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The Most Powerful Habit I’ve Created

I had no idea what I was getting into.

Nearly two and a half years ago, I started getting serious about my writing. I decided I wanted to get good at it. And if you want to get good at something, you need to practice regularly.

The trouble was, my practice was all over the place. Sometimes, I’d write once a day. Other times, I’d write once a week – if I was lucky. The only thing that stayed consistent was my writing ability.

Around that time, a mentor introduced me to a site called 750words.com. You simply log on every day and write 750 words. Each entry can be about whatever you want. Then, at certain milestones you get awarded a badge – for example, write ten days in a row and you earn a flamingo badge. But miss a day, and the counter goes back at zero.

On the surface it seems like there’s no reason a silly flamingo badge should have been enough motivation to keep the habit going.

But it was.

Day after day, I’d show up to write. Days built into weeks. Weeks built into months.

Yet as I got into the practice, I discovered something unexpected. The real benefit wasn’t that it made me a better writer – even though it did. The real value was having a place to regularly think about and process life.


A place of peace in the midst of struggle…

So here I am, in my sacred space. This is all I have left. When the words fail me, all I can do is return here and write. That may seem odd to write when I have no words, but the words that have gone missing are ones of hope and joy and love and peace and calm. If I can’t find them here in this space, then I guess I’ll have to go and look elsewhere.

I have been reluctant to come here, I must admit. Somehow I know that do I dare to enter this ground of my writing, what is deep within will come out. I will be left with nothing but to face it. And so that fear comes to pass. Here I am. And here is what I have.
(July 10, 2011)

In times of pain and struggle, my tendency is often to curl up and protect myself. I don’t want to feel the hurt of the situation. But that only makes things worse.

How wonderful it is to have a place to simply express how I feel, a place where I can be completely honest with myself, a place to say exactly what is on my mind. There’s no risk of judgement. No one will see what I write. It’s just me and the blank page.

Word by word, I allow myself to feel the experience – the sadness, the frustration, the grief, the discomfort.

I begin the process of healing.

The right tool for making hard decisions…

A new possibility came to mind today about the direction for the next several years of my life. This isn’t to say that I’ll take this route, but it is an interesting idea to explore and consider.
(October 15, 2012)

It can be hard to make a decision when you don’t fully understand the situation. So you write out the present circumstances. You comment on the options and opportunities available to you. You get clear on what’s possible. You connect with what you really want.

The act of writing pushes you to see clearly. It puts you in a place to make the right choice.

A personal laboratory of ideas and insights…

Having a space to think, reflect, feel, and deal with the matters of the day has been powerful. Writing is a good way to get the thoughts out of your head and see them in a different way. It’s as though putting them in words makes them concrete and real. Thoughts are temporary, but words are real.
(March 1, 2012)

Ideas have a way of sounding great in your mind. At least, you think they do until you try and put them into words. For language, although imperfect a medium as it can sometimes be, demands specificity. It demands that you can express something in real terms.

It’s fun playing with ideas and exploring new concepts. Doing that processing in writing helps you refine and test those ideas. By putting an idea into words, you’re forced to be specific. You’re better able to see it’s strengths and weaknesses. And in the flow of putting it on paper, other possibilities and connections come to mind, adding multiple dimensions to your idea.

Celebrate life…

The sunrise is rather beautiful this morning. It’s the subtle kind of beauty – a sort of elegance that you’d miss if you’re not paying attention.
(September 29, 2012)

Writing offers a chance to notice and appreciate life. It lets you record a memory of natures beauty, the joy in a relationship, something funny you heard. In that act of noticing, you celebrate and honor life.

Contemplating the nature of beauty, joy, and love…

It is true that I do not often do this, but today I did. I paused a moment before writing and took a deep breath.

How much joy and gratitude can you contain in a single breath? A lot, I tell you.
(December 24, 2012)

Many days, I sit to write my words after rising from my meditation practice. Except the writing is as much of a meditation as when I sit on the meditation cushion. I am still. I remain in the present moment. I feel the experience of right now. I breathe.


If you want to build a daily writing practice for yourself…

There are a few general guidelines and strategies I’ve found helpful along the way.

You don’t have to be, or even aspire to be, a writer. Anyone can benefit from the practice of regular freewriting.

Commit. We tend to have time for what we make time for – for what is a real priority. Decide to make it a priority.

Start small. Part of why I struggled early on was that I would set massive word count targets for myself. Two thousand words a day? Of course anything less is not good enough. Except, I’d do that for one day and then not do it at all for the next several days.

So give yourself small, and easily achievable minimum target for each day. It could be a time limit – fifteen minutes perhaps. It could be two-hundred fifty words. It could be a few pages in your notebook. Or it could simply be any writing at all. The important thing is the habit, not how much you write.

Build a streak. Keep track of how many days in a row you do it. Try not to miss any days. Especially early on, I found the not wanting to break the streak a powerful motivator for writing – even if it was late, and I didn’t feel like it.

Try using pen and paper. I do most of my journal entries on the computer since I can type fast and get my thoughts out quickly. But pen and paper is more tactile and can sometimes connect with how you feel on a deeper level. Play with both.

Have fun. Each entry doesn’t have to be the same thing. Allow yourself to be silly. Have conversations with yourself. Laugh at some of the things you do during the day.

You won’t always feel like writing. That’s OK. Write anyways.

Be honest with yourself. No one else has to read what you write. It’s just between you and the paper. So express how you feel, even if you’re angry or frustrated. Feel free to vent.

Do it as an experiment. You don’t have to commit to doing it forever. Try it for a week or two and see how it goes.


Are you going to give freewriting a try? If so, let us know in the comments.

Do you already have a similar practice? Share your experience below.