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Bad Habits are Hard to Break

Posted Jan 22 2010 1:33pm
I’d always wanted to be a writer. In my youth it was songs and poetry. Mostly because they were short, sweet, and easy to produce in the short allotment of time that my brain could focus. Being a nervous child, I was always full of anxiety, never sat still, and always had plans. Mornings would be planning time. I’d set small goals like: write three songs today, make a mix tape from the radio, worry about the boy in class that passed a note about me in biology, write a poem, watch television, avoid and then call my girlfriends, twice, to talk about all of this and more. Only, I didn’t talk about my writing much. For some reason I kept that secret, as if it might hide the “real” me from the rest of the world. Because then, and even now, I can’t write much without the truth seeping in. And God knows, when you are 13 and you are worried about joining chorus, or the hair growing under your arms, you don’t want the entire school making a judgement about you based on that. So notebooks were written in, hidden under the bed, in the drawer and tossed aside in backpacks throughout my childhood. Some were neatly kept hidden in the most safest of spots as it had the best handwritten pieces I could muster. Others were thrown aside in a massive upheaval (or cleaning) attempt made in my room. But the love of writing and being inside myself for extended periods of time was never lost. Even, when I hit college and “real life” when writing wasn’t a priority, I’d find myself jotting down phrases, paragraphs, a few pages of a story in the back of a notebook, only to be tucked (or thrown) away at the end of the semester.

Today, I wish I could say I finally found a way to pull all those stories together and collect myself enough to write endlessly without interruption. But the truth is, my life demands that I am scattered. I have a day job that demands constant attention, children who do the same, and a husband—that although he tries—loves a bit of my attention as well. And when you throw all of that together in 24 hour chunks, there still isn’t a lot of time for writing. Not like there was when I was a teen and my only responsibilities were eating, sleeping, dressing, behaving, and school (that I might add was somewhat easy for me). Though, thinking back, I felt just as scattered then as I do now. Just differently.

I’ve spent the better part of this month trying to regain the diligence I had only three months ago for writing. I’d write if I have 5 minutes or an hour—and time didn’t really matter. I’d take every word and add it to the count. I’d blog, write an essay, outline my next novel idea, and even hammer out a few marketing plans. All while juggling the rest of my life. But then suddenly I let one 15 minute chunk of time pass me by. And then another. Pretty soon I was just letting days and weeks slide where I writing dropped to the lowest priority. Thus, so did my stories/essays/blog posts and my general happiness about working toward my small goal of making my writing into a business after so many years.

One might think it easy to get back on the bandwagon of writing. I mean, I did it once right? How hard can it be to just keep the notebooks lying around, computers open and let the words flow… every 5, 15, or 30 minutes at a time? But have you ever gone on and then OFF a diet? How hard is it to get back on THAT bandwagon? Because really, when you take time that you once used to do one thing (in my case writing) and suddenly have it returned to you to do something else (laundry, diapers, nap, read, television, rest, thinking) giving that time up again to do something else… well isn’t as easy as it sounds. Just like the soda you’ve gotten SO used to having in the afternoon as a pick-me-up suddenly being banned on the new diet. So, alas I’m struggling. With writing. With eating. Thinking outside my normal routine. Becoming creative again. And becoming active again. All at once.

And I’m admitting (again) to being a sporadic type writer. Still writing phrases in notebooks, napkins, and in fragmented computer files on almost every computer I use regularly. Catching moments of brilliance into text messages on my cell phone. Waking before sunrise to sneak a few 100 words into the laptop. And stealing what I can from my creative side of the brain to weave a story, a message, a project together into “something.” I can’t and don’t write for hours at a time. Even when I crave that amount of time for long writing stretches, my mind might implode after 30 minutes or so. Who gets that kind of uninterrupted time? Unless of course you’re writing full time. Or maybe don’t have children or the Internet. But then again, I don’t get caught up in routines. And if writing in 15 minute chunks works for me, I’ll take it. As long as I can start writing again. Each and every 15 minutes I get.
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