Somebody recently told me about a website called “Tiny Habits.” Since one of the main tenets of my approach to working through writing inhibition is to think small, the name appealed immediately to me. By thinking not only large but humongously, so many of the writers I work with create obstacles in between them and their writing.
A writer who is writing the very first chapter of her memoir begins to obsess about how her family will react to her book’s publication. “My aunt will never speak to me again,” she might say. Or, “My mother will be so hurt.” Another writer begins looking for an agent before even starting his first chapter. “I just want to be sure there’s someone out there to represent me.” Yet another worries about just who will publish her book. “I don’t want my book to come out from some unknown publisher. That will feel like a defeat,” she tells me.
Our writing goes most smoothly when our attention is focussed no further than the page we are writing. Allowing our eyes to look off into the distance to publishers and agents and family, is worse than a distraction. When we look so far afield, we create the space for all of our critics to enter our writing process, and we all know just how damaging these critics can be.
While we’re trying to foster a more intimate and obstacle-free relationship with writing, it would be very helpful to think of our writing practice, at least initially, as a tiny habit. This, for several reasons:
First and foremost, the word tiny immediately lowers the stakes and helps us to think small.
Second, the word habit might just keep us from complicating the act of sitting down to write with all our fears and anxieties.
Third, a successful writing practice is actually a habit, an acquired act or behavior that takes place nearly automatically. It’s when we think too much about the actual act of writing that we get ourself in trouble.
Fourth, a habit, once established, doesn’t rely on willpower or inspiration or feeling motivated, all of which quickly lose out to anxiety in all the writers I work with.
Try, just for a week or two, to consider your writing practice a tiny habit, and let me know if this new perspective helps keep your critics at bay.