Like everyone else on the planet, I’ve been looking back on the past year. As a writer, I don’t really need the New Year in order to evaluate myself. I have daily resolutions to write more, and I look back on my progress all the time.
But the New Year offers that fabulous blank slate. And writers more than anyone know the value of this. Like a blank page, there are so many possibilities, so many ways we can fill it.
And I’ve been thinking about bad habits, which I have a lot of.
They’re just so easy and comfortable. Rewatching a season of 30 Rock is so much easier than fixing a problem with my script, and taking a nap takes so much less effort than crafting a joke. But how good does it feel to kick a bad habit right in the face and accomplish something you’ve been meaning to do for months?
So instead of making grand, impossible promises to myself about how my behavior will be better than ever this year (I’m not going to wake up at 6:30 to jog, it’s just not going to happen, no matter how many new pairs of sneakers I buy), I have found small things I can do that will help me to stay focused and write more.
1. I cleaned the hell out of my room.
I didn’t go out on New Year’s Eve. Instead I made a Screwdriver and spent the night undoing the mess I’ve created in my room. I donated garbage bags full of clothes, and said goodbye to tons of crap that I don’t need. It’s now a place where I am at ease and I feel comfortable writing in.
2. I deleted Instagram and Snapchat.
Two Apps that are nothing but endless distractions to me. They provide a mild level of entertainment, but mostly just suck all of my time away.
3. I write first, and research later.
Whenever I need to look up a name, or a quick fact for a script, it always ends with me, two hours later, on youtube watching my fifteenth Jennifer Lawrence interview. I am unable to look something up quickly, then close the browser and go back to what I was working on. So, from now on, I’ll leave everything I need to look up blank, and deal with it after I’ve finished writing for the day.
4. I listen to music without words in the car.
I spend a lot of time in my car. And I find that I get a lot of ideas behind the wheel if I allow my mind to wander a bit. So instead of singing along to music, or listening to NPR, I’m trying out listening to music that can serve as background noise, but also help inspire me.
What about you? Have you found any small changes to your habits that have helped you become more productive? I’d love to hear about it.
8 thoughts on “New Year, New Habits”
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I’m so guilty of #3 it’s not even funny! I find myself researching a place, name, type of tree, then bam! I’m on something else all together.
Isn’t that just the worst?! I really have to stop doing that.
Hey, Emily. I think you (or Wade) pointed in an earlier blog or FB post to an article that highlights a great practice from journalism (my undergrad major) — when you don’t know a fact, or even hit a block, write TK (“to come”). Some writers use a short description if the context is not clear, like “(TK: captial of Uruguay)” or “(TK: equivalent slang word for gangsta/thug in England)” or whatever. Then, later when your right brain is frazzled, open up your fave search engine, Control-F through your draft for each TK and add in the facts (for my two examples, Montevideo, Uruguay, and “chav.” This may necessitate massaging around the TK because of new ideas that the research uncovers, but it doesn’t stop your flow when you’re writing. More here:
Super helpful- I’m going to start doing this for sure. Thanks Eric!
I’ve learned to take this kind of thing seriously. I try and organize my life to maximize my writing as well. EG: Since I have an office job that gives me plenty of free time (in front of a computer) I will make lists while I am at home about the things I need to research. Then I do all of that research (big or small) at my job so that it won’t take away from my writing time at home.
That’s a great way to do it.
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