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Forming and Breaking Habits

I recently went to a conference and used that time to form a number of habits that I was putting off. I worked out every morning, I took walks during the lunch break, I actually took a lunch break, etc. In the time since, I have struggled with keeping some of the habits I attempted to form, but it has given me insight into my own “intention versus performance” paradigm. I have come to better understand what drives me to start something and what keeps me interested in completing or continuing it.

Last year, I intended to write an autobiographical novel, entitled Pastor’s Kid, during the month of November as part of NaNoWriMo, whereby participants race to write 50,000 words with the understanding that just getting started is among the hardest parts of writing. Suffice it to say, I did not stick with it. The Ulysses group that housed the novel has a general outline and about 2,000 words of content. I have not looked back, though the idea is still a good one in my mind and worth revisiting at some point.

This year, I am not officially participating in NaNoWriMo, but I would like to participate in another form. Similar to Ben Brooks’s endeavor two years ago, I would like to write 50,000 words or more in blog form. However, that challenge and goal is not what drives me because the intent is more about forming a writing habit than in getting to a rather arbitrary word-count-based end result.

As I was saying above, I now have a better understanding of myself in how I form and break habits. For instance, I am a nail biter. I say that in the present tense, but I can say that I have not bitten my nails in almost three weeks. Historically, I have stopped only to pick the terrible habit back up again. No matter how many times I have stopped biting my nails, even with moderate success, I have always returned. I will likely always consider myself a nail biter because the impulse will likely never go away.

To be frank, the thing that drives me to break this habit is friends and family, who have tried to help me break the habit in the past. There was always a focus on getting down to why and changing that, but the reason I bite my nails could not be further from my concerns because it is the habit that I would like to break, not some other unknown reason for the habit. I believe it unlikely that I will change something in my life so drastically that suddenly a habit from my preteen years would simply go away.

I have many other habits that I would prefer not to have and some that I would prefer to instill in their place. But the drive is what often alludes me (and I am sure many others), which is why using time away from my daily routine (the aforementioned conference) was a good testbed for trying to find that drive.

I am going to take a different tack, however, in approaching this habit. Each day, I will write under the tag “NaNoWriMo” and Ulysses will tell me how far I come. I will update each post with the total number of words written at the end. I will not reach 50,000, but I hope that I am able to write something each day. Consider this post as “November 1”, even though I am publishing on the November 2.