I should probably write something. But, I can’t. For God’s sake, people, there is a missing library book. The Gap is offering another 40 percent off online. They’d be disappointed if I didn’t at least click around a little bit. And, don’t even get me started on email. I have unanswered (possibly important) emails from, like, clients and coworkers. Who could focus on writing when there are all these other things to do? I’ll write when my plate is clean. While distractions abound...
The real reason I haven’t written in a while is that I haven’t written in a while.
Since I'm already avoiding writing, come with me on a little visualization.
Imagine dozens of rocks in a stream. They’re roughly scattered in a line- just higher than the flushing water below. They form a path from one bank to the other. The rocks are each about the size of my foot and worn smooth. They’re my habits. Each day, I make it across and back, from day to night, hopping from one habit to the next.
Rock #1: Wake up and look at my phone. Let the dog out. Pour a cup of coffee while looking at my phone.
Rock #2: Sit down at my desk and immediately open email. Remind myself that I shouldn’t be opening email. Read the subject lines and tell myself they can wait. Respond to a couple anyway. Review my calendar for the day. Have the thought that I should check the news real quick with a little promise not to get sucked in. Get sucked in. Feel depressed.
Rock #3: Hear the kids wake up and start down the stairs. Quietly berate myself for not writing as the window of opportunity closes. Vow to get up earlier and write tomorrow.
And, so on…
The important rocks are lined up for a reason. I occasionally skip one or two or veer off to the side. The next day, I’m tempted to skip them again because I know I can. So, I do. I'll still make it across. "Those rocks will be there tomorrow," I think. Later, I remind myself why I have to step on each one. They’re not just my responsibilities; they’re my aspirations too.
For many, many days in a row, I skipped the writing rock. I have my excuses handy but I'll spare you. That changes today.
I will write 500 words each day going forward. This won’t count the thousands of necessary “who is picking up the kids?” kind of logistical messages I write. It also won’t count the things I'm (grateful to be) paid to produce. These 500 will be just my words on the page for the good-enough reason that I enjoy doing it. Of those 500, I’ll post some. Others, I’ll delete in disgust. The rest will be saved for the mythical day when I’ll have more time to come back and rework them.
Why? For 2018, one of my goals is to write more. And for me, writing more means writing consistently.
I believe that reaching a big goal requires us to break it down into hundreds of tiny pieces. What seems overwhelming at first is actually freeing. Setting a goal that will take six months to achieve is actually signing up for six monthly, 26 weekly, or roughly 180 daily goals, for example. The daily action taken to reach the big goal is a habit. It's a new rock that I must thoughtfully place in the stream with the commitment to step on it each day.
So, here I go...