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writing beyond the curve | building habits for writers

It’s the daily habits that build up to a lifetime of routine and learning.

When we begin to build habits, we often picture a standard bell curve, expecting the beginning of our plot to be challenging as we pick up speed, and eventually our skills may plateau at a brief point while we maintain our habits at an all time level of success. There may then be a steep or steady decline as we shift focus.

In writing, my goal has always been to write beyond that curve. To write faster, more often, and to write when I least expect it. Traveling through my mind lately has been a quote from an interview I listened to recently that can be paraphrased as such, “I hate writing. I hate telling stories. But the only thing I hate more than telling stories is not telling them.”

I think this is a more honest approach to how I feel about writing. One that I believe steadfast in. I recognize myself as a writer now, as someone who loves to tell stories. And on days when I need the encouragement, the reminder that there are stories worth being told, I remember that it is worse to have untold stories than half-assed, not-so-amazing stories that no one ever reads. Because damn, at least I fucking wrote them.

Writing beyond the curve speaks to the future writer I am, the one who stayed consistent, the one who came back to write after being sick, after traveling, after writer’s block. The one who picked up the pen again at the steepest part of the bell curve and gave writing another go. Who dabbled in short stories and poetry and science fiction essays and personal essays to work through whatever inspiration sat in the crease between their brows.

In the book atomic habits, James Clear points out how we won’t remember missing one day of a habit when we look back. But instead we’ll remember how consistent we were, writing 4–5 days a week, or working out 3 times a week and so on. The intention, and the action, those are what will fuel us forward. Daily habit tracking can be so useful in getting started in a new habit, especially something creative like writing, but many authors give up when they think a consistent writing habit is beyond their abilities.

It never is.

Your writing, or whatever “writing” is in your universe, exists for you to grasp. What do you hate more — creating the thing, or not having created it at all? Whatever your creative self is on the verge of birthing or beginning, keep in mind your path may be paved away from the main road, or you may have to stop and start again a few times while you problem solve your way around some obstacles.

Consistency and habit building are about training your mind to remember and to create and come back to routine as a muscle memory, as a reminder of a skill you are building to better yourself or to solve some great thing. Even if your “writing” is going for a walk each week, or reading one book a month, your habit is worth protecting. Even if your consistency is not perfect, let your action be more powerful than your commitment to perfection.

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Liz Brinks

Hey, I’m Liz Brinks (they/them) I’m a queer gender-non-conforming writer, business coach & cat-parent (@itsjuustliz everywhere) based out of Wisconsin!