Well, I sure hope so. That’s why I’m doing my parallel NaNoWriMo challenge: to establish a habit of writing a minimum number of words every day. Why? Because I’m so easily thrown by my self-doubts or my doctor’s appointments or the dog needing a walk or my self doubts – oops I already said that. I guess I mean it. I can get derailed so easily. I hit a tough spot in my writing. Next thing I know, I’m eating almonds and catching up on the latest Nordic Noir my MIL recommends. I’d like to establish that habit of regular words so that I keep working even when the self-doubt fairy comes to interrupt me. Like Trollope, known for his excellent, regular work ethic. Just to name one exemplary author. And he managed to write over forty books. I’m hoping that if I establish this habit then a day or two of total dreck won’t send me into a spiral of despair and turn me into a harpy harping on the husband and the children. Instead of a spiral of despair, I’ll weather it ass in chair.
That has a nice rhyme.
So now that November is almost half over, how am I doing? Thank you very much, I am doing very well. I have cranked out the requisite number of words, plus more. And I have weathered several spells, including one today, of the self doubt fairy beating me about the head with whispers about the futility of my work, of writing in general, and of my very existence. As I told my neighbor across the street via text: Ass in chair.
I enjoy being crass.
But this post is about more than establishing my word count habit. It’s about habit formation. Over the past two years, here are some habits I’ve formed, or reinforced:
1. Morning yoga. At least 8 minutes, currently about 15. Thank you, Dr. Oz, though it pains me to say it.
2. Starting each day with a couple moments thinking of things for which I’m grateful and things for which I wish. Thank you every blogger, women’s mag, book, and inspirational speaker who has suggested this, though I hate to reveal myself as such a joiner.
3. Daily exercise consisting of at least a constitutional. This has been a habit since high school.
4. Mid-afternoon snoozle. This one is also a longstanding habit, dating back to before I napped over my keyboard at my job at Widener Library, before college, all the way back to, well, infancy. At this point, the daily snoozle is practically inadvertent. I might still be asleep, for all I know.
Then there are some other daily habits I am trying to establish, aside from the daily word count, such as:
1. Meditation. Jerry Seinfeld does it every day, and so can I. I’m up to several days a week with this, but not every day. I haven’t found the ideal time for me to sit still yet.
2. Greeting and saying good-bye to my loved ones such that we can see the whites of each other’s eyes, not shouting from one room to another. And not just because Gretchen Rubin wrote about it in her book.
Well, so much for habit formation. It’s useful, but only half the story. At least for some people, I imagine. Some people might need help breaking habits. Luckily for you poor souls, there is a book on this by one Charles Duhigg, a recent Pulitzer Prize winner.
I haven’t read his book. I personally, Readers – and I am being modest here – haven’t had to break too many bad habits. There was the split end picking I used to do in high school. I’ve since heard that hair picking is indicative of some kind of emotional disturbance, but in my case, I assure you I WAS FINE. TOTALLY. Just a little anorexic and depressed, but NOTHING MAJOR. Eventually, I cut my hair in the mid 80s and got happy and I have almost never picked a split end since then. Partly because I worry my eyes will get stuck.
This has left me with no bad habits at all. So I can't really help you with yours. Never fear - Charles Duhigg’s website provides a handy flow chart for breaking bad habits, which I will share with you.
It’s kind of complicated, which just
goes to show that you shouldn’t start bad habits. Like me. Or maybe it shows
that Pulitzer Prize winning Charles Duhigg is just an overthinker. He could
take a lesson – we all could – from the husband. He had a nail biting habit
when we met, which he revealed during the first football season we spent
together. And by “together” I mean in different rooms after I saw how het up he
got and that he bit his nails. Then one day, under absolutely no pressure from
me, he quit. He said, “I am going to stop biting my nails.” And then he did. Without
a flow chart.
But wait, I wrote that stuff yesterday before driving the ballet carpool. Since then, I realized that I do have a bad habit. It is this. Every time I get out of my car, I pull the car keys out of the ignition with my right hand, then grab my bag and haul it towards me, and every time I do that I jab my hand towards my face with my key sticking out. Then I think, If I don’t stop grabbing the key that way, I am going to stick myself in the eye one of these days.
Okay, maybe there is another habit I could work on breaking. My habit of anxiety. You didn’t realize I had anxiety, you say? Well, I know it’s not obvious; but trust me, I suffer from anxiety - just a touch.
Just the other day, my sister the psychoanalyst mentioned attending a talk at my niece and nephew’s school by some guy who described a technique for relieving anxiety involving a tennis ball and your own two hands. It’s called Mind Juggling. I share it with you, Readers, in case any of you want to try it. If so, please let me know. As I told my sister the psychoanalyst, the idea of banishing my anxiety and resetting my brain makes me nervous. But I probably should work on that, because otherwise how will I be able to focus on the car key thing? And if I don’t, somebody’s going to get her eye poked out, and that somebody is going to be me. Then I’ll really have a problem.