Practice

Connect Your New Habit to an Old One for Success

The key to strategy… is not to choose a path to victory, but to choose so that all paths lead to a victory.’

CaviloThe Vor Game

I hate writing.

But I want to be a writer.

But I really dislike writing.

But I love having written. Let me tell you, whether it’s a clever tweet, a ridiculous filk song, a particularly groanworthy pun, or a blog post or newsletter or story or even, once in a while, an entire book, I find that feeling of creation sweeter than just about anything.

Steven Pressfield would call it “the Resistance.” Twyla Tharp wouldn’t bother to name it, she’d just tell me to stop whining and get to work. And they’re both right. But I’m a clever bloke, and it sometimes takes a lot to trick myself into doing what I don’t want to do but that I want to have done.

I tried a few things – setting aside a part of my day for writing (didn’t work), setting up penalties for not writing (I absorbed them without effect, curse you, Resilience!) and even guilt from people who I respected (my powers of rationalization and busy-ness are formidable, I have to say).

But now it’s happening. I’m in the process of picking out a cover image and editing a fiction book, and my other book, The Defining Moment, is finally several thousand words beyond the Table of Contents and towards a finished work.

How did I do it? I cheated.

Introducing: The Remora Technique of Successful Behavior Modification

courtesy Brian Snelson via Flickr CCOk, it’s not really new, but I do think I’m the first one to include actual sharks in the metaphor. Basically, I took a look at a particular habit I already had that was working. Specifically, this blog: I’ve been remarkably consistent in writing it for well over a year now. I’m not sure why; it’s not like it’s remarkably broadly read, or remunerative (hey, see that Patreon link over there?).

It’s a habit that, for whatever reason, I don’t need to struggle to maintain. It’s like a shark: constantly moving forward, devouring the words I type voraciously along with your eyeballs.

Ok, perhaps the metaphor lost a bit there…the point is, I took the book writing goal and hitched it onto the blog habit. Every wednesday we write a little more, another section. At some point, probably next year, I’m suddenly going to get to the end of the Table of Contents and realize that all those Wednesday blog posts add up to a First Draft.

It’s not the finished product. If my other work is any indication, it’s going to be a lot of work getting myself to edit it beyond that draft. But that First Draft will feel really good.

My suggestion to you this day: take a look at what you want to do. Then take a look at what you already do. See if the two can be connected. It’s possible that it’s easier than you think…

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