FOUR STEPS TOWARD A WRITING HABIT
Contributor
Written by
Carol Kurtz Walsh
September 2016
Contributor
Written by
Carol Kurtz Walsh
September 2016

 

 

 CAROL K. WALSH

 

 

Trust in what you love, continue to do it, and it will take you where you need to go.

                                                                                          Natalie Goldberg



I have listened to thousands of clients’ stories in my role as a psychotherapist. It seemed only fair, after everyone had courageously shared their stories, I should share mine.  So, I decided to write a memoir.  Once I made this decision, I discovered that wanting to do something and finally doing it are two different things. I just couldn’t begin.

 

Oddly, in my forty-five years as an active artist, I have never had this problem, and faithfully worked on my art.  Every morning I enter my studio at 9:00 a.m., leave briefly at 11 o'clock for a break, then return and stay until 1 o'clock. By then I feel both energized and creatively spent. 


In contrast, making writing a habit was a struggle. The thought of writing a whole book was stupefying. I wasn’t even sure how to begin. I was puzzled. I pondered, “I have written three other books, what’s wrong with me?”  Of course this was different, because this one would be about my life. 

 

At first I tried disciplining myself, but each attempt ended in frustration. I even tried going to Panera or Starbucks to write. I still couldn’t write with commitment, only wanting to do my artwork.

 

1. Support is helpful and often necessary to begin a new habit.

I eventually remembered when I wanted to develop a running or yoga practice, I used supportive groups.  So I applied this thinking to writing and found great help. I took a couple of writing classes, which led to hiring a writing coach and eventually joining a weekly writing group. (Unfortunately, this was before I knew about SWP and Brooke’s helpful offerings.)  All of this supportive encouragement motivated me and helped me focus on small writing goals. It didn’t take long before I craved some writing time.

 

2. Begin slowly, with small goals.

My support system helped me develop a new approach -- really new for me.  I started with short, well-defined goals.  I began my new writing pattern by writing as soon as I came into my studio.  At first I committed to write only one page on my “assigned” subject during each sitting, but it only took a week to realize that writing one page didn’t feel long enough.  I wanted to write more. So I stretched my commitment to two pages, and eventually increased my writing time to two hours. Before I knew it I was craving time to write.

 

3. Don’t judge your process or progress.

Natalie Goldberg and her books have always been an inspiration for me, so I made sure to write a la Natalie – that is, to put pen to paper and just write without judgment and without (at first) re-reading what I wrote.  Natalie says: The correctness and quality of what you write does not matter; the act of writing does.                         

 

4. Give yourself a reward.

After each writing session, I promised myself a reward – I could work on my artwork or photography.  It took a year of disciplined writing to realize I was truly committed to writing a memoir about my recovery from a trauma.  After three years, these steps resulted in my new memoir, Painting Life: My Creative Journey Through Trauma.

When something feels right, our soul and spirit want more. Then, a healthy habit is born.

Writing is now part of my daily routine. Even though my memoir is done, I am writing blogs and articles, which satisfies my newly developed craving.

 

If you want to turn an area of life into an emotional, physical and/or spirit-energizing habit, it is helpful to remember these four things;

      

  • Start with small goals and gradually increase the size.
  • Obtain outside support:  a mentor, class, or writing group.
  • Do not judge your progress or attempts.
  • After each success, give yourself a reward:  go for a walk, call a friend, drink a cup of tea. 

 

I know this process works.  I am proof. 

Now I can’t wait until my book is published November 15th, thanks to Brooke’s and SWP’s support and guidance. 

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