We’re on Day 2 of NaNo 2016. I’ve written two short stories totaling 11,605 words, 80% of them misspelled, but I won’t worry about that until January. I admit I was hoping to have written four, but I’m still on track to make 50 short stories and flash fictions by the end of November.
Some people are already behind, but all is not lost. Get caught up now and go forward by adding a few extra words every day.
Habitual behavior, or ‘daily routine’ goes unnoticed because we don’t engage in self-analysis when undertaking routine tasks. Thus, writing daily is easier once it becomes a behavioral habit.
Smoking is a behavioral habit as much as it is a physical addiction. Smokers trying to quit always tell me they don’t know what to do with their hands. When they first started smoking they trained themselves to do “the cigarette ritual,” shaking the cigarette out of the pack, lighting it, holding it, and exhaling the smoke with their own style each time they went outside. They did this ritual every time they lit up their cigarette, and now their hands have “nothing to do.”
If breaking certain habits is difficult, creating new, more positive habits is also tough. Behavioral patterns we repeat become imprinted in our neuro-pathways, so repetition of positive behaviors is necessary to make the behavior automatic. Wikipedia, the Fount of all Knowledge, says this:
“As the habit is forming, it can be analysed in three parts: the cue, the behavior, and the reward. The cue is the thing that causes the habit to come about, the trigger of the habitual behavior. This could be anything that one’s mind associates with that habit and one will automatically let a habit come to the surface. The behavior is the actual habit that one exhibits, and the reward, a positive feeling, therefore continues the “habit loop”. A habit may initially be triggered by a goal, but over time that goal becomes less necessary and the habit becomes more automatic.”
In his November 3rd, 2013 blog post for Creative Writing Guild, Rob Blair says:
“Studies on habit formation have found that extra willpower is almost never sufficient for getting a new habit to stick. What does seem to work is an intervention that looks like this:
Write out the details of what you want the new habit to be. (In your case, it’s going to be writing 1,667 words per day.)
Plan the details of how and where you will be engaging in the new habit. Be as concrete as you can be.
Plan a “trigger” for when you will start doing the new habit. How will you know it’s time to start writing? This can be a specific time, but I’ve found it’s better to choose a point in your normal daily routine where you can insert the new habit. (e.g., “After pouring coffee but before changing out of my PJs.)
Write a list of the pitfalls, detailing what’s most likely to go wrong. What’s prevented you from writing in the past? Did you get busy? Did you sleep in? Did you “feel uncreative”? Be honest with yourself, and get your normal traps and tribulations on the page.
Write a response plan for each pitfall. This can be something complex, but research has found that even simple response plans (e.g., “I’ll remind myself this is writing time and I can sleep in come December”) are astoundingly effective. (end quoted material.)
I like what Rob has to say about doing a small intervention to short-circuit self-defeating habits, but remember such effort only works if you are honestly committed to the project. He also offers a great deal of other useful advice in that article, so I highly recommend you read his post in its entirety.
But what I really believe is that you will succeed in developing the habit when you write something you are really fired up about. When you are passionate about a story, the words will flow. Find that moment in your daily routine when you can insert a new habit, put pen to paper and begin writing!
The best thing about stream-of-consciousness writing is you don’t take the time to over-think things. You write it as you think it, and the word count grows as if by magic.
I’m using this time to write short stories, but just as if I were writing a nano-novel, I will be done writing at the end of November. I will take a break from this project until January and then, over the course of the next year I will be pulling these rough drafts out of the 2016 NaNoWriMo file and polishing them up. That is when I will worry about what is wrong with these little stories, and implement plot adjustments. Right now, I am just writing it as I think it, warts and all.
Wikipedia contributors, “Habit,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Habit&oldid=747213739 (accessed November 1, 2016).