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How to start and stick with a creative habit

June 18, 2020

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Do you have a creative habit you’ve been hoping to adopt? In this post, I share how I began a new writing habit and kept it up for 100 days, and counting!

Do you have a creative habit you’ve been hoping to adopt? In this post, Michelle shares how she began a new writing habit and kept it up for 100 days, and counting! // from Michelle Hickey Design #amwriting #writinghabits #creativehabits

Last Saturday, I celebrated a milestone. Two, actually! 100 consecutive days of writing, which serendipitously aligned with my birthday. I can assure you, the timing was not planned. That would have taken math skills that are beyond my expertise. But it definitely made it feel extra special.

Why I started my writing habit

I first began “writing” my book last summer, in 2019. The quotation marks are because mostly, I procrastinated. I dedicated an entire weekend to writing in February 2020, but that was about the extent of my progress.

On March 4th, I returned home from Walt Disney World where I had been vacationing with my sister and her family. I should note that I wrote exactly zero words during my time there and about 600 words total, in the weeks that preceded. You can see the progress that I began tracking on February 3, 2020, in the chart below.

Do you have a creative habit you’ve been hoping to adopt? In this post, Michelle shares how she began a new writing habit and kept it up for 100 days, and counting! // from Michelle Hickey Design #amwriting #writinghabits #creativehabits

Looking ahead at my calendar, nearly every day in March was filled with a commitment. We were expecting three waves of family visits and were planning to take a trip to New York.

I was excited about my plans (only half of which transpired, thank you coronavirus), but I also didn’t want to put a halt in my writing. Up until that point I had been less than consistent, but I knew that March was bound to throw me completely off track.

Committing to a new creative habit

So I made a commitment: show up to write, every single day, for the rest of March, no matter what the day brings. The first two weeks were challenging. Lockdowns began mid-month. The weeks that followed were worse, as the news and social media began to consume my days.

But through all of it, I kept writing my book. At the end of the month, I figured that if I was going to be home for a while, that I might as well keep going. And so I did. And I haven’t stopped yet.

How to start and stick with your creative habit

Do you have a creative idea that you can’t stop thinking about? Or a habit you’d like to adopt? You owe it to yourself to at least try. If your experience is like mine, the very act of committing to your creative idea will pave the way for you to succeed.

Creativity is very personal, and it is likely that you’ll discover your own tactics to help you see your project through. But in the meantime, here are some of the things that have helped me to stick with my new writing habit.

Choose a creative activity that you really want to do

I fell in love with the idea of writing a book years before I took action. When I realized that I was regularly drafting stories in my mind as I fell asleep at night, and waking with a new rush of ideas in the morning, that it was time to take action. Writing a book was something that I absolutely wanted to do.

There will always be a barrier to entry when we try something new. But when you start a project for the wrong reason, you’ll be doomed from the start.

Some of these wrong reasons might include, but are not limited to:
– someone on Instagram is doing it
– you think it’ll make you look cool
– you think you’ll get rich quick
– to make someone else happy

Your creative project should be something that you want so badly, that you would do it, even if nobody ever saw the finished product. When you think about this creative activity, you should find joy in the process, not just the outcome.

Make your creative habit a priority

I work for myself, from home, with no children and limited responsibilities. It’s a pretty ideal situation for getting things done. Or so it seems. On most days, my plans unravel. Unexpected events pop up, things go wrong, pandemics happen. Life happens. If you don’t take control of your day, your day will take control of you.

But if your habit is non-negotiable, then you get to skip the step where you wonder whether or not you’ll do it.  Writing first thing is what has worked the best for me. Excuses are dangerous, powerful, and seem to grow in strength as the day goes on. There were days when I told myself that “I’d have plenty of time to write later”. Fast forward to me scrambling to get my words in as the clock ticked toward midnight.

In prioritizing your creative habit, you’ll also benefit from the added satisfaction of doing what you said you’d do.

Stay accountable

It’s important to choose an activity that’s for your personal satisfaction, but having an audience is a nice motivator. In my process, I practiced accountability in two ways. First, to myself. The Nanowrimo platform is equipped with a fantastic progress tracker that I’ve used religiously. It has been so helpful to have a visual reminder of consistency.

If your creative activity is something other than writing, you can use a spreadsheet, a log, or even a calendar to keep you moving. Jerry Seinfeld famously used a calendar and “xs” to mark his writing progress. “Don’t break the chain” was his motto.

The other way that I’ve stayed accountable has been by posting daily updates in my Instagram stories. When I began, it felt indulgent, and a bit embarrassing, but it has ended up helping me overcome imposter syndrome. In showing my community that I meant business, I proved it to myself as well.

Just show up

This was the hardest, but also the act that has made the greatest impact. We are not robots. Some days, you just don’t have it in you, and on those kinds of days, my writing suffered. But I was willing to make the investment in writing poorly for the sake of momentum.

Showing up became insurance that I’d show up the following day. One stroke, one word, one minute. Do whatever you have to do to say, “I’m still in this. I didn’t give up.”

Celebrate the milestones

My community, family, and friends have been the ones to lead this charge, but I want to encourage you to recognize your own accomplishments. Our finished products will undoubtedly be the biggest prize of all, but there is always sweetness to be found in the journey.

If you are using some sort of tracker, make note of when you cross a threshold of a week, a month, fifty days, one hundred days, and so on. If you need a little extra incentive, treat yourself! Dangle some motivators over your milestones, to keep moving forward. Again, choose rewards that are important and meaningful to you. It’ll make all the difference.

There it is, creative friends. You have all the motivation you need and there is no better time than right now to get started. I began my habit on a Thursday, five days into the month. Don’t wait for Monday. The day you begin is the one that gets you closer to your dream.

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  1. Brie says:

    Yay to you for seeing your plan through! Best wishes as you continue to persevere in your endeavors. (And happy belated birthday too!)

  2. Dad says:

    Hi Michelle, I believe that writing often comes in spurts, so I think its good to recognize one when it comes but….. your discipline of making writing a daily habit is a wonderful strategy

    • Michelle says:

      It’s been working so far, but the spurts part is absolutely true. On some days, it’s just about showing up and writing a couple of hundred words. Creativity hates to be tamed!

  3. Maureen Dietlin says:

    Hi Michelle, Happy Belated Birthday! Hope it was wonderful! Your post was so well written as I felt it was directly said to me. My newly adopted word for the year (and I say that loosely) is “Action”. Fewer words (ok, not for you….) from my head and more actions from my hands and feet. Actions that show results, not just busyness. I can be very (very) good at staying busy.
    Keep at it, you motivate me with your honesty and putting yourself out here for us to see. Brave you.

    • Michelle says:

      Thank you so much, Maureen! You’ve inspired me with your word of the year. As an Enneagram 9 (sloth), taking action doesn’t usually feel natural. I wonder if you might be the same number. Busyness is a familiar downfall. 🙂 I always appreciate your thoughts and encouragement.

  4. […] 125 days of consecutive writing, the first draft of my novel is complete! In this post, I share the next steps in my book-writing […]

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