New Habit – On Writing
I’ve slipped into poetry like a nice gray cardigan. It’s soft and it accommodates me nicely. It is loose enough to slouch over the sharp bits, and that makes me feel safe. I can say things in poems that I wouldn’t just… say. The flow of words forms a gauzy filter, I think, and the pain in my words is less worrisome. Lately I find myself wanting to stretch a bit more than that cardigan allows, so I’m taking it off, and writing my narrative when I feel able.
Yesterday I woke in a dark space. You know, when you roll over, feet hit the cold floor, and there’s just this fog? My fog was full of static zings, and I realized I was having an endometriosis flare. It just wasn’t a good start to the day. I shuffled around a bit, with a creased brow and fisty hands. I didn’t rush to find any sort of solution. Eventually the time rolled around where coffee was needed, and with coffee comes my sturdy daily habit- writing.
Over three months ago I began a writing course. The first assignment was to think about goals, and I set one, and it was small.
“I will write 15 minutes, 5 times a week.”
I took a dusty, unworn journal from a shelf. It had been in my possession for years with its lovely ribbon bookmark, and pages edged in gold. The leather was stiff and it seemed to creak when opened. Steve had bought a set of pens the previous week; blue, green, purple, red, black, and pink. Pink! I scooped up that pink pen and I got to work.
The very first thing I wrote in that leather journal was “I am afraid.” Honestly? I still am. I’m afraid of failing. I’m so afraid of failing that I’m afraid of trying. It took a lot of courage to see my fear full in the face, and to extend my hand in an odd sort of companionship and say, “come along, Fear.”
Steve and I both read a lot of self help books. He had read one on habit over the Summer and as I lamented my fear of failure, my inability to instill new habits, he logically pointed out that I already live in a habitual way. That was true. We all live in habitual ways. We just don’t see it. It’s mindless. We get up a certain way. We get ready in a particular order. We react rather than respond. It’s habit!
I found my most recognizable habit to be coffee. Coffee is not an addiction for me, it’s a ritual. If I don’t have coffee, I don’t get headaches or feel foggy. If I miss coffee, I miss myself. I miss a centering experience. I miss this tug on my heart that is a string tying me to generations. Gramma and Mom having coffee. Gramma pouring me a bit with so much milk and sugar. Mom and I having coffee. Mom pouring a bit for my kids with so much milk and sugar. Connection. Sacred. Ritual. I will not skip my morning cuppa. I will not skip myself.
When I decided I needed to write, that I really, desperately wanted to write, I added ink and paper to my coffee, and I stirred.
The first week was tough. I wanted Crushed Candy with my coffee. I wanted to Tweet with it. I just kept redirecting myself back to my leather notebook and my pink pen. I reminded myself of what was important.
The mornings were still warm during that first month. I took my coffee and journal to the back porch. I’d pull the shade down on the swing to keep the sun off my eyes. I’d listen to the birds. I’d sip coffee. I’d write. After a time, perhaps just a matter of weeks, I’d reached the point where coffee and writing were inseparable. A few times I tried to see my coffee behind my journal’s back, and it just felt wrong. By golly, I’d formed a new habit!
These days I write in the mornings with coffee, and I write in the afternoons with water, and in the evenings with tea. My writing goal sat there, in pink ink, and I blew right past it. Now I write every single day for hours. I didn’t set a new goal. I just invited writing into my life and let it expand and fill up the empty spaces.
There are habits that I want to see in my life. I want to habitually hang up the clothes from the dryer, and stop living from baskets. I want to floss more often. There are definitely habits I want to get OUT of my life. I want to stop snapping right into Fight Or Flight when I miss an exit. I want to stop assuming it’s all my fault when things get a little sticky. I want to stop shucking off compliments. Habits are difficult to start, and even more difficult to stop.
I’m going easy on myself this year. I didn’t lay down any sort of goal or resolution. There were no lines drawn in sand. I don’t have a mark to measure up to. I did choose a guiding word for 2014- Adventure, and that is bringing some focus and intention to my days. I’m sure times will arise when I feel the spark of want again, and I’ll indeed set small goals to help me attain new skills and experiences. We’re organic creatures, and we are on our own schedules. I’ll remain open to the old habits that aren’t the best for me, and I’ll be on the lookout for the ways I can seek improvement. I will never give up the habit of writing. I am grateful that I was able to integrate this edifying practice into my life.
Are you in the mind to set a new habit? I have a few friends telling me they are starting writing practices! I want to let you know that you can do it. A writer isn’t something that you are or aren’t. Writing is just a practice. Is there something you already do every single day that you can do with a pen in your hand? Just start! XO
*Let’s throw some words around! January Write Alm prompts are up! Respond as inspired! http://writealm.com/january-prompt-a-day/