Friday, 16 October 2015

On habits and writing.

Habits can be broken.

I have OCD, so when I develop a habit, it sticks. This can be a bad thing (I've struggled against so many ridiculous and/or downright destructive habits in the past)... or a good one.

I had intense social anxiety all through school. It took six years to tell anyone I wrote, let alone anything else about me. Me from ten years ago would freak out if she saw into the future, saw me talking about my writing publicly all over the internet.

Habits can be broken.

I didn't start consistently writing every day until my final year of university. Through school, I made excuses for why I couldn't write. I didn't have time. I didn't have my own computer. I was waiting to be inspired. When I did write consistently, I finished a draft in a month.

It took me a while to be able to do this consistently. Juggling university work with writing inevitably meant there were some days where I just didn't have the time. But by the middle of my final year, when I was writing my sixth first draft (Demon Heart), something clicked. I made 1000 words my daily goal, and kept it up through that draft, then the next, then the next. It crept up to 2000 words a day, and more or less stuck there. Even with different projects.

Then the negative thoughts and crushing doubts crept in. The feeling of being a fraud. Even through them, I pushed through. Because I'd developed the habit.

I get asked a lot how I find time/get inspired. 90% of the time, I'm not inspired. It took years of jumping through mental hoops to be able to do what I do now. Write every day. Stick to goals. I have anxiety, OCD, and depression, so my brain is my number one enemy. Some days, it does everything in its power to put me down and stop me working.

You know what? In two and a half years, since I developed the habit of writing every day except in extreme circumstances, it's never actually stopped me.

I need to remember that more often.

I'm probably talking to myself here, but right now, I'm trying to break a series of habits I didn't even know I'd picked up. That's why the topic of habits came to mind. When you know someone a long time, and come to rely on them, it's a shock when they disappear from your life and you realise you don't have that crutch any more. When you walk through familiar places which are suddenly unfamiliar, with the vague sense that something's missing. That a part of you is gone. (And you can only speak in cliches.)

I need to remember habits can be broken.

It just might take a while.


  1. Habits can be broken. I needed to hear that! Thanks for the reminder.

  2. So true about habits. I've formed (and broken!) quite a few over the years, heh. Good luck breaking those habits you'd rather have broken right now! Hopefully they won't take too long for you to get rid of...

  3. I think I was far more inspired when I first started writing. I'd get an idea and be on fire about it for days! I do miss those days. Over time, writing becomes much more "informed." You know too much! But I have a bit of social anxiety, too (it's why I've embraced online grocery shopping where I can go pick it up rather than have to walk through the store and encounter people). I don't have that anxiety online, though--it's the face-to-face that bugs me. I've known others who feel that way, too--in fact, it can become dangerous because you spend too much time on your computer and not enough around people!

  4. This is a really powerful post, and something I need to keep in mind. Good luck breaking those habits, Emma. You can do it!