On January 29th 2014, I decided to start a journal. My main motivation at the time was to get better at writing. To get better, I’d need to practise regularly. I’m not sure how much improved over that time but I feel that I’ve learned a lot about habits, writing and myself.
1. Consistency is incredibly important
At the moment, I’ve written over 380,000 words. A year ago, that would have sounded like an impossible task. “380,000 words of what? That’s over 1000 words a day!” Thankfully, I’ve shown myself it isn’t impossible. In fact, it wasn’t very difficult.
I’ve only managed this because of consistency. Every day, I sat down and had the goal of writing 750 words. It was a fairly small starting point that could be spread over the day so I didn’t feel overwhelmed at the idea. Then the next day would come and I’d do the same thing again. At the end of the month, I had written over 20,000 words.
When you start something, every step forward brings you closer to your goal. Even if the step is extremely small. At times, the end might seem extremely far away. But after a while, you’ll be a quarter of the way there. Then halfway. Then you’ll have reached it.
Keep walking forward and eventually you’ll get to the finish line.
2. Habits will get easier
Nowadays, not writing every day feels extremely weird. It’s become a normal part of my life.
However, I remember the first weeks when I found writing daily difficult and exhausting. There were days when I wouldn’t want to do anything let alone write. It was out of the ordinary and required a lot of energy.
This process is the same for many lifestyle changes. When you’re trying to lose weight, junk food has an almost seductive pull on us. When you’re trying to read regularly, watching TV feels like an ice cold drink on a hot day.
Falling back into previous habits at the beginning is really easy to do because we’re so used to them. We aren’t used to the challenge.
Getting past the initial challenge of any lifestyle change can be difficult. The first month of a habit change are the days where people give up. Making it your goal to get past the first week and month will mean the remainder gets steadily easier. You’ll get used to the habit and it’ll no longer feel like a chore. You’ll probably begin to enjoy it.
That isn’t to say every day will be easy after a month. There will be some days where you’ll find the habit difficult or even frustrating. You won’t regret pushing past that difficulty as you’ll keep your streak going and later feel empowered by the fact. If you do slip up, that is no reason to quit completely. Just dust yourself off and get back on it the next day. You’ve shown yourself you can make some progress, so set yourself the challenge of doing even better.
The knowledge that habits get easier is helpful when we decide to start other habits. If we’ve experienced making one habit a regular thing, that transfers to other areas of our lives. Going to the gym regularly might actually happen!
3. You can be proud of something
Perhaps one of the most satisfying takeaways from keeping this habit going for so long is that I’m proud of what I’ve done. I can say to myself “I’ve written every day for a year without fail!”
The old adage “The best time to get started was 20 years ago. The second best time is now” holds some truth. Keeping a positive habit going for an extended time is something only you can do. Other people can’t do the habit for you. That’s what makes it so wonderful. It’s a demonstration of concentrated effort and persistence.
Take any goal or project you want to make progress towards. Now imagine you’ve been working on it for a year already.
That’s a lot of progress right? Especially in comparison to doing nothing at all. You’re capable of working on something for a sustained period of time if we start small and take small steps forward. Always keeping the big goal in mind need not be overwhelming if we just focus on what we’re doing at the current moment. Writing 750 words a day is far less daunting than writing half a million words in two years.
4. Writing is human
Spending so much time journalling has granted me the opportunity to make some observations about it. Writing is one of the most beautiful yet difficult ways for us to express our thoughts and emotions.
It’s extremely unlikely we’re going to feel exactly the same throughout the whole year. Spending some time writing every day is an implicit log of how you might feel during that day. Even if you’re not writing about yourself. I’ve observed a lot of change this year with how I approach myself, other people and my days.
I’ve felt extremely happy. I’ve felt at peace. I’ve felt just ok. I’ve been so sad I can barely concentrate on anything I’m writing. I’ve felt a lot of things. You probably do too. Being able to witness that change is interesting and somewhat humbling. At the moment, my health isn’t too great and my feelings of despair has frequently shown itself in my journal. However, the fact that I’m still writing through difficult times shows that I’m able to have a conversation with myself. The habit of writing has continued in the background and is not too dissimilar to the teddy bear we had when we were younger.
Writing is so very human. I recommend regular journalling to everyone.
I journalled on 750words.com. It’s a simple and useful site that logs things like how many words you’ve written and how fast it was done. Unfortunately, it’s limited to 30 days of writing and you have to pay for a membership if you want to continue. If you want any alternatives, just let me know. But, you can start journalling with a pen and paper! That’s how I started :)
I wrote a post on my thoughts of writing every day after a month so if you want to know what I thought at the very beginning, you can read it here.
I’d be interested in knowing your thoughts about habits, writing or this post in general. Do you write regularly? Do you have a habit you’re proud of?