One of your brain’s jobs is to turn frequent actions into habits. If you force yourself to turn the lights off every time you leave a room, it eventually becomes automatic. If you open the fridge door every time you’re in the kitchen, that too will become hardwired. You don’t have to think when you tie your shoes or say thankyou; those actions are ingrained.
But what about more complex activities? Can writing be a reflex?
I am here to tell you yes.
Make writing a habit.
But writing requires higher brain functions! you protest. It demands one’s full attention! The writer must focus on every detail, not wallow in habits of phrase!
Well, yes and no. I’m not saying you should write reflexively, typing cliche after cliche. I’m saying that the overall writing experience should become habitual—your brain and body should know when it’s writing time, and must be taught that writing time is sacred.
To understand what I mean, try this for a month:
1) Write at the same time every day.
2) Keep your physical cycles around that time consistent: sleep, meals, coffee, etc.
3) Write in the same chair.
4) Utilize the same protocols for every session (E.g., check email for 15 minutes, then WRITE! Or do twenty push-ups, then WRITE!)
Now maybe school and/or work make these suggestions impossible. But anything you can do to habituate yourself helps. Even silly stuff, like saying a prayer for a good writing day to the Flying Spaghetti Monster, or wearing a special writing hat or magic writing ring. These tiny maneuvers, repeated over time, wire your brain so that it knows when WRITING TIME IS HERE.
It’s sort of like when batters step up to the plate and make all those little ingrained motions: scrape the feet, adjust the uniform, spit to the left. Those habits trigger memories of all the other at-bats that batter has experienced, saying to the muscles, eyes, and brain: It’s showtime!
My version: I always start writing the moment I’m done with the morning coffee, right after breakfast. I sit in the same chair, and start by looking over the last few days’ work. I have water standing by, and I don’t answer my phone or email for the first hour. I wear the same basic clothes, almost a uniform.
But it doesn’t matter what I do. You should create your own habits. Or perhaps a better word is rituals. But whatever you call it, repetition has power. Whatever feels natural to you, make it your habit, your tradition, your religion.
Writer’s block is no threat to the well wired brain.
Good luck for the second half of NaNoWriMo! And don’t forget to check out Justine’s post from yesterday, and her new one tomorrow. See you in two days!
By the way, there is exactly one more appearance in the Leviathan tour. It’s this Sunday in Philly, and it’s a benefit for the Philadelphia Free Library
summer reading program. Please come and support your local library!
Sunday, November 22 1:00-3:00PM
A NOVEL IDEA:
Laurie Halse Anderson, Jay Asher,
T.A. Barron, Sarah Dessen,
Steven Kluger, Justine Larbalestier,
David Levithan, Lauren Myracle,
Jacqueline Woodson and me!
Childrenâ€™s Book World
17 Haverford Station Rd.