takes 10,000 hours to become a “master” at something complex—hence the reason we have a resource like The Write Practice.
But when starting an exercise program, they say it’s important to schedule “rest days” so your body has time to rebuild and grow stronger. Skipping those rest days only leads to injury and burn-out.
So what does that mean for writing?
To become a master, to integrate writing into your life as a habit, you must be committed. You won’t always feel inspired and motivated to write. Some days, you may have to drag yourself to the computer and just start putting words on the page and trudge through. On that kind of day, you may end up hitting your stride—or you may end up with a really bad piece of writing.
But even the most dedicated athlete takes a day off here and there. Many of you are participating in NaNoWriMo this month, and others are busy with personal projects or have been completing each of the daily Write Practice prompts.
In order to rebuild and get stronger, let’s call today a “rest day.”
(Okay, you NaNoWriMo folks might still choose to write so you don’t get too far behind or run the risk of simply not continuing at all after your one day off is over… but at least take the day off from practicing here!)
Do what athletes often do on rest days—cross-train. Instead of practicing their chosen sport every day, athletes cross-train by doing a lower-impact activity, like walking, swimming, yoga, or Pilates, or one that taps into different muscles and movements.
For your cross-training today, share a short piece of your current work-in-progress here in the comments section (yes, we want to see a part of those NaNoWriMo novels!) and get feedback from other writers. Use this rest day to feed your creative spirit, find inspiration, and strengthen your commitment to becoming a better writer.
How often do you write? When you take time off from writing, what do you do to relax and refuel?
Share a work-in-progress or recently completed piece of writing—a short excerpt about the length of a typical fifteen-minute practice.
And be sure to read some of the other comments and add your thoughts. Creative conversation makes for great cross-training!
It’s all about the habits
Recently, I read that the most important part of weight loss isn’t the type of workout you do or the program you choose or even what diet you pick. It’s the daily habit of getting up and making a conscious effort to live differently — even if it only begins with five minutes a day.
To that end, I made a deal with myself (because I’d like to get back into shape): Start with five minutes. Do some squats, a few pushups, take a walk around the block — whatever it takes. Find five minutes of free time and start forming the habit.
The reason I’m doing this is because I’m busy. And I often believe the myth that if I can’t do something for a long time, then it’s somehow not worth doing at all. Which just isn’t true.
That’s not to say working out or writing for five minutes a day will make you world-class at your craft, but it’s how you begin. Not with elaborate plans or fancy schedules, but with action. Actually doing something.
For years, people told me you become a writer by writing every day. I didn’t believe them. I wanted a more mysterious answer, something to explain why I hadn’t yet arrived. I wanted wizardry, not work; ephiphanies, not execution. And I was sorely disappointed.
So what does this mean for us — we weary souls consumed with busyness and distractions, who already have more than enough on our plates? We need to focus more on the now and less on the later.