You’ve probably heard the popular myth that it takes about twenty-one days to form a habit. There are others (like my business partner) who claim it’s more like twenty-seven days. Even then, several studies have shown that there is a big variety in how long it takes to develop a habit, from eighteen days to eighty-four days. Either way, it’s pretty much agreed, in order to form a habit, you need to consistently do whatever it is that you want to become a habit.
That’s one of the big reasons I started writing a blog every day for this website–because I wanted to make writing the blog a habit instead of letting it fall to the side and waste away, which is what I’d been doing before.
One of the only ways to improve at something is to do it all the time. This works for everything–if you want to get better at keeping your house clean, make a habit to spend fifteen minutes every evening tidying up (my mother-in-law suggested this genius idea). If you want to spend more time with your kids, make a habit to sit down with them for an hour after dinner. If you want to become a better writer–you guessed it–sit down and just write a little bit every day.
But it isn’t just for generic things like “becoming a better writer.” You can use this technique to work on small, minute issues you seem to be having.
Let’s say you want to be able to develop better settings. Give yourself time every day and make a habit of just writing paragraph descriptions about the settings in your stories. It may seem tedious at first, but if you make sure you do this every single day come hell or high water, you’ll soon find it’s easy to pick up and do it. Even better, you’ll find your skill at writing settings is increasing.
Similarly, if you want to work more on your character development, you can sit down for fifteen minutes every day just to work on your characters. Again, if you make sure to keep the habit up no matter what, eventually it’s second nature and you’ll start seeing your character development coming more quickly and with more skill than before.
The blog isn’t the only thing I’ve done this for. I’ve used this technique to improve my ability at writing short stories, to increase the time I spend reading books, and even to monitor and evaluate other characters and stories in the movies and shows I watched. Sometimes, when the need for these habits begins to disappear, I let the habits go with them. Other times, I keep them up because I just like them.
It’s different for everyone. You may find it takes you exactly twenty-one days to establish a habit. Maybe, instead, you’re the writer who needs almost three full months before something is so ingrained in your routine that you do it every day. Or maybe you hate the idea of establishing habits so much you’d rather go with the flow and let things happen naturally when they happen. But, no matter which way you look at it, the best method to improving at anything is to do it as often as possible.
What other writing habits do you guys think it’s good to get into? Maybe I should add a few more to my day!