How James Clear’s Atomic Habits Applies to Writers

I just finished my 1 1/2 hour webinar for Story Circle Network entitled, “Creating (or Reviving) a Daily Writing Habit.” I had 29 people at the webinar, many of whom were women I know through SCN, either as students or as fellow board members. A few were people I didn’t know and one was a woman I know through my church here in Los Angeles. (Thanks for coming, Sarah!). All in all, we had a wonderful time and, hopefully, they left with a bit more information on creating a writing habit than they arrived with. (Only women attended because Story Circle Network is a women’s writing organization.)

I used James Clear’s book Atomic Habits as the primary source of my webinar and used Write is a Verb by Bill O’Hanlon as my secondary source. Both books focus on the concept of the “feedback loop,” which is based on a cycle of cue-craving-response-reward. Think of this with food: walk by the pastry shop (cue), long for a cookie (craving), go in and buy a cookie (response), and enjoy the deliciousness of the cookie (reward). Applied to writing: create a good time and cozy spot for writing (cue), feel eager to write (craving), write for a pre-decided amount of time (response), and feel happy that you’ve done what’s needed to be a writer for today (reward). Repeat day after day.

Both Clear and O’Hanlon say that the key to positive habit forming is not the habit itself, but rather how that habit coincides with your identity. If you want to be a person who calls themselves a writer, then there is only one real prerequisite: the act of writing. No amount of talking about writing, reading writing books for guidance, or lamenting over how little time there is to write counts as a way to call yourself a writer. Only writing. Good, bad, or middle-range is not as important as simply getting words down on a page. Writers write. Period. Therefore, both men encourage making a list of benefits that will come from writing daily and reading them to yourself after you sit down at that appointed time and cozy spot you have created. They say to remind yourself why you want to write so you will be motivated to get those fingers flying over the keyboard.

The bottom line that I found in my research for the webinar is that serious writers do not seem to put much stock in inspiration. They instead focus on getting rear-ends in a chair and getting words on the page, no matter how poorly they may at first sound. Setting up the cues and rewards to make that chair sitting and finger moving happen is the key to success, with an emphasis on starting small and then gradually building over time. Reaching goals one baby step at a time.

Speaking of rewards, I am now going to wrap up my day and relax for the evening. I am happy that I had a chance to learn more about positive habit building and would highly recommend James Clear’s book in particular for anyone who wants to build positive habits in any part of their life. Bill O’Hanlon’s book is more specific for writers but is also very helpful.

My work is done for the day. I have fulfilled my contract with myself to write a blog piece and I’m happy. Now I’m ready to go eat a little dinner and rest.

Talk tomorrow.

One Comment Add yours

  1. Jeanne Guy says:

    It was a genuine, authentic, fun Len Leatherwood webinar. 29 lucky participants. I’d say more but I’m off to clean the cat litter and write for 20 minutes… xoxoxox

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