I’ve read so much about creative habit formation recently that the following information can not be fairly attributed to any one source. However, I know that Agile Lifestyle does very thorough research, so if you’d like more detail, definitely visit his site and hop around.
In my more lackadaisical research, I’ve found one concept in the science that works for me: creating triggers for certain desired actions.
For example, if you want to quit smoking, you probably already have an ingrained trigger in eating or drinking: you want to smoke right after or with the other hand, right? To replace this trigger with your desired habit, you might pull out the chewing gum after you eat, or handle a stress ball while you’re having a beer with friends. This is a good way of taking the desires of the body and retraining them.
We can apply this to the creative habit as Julia Cameron has with her Morning Pages concept. Basically, when you wake up, let thy first thought be Morning Pages: three handwritten pages of whatever you can scrape, or weave gracefully, together–depending on your state.
I have at various times in my life had a go at Morning Pages, but no longer have the habit. Today, though, I wondered to what other activities I could attach such a habit. What is something that everyone does regularly enough that it would be a useful trigger? My brainstormed list:
- go to the bathroom (not much time before or during, however)
- brush teeth (hands occupied)
- make coffee or tea (5 min or so, then while drinking)
- do laundry (yes!)
- wash dishes (while they dry?)
- visit the bank (enh)
- fill up the gas tank (once a month, not often enough)
- pay bills (once a month, but maybe a special kind of writing?)
- empty garbage (might lend itself to a specific kind of writing, e.g. the decay of Suttree’s first pages)
So there was a sample list for me. You might have other things for every day or every week, and those would be the most useful. Now, how to start?
I’m going to choose laundry. Just laundry. You shouldn’t try to do more than one at a time, as that diminishes the brain’s ability to ingrain the habit(s).
Laundry is also a good one because I usually hate listening to the hiss of water and thump-thump of Spin Cycle, so I try to leave the house. This may get me to ignore the noise with a more productive result!
I do about 2 loads a week. I’m going to try to use the half-hour in the washer for a flash fiction story, then the hour in the dryer for a blog post. These will both need to be edited later of course, but editing is not a creative task for me, so here I am simply trying to inculcate additional creative tasks with the trigger of the laundry chore.
I’ll have one chance before I go home for Christmas. I’ll report back on how I do (another handy step in the habit formation literature- accountability partners), so until then:
Images via Harry Potter Wikia