It’s a grim business, trying to build a habit that’s good for you. I’m a world champion at laying down bad habits. But the good ones? Not so much.
As I wrote over at Sideboob last Friday, I’m leaning into one simple change for the start of the work year: nailing my start-up sequence.
I’ve found that if I tick off a simple checklist of shit I need to do at the start of my writing day, that day is way more likely to give up the words than if I just sorta slouch into it.
I knew yesterday was going to be hard because I had three appointments outside the house, leaving me just a couple of hours in the middle of the day to scurry home and…
Cos another thing I’ve learned is that although starting the day well is critical, it doesn’t mean piling up thousands of words in the first couple of hours. Kinda the opposite in fact. For the first hour, I’ll just go back over yesterday’s work, editing the raw copy and getting my head back into the story. I might even go backward on the word count if I cut more than I add.
Second hour? Not much better. A couple of hundred words, maybe.
It starts to pick up after that, with most of the progress coming in the third and fourth hours of writing.
But I didn’t have that sort of time yesterday. Made it difficult to get going, and in the end, I decided to shift focus to a bunch of smaller targets on other projects that didn’t require four to five hours of deep work to make any observable progress.
One thing I did do, was my ‘Fifteen Minute Project’. This is a weird little experiment I’m doing, working for just fifteen minutes on one project at the start of each day, every day. Even on the weekends. I’m just curious to see how much I get done that way in a month, or even a year if I can sustain it. Yes, it seems to clash horribly with the established truth of needing an hour to even warm up the story engine every morning. But for that reason I decided to work on a non fiction book for my Fifteen Minute Project. Nonfiction doesn’t need you to reinvent a whole world every day.
So. Yesterday that meant reading and trying to translate one of the first English language treatises on strength training, Sir Thomas Elyot’s “The Castel of Helth” (sic) from 1534. I came across this cracking medieval endorsement of picking up heavy things and putting them down again.
This thing is so necessary to the preservatiōn of helth, that without it, no man may be longe withoute sycknesse, whiche is affyrmed by Lornelius Lelsus, sayeng that sluggyshnes dulleth the bodye, labour doth strength it, the fyrst bryngeth the in cōmodities of age shortly, and the last maketh a man longe tyme lusty.
‘Longe tyme lusty’ is my favourite new phrase.
It’s almost as though yesterdays distractions didn’t happen to me, they happened for me, so I could find Sir Tom’s medieval gym bro take.
Today though, back to habit formation.