New Year, New goals.
I started meditating this year.
By “this year”, I literally mean two weeks ago since we’re only fourteen days into 2020. Happy New Year, by the way! To my fellow authors out there, I sincerely wish you all a year of prosperity, immense success in your writing projects, but most of all health and happiness to you and yours.
So. I started meditating. This all came about at our New Years Eve party with friends where we all started talking about our health.
Ah, the joys of getting older. No longer do we ring in the new year drunk on cheap booze and underappreciated youth, dancing the old year away in dangerous footwear without any regard for our future podiatric wellbeing. Instead, now older and wiser and dressed in comfortable clothes (thank the gods above for stretchy leggings), we sagely welcomed in another new year by eating fantastic food, sampling a small quantity of legal cannabis and sitting around the living room with our friends exchanging war stories about the various aches and pains that come with the mid-to-late thirties territory. We also played Taboo.
But after the women finished wiping the floor with the men and the game ended, health once again became the topic of discussion. The most popular afflictions? Fatigue. Stress. Weight gain. Lack of focus. Hormone imbalance.
One of our friends, a PhD in Human Kinetics, Mental Performance Coach and Professor of Sport Psychology (description stolen directly from his Twitter profile), brought up meditating. He swears by it, claiming the benefits of it to one’s mental (and often physical) health is noticeable and tangible. He prescribes it to all his clients, he said in all seriousness. Some of us were skeptical. A friendly challenge was made.
Twenty one days of guided meditation using an app called Ten Percent Happier.
Well. My husband and I are two weeks in and to our friend’s credit, he’s definitely on to something. Speaking for myself, I do actually feel better. I’m noticeably calmer and feel more in-tune with my emotions. I’m less anxious. I’m more focused than I’ve been in months. I can say it does work, even after such a short time. I’ll be sticking to it. Now, I’m not claiming that meditation is the cure-all for everything, but I do believe it can have a powerful and positive impact on many aspects of one’s life. Which brings me now to writing.
One of the guided meditation sessions talked about The Three E’s of Making Good Habits (and breaking bad ones) which I found both fascinating and brilliant, and especially relevant when thinking about my life as a writer.
The idea of the Three E’s suggests that there’s more to making or breaking habits than simply relying on our willpower to muscle our way through it. In reality, willpower is a temperamental inner resource that tires and withers in the face of stress. That’s when we tend to give up, give in to that comforting bowl of ice cream and begin the painful and humiliating cycle of guilt, shame and self-loathing. Not fun.
Instead, to more effectively achieve your new habit change, it’s important to incorporate the Three E’s: Environment, Ease & Enjoyment. And just for fun, I’ll add a fourth E: Experimentation.
In order to make it as a writer, you need to write. You can’t do that unless you actually sit down and get to work. Despite our many fantastic ideas and good intentions, some of us do find this part difficult to accomplish. There can be so many factors that get in the way — social media, house clutter, noise, family members, phone calls — which is why it’s important to create a writing space that is, first and foremost, conducive to writing.
Remove the distractions. Deliberately leave your phone in another room if you’re most easily sidetracked by social media. Get noise cancelling headphones if the noise is too distracting. Set boundaries with your family members (of all ages) to respect your time for writing. This might even mean leaving the house to work at a coffee shop or library if that’s what it takes.
Make your space comfortable. Wherever you write, get cozy. Put on slippers, get a blanket and coffee, light a few candles, put on some good tunes to fire up the ol’ writing muse, maybe even go as far as putting up quotes or inspirational messages on the wall.
Set reminders for yourself to write if you are particularly forgetful or have trouble taking that first step to sit down and write.
Equip your space with things that facilitate writing. Set up your laptop or computer. Have pens and paper at the ready. Keep dictionaries, writing guides, or whatever tools you like to use right by you so everything is where you need it, when you need it. I keep a pen and notepad next to my laptop on my desk, and I’ve set up my laptop to save all my favorite web pages for writing — online thesaurus, my favorite writing blogs, etc.
Whatever habit you’re looking to make or break, it’s important to make sure that you make it as easy as possible on yourself. That means setting reasonable and achievable goals, without overdoing it. Baby steps. Baby steps.
One suggestion was to implement the 10 Minute Rule. What can you do today — or better yet, right now — that only takes ten minutes and aligns with your goal?
If your goal is to be more active, then maybe you spend ten minutes walking outside to get some fresh air. Maybe you follow a ten minute yoga video on YouTube. Maybe it’s a ten minute run on the treadmill.
If your new goal as a writer is to write every day, ten minutes a day is a good place to start. Maybe you start a journal. Maybe you take ten minutes to do a writing sprint. Maybe you dedicate ten minutes to a short online writing prompt. Maybe you commit to ten minutes of outlining, editing, or drafting.
The point is to make your new habit easy to incorporate into your life. Putting too much pressure on yourself right off the bat will almost surely end in failure. Give yourself a break and start with five, ten, fifteen, twenty minutes. Whatever amount of time you can reasonably fit into your schedule without overdoing it.
The most important of the Three E’s in my opinion is Enjoyment. Why would anyone stick to a routine that is boring; grueling; unpleasant? Blargh! Having fun is the key ingredient in this triad of E’s!
Writing can slow down, falter, even stop altogether when the writing itself becomes too tedious.
So give yourself a lot of room to have fun with it! Take some time to figure out which part of the writing process you find most enjoyable, which you find the least enjoyable, and why. Find ways to make the not-so-fun parts more pleasant.
If you dislike editing, then maybe you spice up the process by inviting a friend to come over and help you with it over a glass (or two) of wine. Or maybe you treat yourself to an editing session at your favorite coffee shop and reward yourself with their best dessert.
The idea here is to find ways to make your writing as enjoyable and fun as possible.
The Fourth E: Experimentation
I’ve added this one in because I believe it’s a crucial step to finding success in making or breaking habits. Allowing yourself the time and space to experiment with the above Three E’s is so, so important.
Just because one thing isn’t working doesn’t mean your goal is destined to fail. As Thomas Edison famously said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that don’t work.”
Play around with your goals. If something hasn’t proved successful, so what? Try another tactic. If you flounder and fall back into your old bad habits, that’s okay. Just start over. It’s as easy as that.
And so, my friends, I wish you all success in your new year resolutions, whatever they may be. May 2020 bring you all only the best! xxoo
I wrote this post as part of the monthly #AuthorToolboxBlogHop. To continue hopping through to other great blogs (and I highly recommend you do) or to join as a fellow writer, click here.