This blog was featured on 05/04/2017
CREATING A WRITING ROUTINE IN FOUR STEPS
Contributor

CAROL K. WALSH

     Have you ever wanted to write about something, or had an idea for a book, but felt held back by some unknowable force? Or, did you actually begin to write, but became discouraged and stopped? I struggled with this issue when I wanted to write my new memoir, but just couldn’t make writing a routine. I only wanted to do my artwork.

     While trying to develop a writing routine I quickly discovered two things: (1) wanting to do something and finally doing it are very different things, and (2) developing something new requires letting go of something else. For example, if we want to eat healthier, we have to first let go of mindless eating and junk food.  To begin writing I had to temporarily set aside working on my art, something I routinely do for the first four hours of every day, so I could focus on writing.

     At first my intentions were great, but there was no follow-through – that is, until I finally discovered a process that worked. Once I did, my writing routine worked so well, that I was able to complete my memoir.  Now I want to pass on to you what I learned the hard way, in hopes that you will have an easier path.

     Here are the four steps I used to grow my new habit. Whether you are trying to learn a new skill, develop healthier eating habits or exercise routine, or begin any new creative endeavor -- if you follow these, I am convinced you can be successful.

1. Begin slowly, with small goals.

     A new runner doesn’t begin by running a mile. But, perhaps they can run one block and then walk the next one while they build up endurance. A new guitar player doesn’t begin by practicing for hours each day. They set forth small lessons and goals and gradually build their skills. To begin something new, first set up a plan, a schedule, or a routine. Make sure to begin with small steps, and overtime gradually increase your goals. If you become stuck with this step – and most of us do -- a support system can give you courage and help you focus.

2. Find support.

     It’s important to remember that you are not alone. Growing a new habit is hard for all of us. It doesn’t matter what new habit or skill you want to develop, whether it’s learning how to play an instrument, establishing a better food plan, writing in a journal everyday, meditating regularly or routinely exercising, the process is the same.

     You will be more motivated if you are with others who have common interests and skills. For my support I first turned to classes on memoir writing and eventually joined a writer’s support group. The support you choose can be professional or otherwise. You could find a friend who has the same interest and do the activity together. There are also mentors, support groups, classes, or organizations that can give you support, and share their expertise. They can also help you focus on setting and keeping small goals. (If you don’t know of any groups with your interest, look up Meetup.com for events in your area. You can also find classes through your public school system, or community college.)

3. Don’t judge your process or progress.

     No matter what new skill or habit you are putting into practice; do not judge what you are doing. Just do it. Progress is never linear. It is more like a roller coaster. Some days everything you do will feel comfortable and right, and other days nothing seems to work. Also, don’t let others’ opinions deter you. If they give you advice, take what fits and let the rest go. If someone gives you advice you haven’t asked for, it’s fine to politely tell them that you are not ready to hear other’s opinions. Remember, unsolicited advice is never welcome.

4. Give yourself a reward.

     After each successful session – like one practice session with a new sport, or one victorious week on a good food plan – give yourself a reward. These rewards can be very small like: allowing yourself to watch your favorite TV show, going for a walk with your partner, or calling a friend and sharing a cup of tea.
     There are benefits to being successful. Certainly, after three years of work on my memoir, I felt incredible satisfaction. I had accomplished something big. In addition, while on my path of writing a book I met incredible people – both through local groups and through the She Writes Press network.

About Carol:  Carol K. Walsh is an artist, writer, psychotherapist and personal coach.  Her new memoir, Painting Life: My Creative Journey Through Trauma is her fourth book. To read about her memoir, see her artwork and sign up for her white paper about the healing power of creativity, go to: http://www.ckwalsh.com.

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