The Power of Consistency
I have this quote by Elizabeth Gilbert right next to my computer so I can see it every time I sit down to write:
“Work with all your heart, because – I promise – if you show up for your work day after day after day after day, you just might get lucky enough some random morning to burst right into bloom.”
This is the phrase that jumps around my mind when I’m staring at a blank page, worrying about how to start and where a story is going and if I’ve gotten the characterization I want in my characters and bracing myself for plot holes. If you are having trouble getting started writing a novel or essay, you can ask the essay writer for help.
It’s the phrase that flutters past my eyelids when I’m worrying that I’m a horrible writer and will never publish my novels like I want to.
It’s also the advice I give to friends who feel stuck or lost. Like Jodi Picoult says, “You can’t edit a blank page.” Getting the words out on paper allows you to start the process of editing and revising. Everything can get better. But you can’t improve if you aren’t showing up every day.
Every day, you just have to sit in your chair and do the things. Showing up over and over and over again is more powerful than one big moment. Both can change your life… but one can leave scrambling and the other can leave you prepared and calm.
But what is the power in showing up every day and just doing it? How does it change your writing and you as a writer?
You knew I was going to fill you in, right?
YOU BUILD THE HABIT
They say it takes 21 days to build a habit and this piece of information is touted for everything from new diet programs and fitness classes to habit like meditation or daily stretching. But it works for your writing too.
Building habits make it easier and easier to do the habit tomorrow and the next day and the next. You never have to think about brushing your teeth, right? You just brush your teeth twice a day without thinking about it. But that’s probably because your parents made sure you brushed your teeth every morning and every night until you could remember to do it yourself.
If you sit down at your desk and write 500 words today, you’re making it easier to do sit down and write 500 words tomorrow too. Each day you engage with your story, you’re making it easier to do so tomorrow and next week and next week. By engaging in your writing today and tomorrow and next week, you’ll find that in a month, in six months, in a year, writing every day is as easy as brushing your teeth.
IT’S EASIER TO COME BACK AFTER A BREAK
The best habits are the ones you don’t have to think too hard about: brushing your teeth, setting your alarm, what you do in the shower, what to make for breakfast. They’re easy because you’re so practiced at doing them.
When you go on vacation, you probably don’t set your alarm. When you get back, you probably don’t have to think too hard about setting your alarm for work the next day. It’s a habit so ingrained in your psyche that you can do it almost on autopilot.
That’s what a consistent writing habit is too. When you’re on the vacation where you don’t set your alarm, maybe you also skip a few days of writing. That’s ok.
When you get home, you set your alarm like normal. And you sit down at your desk, you start writing as if you hadn’t missed those few days.
This is why I’m a proponent of writing every day: the more you do it the easier it gets. Which leads to my next point.