96 is the number of posts I’ve made to this blog, including this one. Based on that figure I’m about three months in, or, to put it another way, about a quarter of the way through. That being so, I thought a bit of reflection might be in order. In three months of doing this, what have I learned?
For any new joiners, the idea of the blog is to write for five minutes a day, every day, for a year. It’s based on a fairly well-known creative trick, which is that by committing to doing something every day, whether it’s writing, painting, collage, or whatever, you achieve a number of things which are hard to achieve otherwise. Firstly, you get rid of your “stuff” – all that old Gubbins about whether the conditions are “right”. The room’s too cold, the desk’s the wrong height, the pen’s not right, you haven’t got the proper tablet, you don’t feel like it, you haven’t got time, you haven’t got anything to write about? None of this matters. Just write.
It’s easy to say, but hard to understand: when you are experiencing these things they feel like real, large obstacles. By putting yourself (and of course by “yourself” I mean “myself”) in a position where you absolutely have to write, you learn what phantoms they are. For instance, on work days, I write this blog on the journey into work. I usually compose it in my head on the walk to the station, then tap it into my phone using one finger during the train and bus journey. This means that I write standing up on crowded commuter trains, whilst standing on platforms and at bus stops and (most days) sitting down on the bus. I do a quick scan for mistypes and then upload while buying my coffee. I would never call it ideal, but it works surprisingly well. In fact, it’s actually beneficial, in that it’s a lot more compelling and distracting than reading the paper or mucking around on Facebook. Some mornings I’m typing on the train, crushed in amongst stressy commuters but more or less oblivious to the discomfort because I’m caught up in what I’m writing. It’s an unexpected but welcome side effect. And it has brought home to me in a big way the truth of the maxim that the only way to write, is to write. I might call it “Getting over yourself” because often the biggest barrier to doing something is ourselves.
Secondly, habit. The other reason that one commits to doing thus sort of thing is that it’s habit forming. So far, so froody. What I hadn’t appreciated before doing this is just how strong force of habit is. Normally, when I experience it, it’s from the other direction; I’m considering a “bad” habit that I want to break, not a good habit that I want to create. One thing we’re all incredibly prone to is overestimating just how much control we have over ourselves. It can be almost impossible to break bad habits, as those who, like me, are prone to chewing their nails, will attest. And yet we persist in believing that we are stronger than habit, which is perhaps why we don’t put more effort into setting up good habits. We think of a habit, perhaps subconsciously, as “Something I do”, assuming that it will still require the same amount of effort as if it weren’t a habit, whereas in fact a habit is “Something I do without thinking about it almost without thought because it’s just what I do”.
And now I have just been given my large latte, which of course is another habit, and so there will be More Tomorrow.