The State of the Habit

I remember the good old days when I felt that my voice wasn’t needed. There were plenty of people who were saying important and useful things, often better than I could say them, and therefore I hung up my virtual pen and took a hiatus from this blog.

When I did that, though, I also took a hiatus from a three-day-a-week writing habit. For years I’d spent a good portion of my days either thinking about or writing about things I loved, my perspective on life, and my practices.

My life didn’t fall apart. I’m not depressed, nor am I lost. I am doing quite well, occupied with meaningful work and wonderful people and at least a bit more slack than I used to have.

Still, the practice of this writing is missed – not only by me, but by a few other friends and loved ones who had missed seeing these little screeds every other day during the week.

So we’re back! And I’m going to start off this practice day by talking about three practices that I’m currently engaged in: The Good, the Bad, and the Temporary.


I was a cross-country runner in High School, and while I was never very good, I was adequate, and I grew to love running. In the USMC, though, the cartilage in my knees was damaged and for the most part I gave up running as an impact sport that would injure me further, and I wanted to save my knees.

As I approach 50, there’s another thought: what are you saving them for, exactly? Inspired by a marathon runner I met at a conference, I decided to try to run a 5K (that’s 3.1 miles). My plan was to do the Zombies, Run “couch-to-5K” 8-week program.

Let me tell you, it is a lesson in humility for a cross-country letterman and hard-charging devil-dog to start at “couch” level, but that was where I was at. There was a lot of walking, and a little running, and then more of the latter and less of the former.

I haven’t finished the eight weeks yet, but I did try my first 5k, and managed to make it with only a few stretches of walking thanks to the encouragement of my dear sister. I’m continuing to use zombies as the motivating force behind my runs, and I tend to be out on the road about three times a week.

And my knees? Yes, they hurt, but no more than the rest of my body, and it’s a price I pay willingly for the fringe benefits of feeling more fit the rest of the time when I’m not running.


If you thought that I would have, during the hiatus, lost my dislike of yoga, you’d be wrong. It is still the most unpleasant best way to keep my body limber, and I still am bitter about that.

On the other hand, the above-mentioned aching body tends to function better when I start the day with either Adrienne or Kassandra or, occasionally, Boho Beautiful. Kassandra’s “yin yoga” series, strangely, is my favorite, and my partner gets a lot out of her seasonally-themed videos. I also have gotten a lot of good use out of the CleverYoga travel mat, which is a painless way to carry a good-sized mat through airports everywhere.

I’m resigned to the fact that yoga is going to need to be a regular part of my day for the remainder of my life. Perhaps someday I will learn to enjoy it. Instead, for now, I enjoy having done it, and that needs to be enough.


I’ve attempted National Novel Writing Month five or six times, and completed it three times. The goal, if you’re unfamiliar with it, is to write 50,000 words in the month of November. The most valuable tool I’ve found for this is the same thing I’m using right now to write this: Ulysses, a writing application. Aside from providing me with a nice focused writing environment, it also has publishing features (if you’re reading this on Medium, thank Ulysses).

I’m on track to make my goal without much stress — and in a way, that makes me feel a little like I’ve cheated. The idea of NaNoWriMo is “quantity over quality”, and the power of the exercise is to get past the idea that you can’t write a book. You prioritize the time, and you get the word count done.

Thing is, I already know I can write books. Three novels and two non-fiction books proved that. What I’ve not proven is that I can write a good book, or that I can take the time to polish what I’ve written so that it actually seems good to me. And that’s the frustrating part of this month: getting the word count is not a problem, but what I’ve got is a bunch of pieces of a story without the thread to bind them together. Luckily, January is National Novel Editing Month, and perhaps I can use something like the Story Grid to turn them into something readable.

The Unrealistic List

Steven Pressfield named the combination of Imposter Syndrome and Procrastination that stifles our creative pursuits “the Resistance.” I happen to use that word in a different and positive context these days, but he’s right that the repression inherent in our systems is insidious. One of the best ways my own brain tries to keep me from doing these habits is by suggesting other things for me to try. In no particular order, here are practices that interest me:

  1. Dance (of any kind)
  2. Ju Jitsu (hey, if I can ruin my knees running, why not doing BJJ?)
  3. Sketching
  4. Programming, especially white-hat hacking and security
  5. Playing guitar
  6. Film making
  7. Meditation (yep, fell off that wagon)
  8. Journaling (that one too)
  9. Reading dead-tree journalism
  10. Bookbinding

Now, any time you ask a personal development blogger why you don’t have enough time to do all the things you want to, their first question is: How much TV do you watch? And it’s true, I do enjoy watching TV, and also spend more time on social media than I’d like. But what the bloggers never tell you is that if you do give up on TV and social media and replace them with those activities you dream of doing, you will end up exhausted.

The reality of being an adult is recognizing that time and energy are limited, and making choices based on that. It can be hard to live with them, and that’s a great thing to talk about in a future post.

Meanwhile, what are your current practices? How are you enjoying them? And what would you like to do more of?

1 thought on “The State of the Habit”

  1. We love you and miss you Gray!
    Congrats on re-jumpstarting your creative process. We’re listening.
    Yes, I hear you about starting back at “couch” it sucks.
    – Bus and Pink (Formerly of SF, now of PDX)

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