In writing, habit seems to be the much stronger force than either willpower or inspiration.
- John Steinbeck
Last month I didn’t write anything, not even a single blog post here or on my personal site. Partly because I was very busy on the work front and partly because I slipped off my daily writing routine. I write first thing in the morning before my family wakes up. Of late, lots of late-night work calls and general randomness in life during this whole work-from-home and school-from-home phase have been making it difficult to wake up early.
But if I look closely, the key reason to not write would be — not sticking to my schedule.
Following a writing-schedule requires self-discipline and that too a lot of it.
I am a creature of habit, I generally follow a routine, at times to the extent of being labeled a boring personality. But then, that’s how I like it :). As a habit, I write every day, and I have been doing it for more than three decades now. Not everything gets shared here, some are for my personal journal and some for my blogs.
Though despite being a creature of habit, at times slip-offs happen and that’s ok. The important thing is to ponder and figure out how to get back. Every time that I have gone into a writing slumber, I realize the path to get back has more or less been the same.
Realization, Recharge, Reading, Routine, Restart
Realization: Different people have different triggers for realization for their creative pursuits. For me, if I don’t write or paint for a few days, I get restless, with a feeling of something amiss. Creating anything always gives me a high and this realization helps me get back to my routine even amidst a hundred other things.
Recharge: With time, I have also understood that at times a brief pause from any habit is actually good. It gives us the chance to look around, observe, breathe, and recharge. Be it writing or any other habit, recharging our mental energy helps us in ways more than we can imagine. What recharges us depends upon person to person. For me, a long, peaceful walk or cooking does the magic, for some, it could be a holiday, yoga, movie, or anything else.
Reading: Reading is fundamental for me. I grew up in an era where books were the only source of information and entertainment for me. And I am so glad for that, as reading shaped up my personality in many ways. If I think of my interest in writing too, perhaps the root of it goes back to my reading habit. The more I read, the more I felt like writing. Till today, reading acts as a magic pill to recover any writing block for me. Sometimes it gives me ideas on what to write and sometimes it expands my horizon on how to express. As someone rightly said —
you learn to write better by reading, you learn to read better by writing.
Routine: Routine helps in writing, always. Be it following a set path or overcoming an unexpected pause, creating a routine has always helped me. Speaking of writing, I have a pre-defined slot in my daily calendar to write and I try to stick to it. I block this slot like office meetings and set reminders, even though not all writing is necessarily for work. To get back to writing after a break, all we need to do is create that routine first.
Restart. Yes, that’s what we need to do. Start from where we left or start afresh, just restart. Day 1 of our schedule is waiting for us, time to get going, like this post after a break of a few weeks :).
These 5 Rs help me get back to my writing habit whenever I have gone off my schedule. And why writing, these have helped me form completely new habits too like meditation that I only started practicing a couple of years ago. More on that later. For now, would love to know what helps you to overcome your creative block? How do you stick to a habit?