Building a habit: A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step

When it comes to building a habit, consistency is self-reinforcing.

As I walked to the gym today, I noticed how important it was that I was simply going to the gym at all.

Because this is a habit I’m working to newly reestablish in my life, I want to make sure I create a solid routine of going to there on a regular basis. Not easy for someone who has excuses about a million other things she “should” be doing. (Sounds an awful lot like what I used to say about writing. Ahem.)

It dawned on me that in some ways it doesn’t matter how much I work out or what exactly I do for exercise — at least not at these beginning stages — as it does that I am there and exercising at all.

First get the habit in place

This is exactly the same principle we use in my Writer’s Circle.

We ask our newest writers to focus primarily on first building the habit of checking in regularly on the site and noticing what happened around their writing, whether they did it or not.

There such deep power and information in that noticing. It’s the power to refine, hone, and improve. To make something actually work.

This is true with all endeavors that generate resistance, like taking action to build your business, practicing your art everyday, prioritizing your personal growth work, making your spiritual practice a priority, etc.

Do it as early as you can

And very often, it involves making sure you do the hard, scary thing first, before you have a chance to think about it.

That’s why I write before I’m even fully awake, and before I do anything else.

That’s why I frogmarch myself to the gym directly after I take my son to school, because I know I won’t get there otherwise.

We have to be smarter than our extremely tricky, slippery selves that would rather go along with the same-old, same-old than try something new, grow, or rise into being all of who we are here to be.

Interestingly, building those habits makes overcoming the resistance in the long haul much, much easier.

And of course, it begins with a single step.


Your turn

Share your thoughts. I always love to hear from you.




Coming Attractions

~> May 1st to June 5th. My new Spotlight Study Group for sensitives, artists and hermit types who are ready to take their call to the spotlight more seriously and clear up the obstacles getting in their way.

> June 7th. Last day to register for the next 4-week session of my “Just Do The Writing” Accountability Circle. This is for writers who want help staying on track and consistent about doing their writing, day in and day out.


What I'm Up To

~> New! I’m now doing some mentoring work with Chris Soth through ScreenwritingU. We had our first meeting today, and it was outstanding.

~> Fall. Heading to Hollywood for a ScreenwritingU event to meet with producers and agents.

~> Sacred writing time. Early mornings and Fridays.

~> Just reading Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire to my boy. Now we’re starting in on The Incredibly Awesome Adventures of Puggie Liddell, Tesla Time, Book 1 by Karen Mueller Bryson.



What are the hallmarks of a serious writer?

I recently read a wonderful article on by John Buchanan called, “Work Habits of the Pros,” that inspired this post.

1. Write consistently.

A serious writer knows that writing regularly and consistently is key to their future success.

Buchanan’s article cites screenwriter Craig Mazin (The Hangover II, Scary Movie 3, Scary Movie 4) as saying, “Work habits are as important as talent. You can’t really make it with just half of the equation. The basis for a long career is to be able to have some modicum of talent, but to have a good work ethic.”

From the same article, Pamela Gray (A Walk on the Moon, Music of the Heart, Conviction), says, “It’s more important for me to write for 15 minutes a day, six days a week, than to write for five hours on Monday and not work again until the following Monday.”

Surprisingly, it’s much, much easier to write in short “sprints” on a day basis than it is to find big massive chunks of time to write. The principle here is consistent, regular writing in small bite-sized pieces.

Many writers believe that they require a lot of time to “gear up” into writing mode, but interestingly enough, when your work stays fresh in your mind with daily writing, it only takes moments to get back into it.

2. Know how to navigate the sticky waters of the inner side of writing.

Writing is a tricky business.

Also from Buchanan’s article, Craig Mazin says, “…writing is a hard thing to do. It seems as simple as tapping on a keyboard, but it’s not. It’s difficult, both emotionally and physically,” and “[There’s] a whole other level of coping mechanisms you have to have, or quickly attain, just to keep yourself sane and writing.”

I recommend that writers objectively consider the negative messages they’re telling themselves about their writing on a daily basis, and then positively reframe those messages.

Although it might seem a little daunting to confront those inner demons head on, there’s a great deal of power in taking a clear look at what you’re telling yourself. We don’t often do so, and it’s usually a bunch of malarkey. Pausing to truly pay attention takes the power away from those harsh thoughts that are ultimately getting you nowhere.

3. Realize you’re in it for the long haul.

Not only is a serious writing project like a book, novel or screenplay a lengthy undertaking, it’s worth thinking of it as a marathon, as Erik Bork does (From the Earth to the Moon, Band of Brothers).

As such, pacing yourself is key. Don’t press yourself so hard or set such high and unrealistic goals that you burn yourself out. 

And not only do you have your current big project on the hook, a serious writer usually has a library of projects she’s working on. So it’s not just NOW; it’s about building a habit that works in the long term.

Look to find your natural stride and stick with it — you might even get a second wind.

What would you add to this list?

Do you consider yourself a serious writer? What would you add to this list? We’d love to hear from you in the comments.


“The Writer’s Circle is perfect for anyone who has the dream to write but somehow never gets down to it.”

“If you have trouble finding time to write, this is for you. If you’re skeptical, try it for a month. What I love most about the Writer’s Circle is the support of everyone and their massive attacks on my self-doubts.  The telephone calls are extremely inspiring and I appreciate having to report every day and set goals. I feel much more committed to writing daily and pressing on to finish the first draft of my novel — I wrote almost 20,o000 words of my novel in just 3 sessions. I am more able to put aside doubts that can stop me and I’m better at setting priorities so the writing gets done. I would say this is perfect for anyone who has the dream to write but somehow never gets down to it. It works if you commit yourself to reporting in every day and doing some writing just about every day. If I can just keep it going, I’ll be very happy. Building up confidence takes time.”
~ Fredrica Parlett, Writer and Pianist


How to make writing a whole lot easier

To celebrate the start of the next session of my Writer’s Circle this coming Monday, I’m sharing a free series on “How to Find the Courage to Tell the Stories You Are Longing To Tell.”

Today’s fourth and final post completes the series with thoughts on “How to Make Writing A Whole Lot Easier.”

  • To read the first post in the series, “Why It Requires Courage to Write”, click here.
  • The second post, How to Spot the Stealthy Smokescreens that Stop You From Writing, is here.
  • Yesterday’s post, “How to Find Your True Stories”, is here.

How to make writing a whole lot easier

It can sound like the easiest thing in the world to write. But when it comes to sitting down and facing the blank page, writing can be downright terrifying. Perhaps surprisingly to some, it takes a lot of courage to overcome all the fear, self-doubt, stories, and resistance to making it happen.

What I’ve seen is that when you take action to do the following things for yourself, writing becomes much much harder NOT to do. And that makes it SO much easier.

  1. Find peer support.

    Connect with other writers. Be part of a community. Live and breathe writing and talk about it with other people who are actively engaged in writing and are firmly committed to their writing, come hell or high water.

    Personally, I’m part of several writing communities, including my online Writer’s Circle, my screenwriting class, and the online Scriptchat community. I make it a priority to hang out with writers who are writing regularly — and not just talking about it.

  2. Create social accountability.

    Give yourself public deadlines and set public goals to use the tool of social accountability. When other people know you are promising and intending to do finish your writing project by a certain date and you know they are watching, it’s a LOT harder not to do it.

  3. Create solid writing habits.

    Make yourself a writing schedule, use a timer to write in sprints, start early in the morning or write late at night — what matters is that you write and that you write regularly. And by the way, regularly means as close to daily as you can muster (my preference is 6 to 7 days per week).

    Writing regularly, and sticking to it, surprisingly makes writing much, much easier. Back in the days when I used to write my newsletter on a monthly basis, it felt like scraping my fingernails over a dry chalkboard just to get myself going. But now that I’m blogging on a weekly basis and screenwriting on a daily basis, I find that I’m always running article ideas and story lines through my mind, which makes it oh-so-much easier to jump into when the writing clock chimes at 6 a.m. (actually it’s 5:45 a.m. these days, but who’s counting?).

  4. Have a willing spirit of adventure.

    Enjoy the ride — have a willing spirit of adventure. Writing is an up and down journey. I LOVE it, AND, there are days when I feel like being run over by a truck might be a little bit easier. Thank goodness I have my writing communities to cheer me up on those days. Ride the highs and surf the lows, knowing you’ll make it to the other side.

  5. Be deeply honest with yourself.

    You want to write, right? Be honest with yourself about that and what it will cost you if you don’t write. Also be honest with yourself about how scared you are to do it and about how you are creating obstacles to your writing. Only then can you face and overcome them.

  6. Make a commitment to write.

    Decide, right now, that you are going to write, no matter what. Then do it.

    Make a “Life Decision” about this, as Dr. Phil calls it, to follow your dream of writing. Once you’ve made that decision, there’s no turning back. Stop dipping your foot in the pond of your dream and start making it a reality. There’s no way to do it but one step at a time, even if it’s two steps forward and one step back for a while.

  7. Have the courage to write regularly.

    Having the courage to write means doing it without fail, even in the face of fear, self-doubt, and those savage attacks by your inner critic telling you that you won’t succeed.

    One day when I came home from dropping off my son at school, I realized that I was terrified to work on the next scene in my script, and I felt like I was frogmarching myself to the guillotine as I approached my computer. I said to myself, “I see you, fear, and you cannot stop me. I can at least write out the scene heading. I can at least chose the characters for the scene. I can at least brainstorm what I’d like to see happen.”

And with a little coaxing and a lot of courage, I was off and writing.

This concludes our series on How to Find the Courage to Tell the Stories You Are Longing To Tell.” If you enjoyed the series, I’d love to hear from you in the comments on my blog. Thanks for reading!

About the Writer’s Circle

I inspire writers to find the courage to share the stories they are secretly longing to tell but are afraid won’t be heard or welcomed. If you’d like company on your writer’s journey, I want to invite you to join the next session of my “Just Do The Writing” Accountability Circle, which starts this coming Monday, February 20th. In the Writer’s Circle, you’ll find all the peer support and accountability you need to have the courage to write regularly.

Registration closes TODAY, February 16th.

Find out more and register here:

“I’m now working on a manuscript that has haunted me for 5 years…and there’s nary a chain rattle anymore.”

“This Writer’s Circle is such a wonderful experience, and it’s changed the way I look at writing…in a GOOD way! I’m now working on a manuscript that has haunted me for 5 years…and there’s nary a chain rattle anymore. I’m finally putting myself and my writing on the priority list. I’m also excited and inspired by the sense of community with other writers that was wholly lacking from the rest of my life. If you’re looking for help with your writing, join the Writer’s Circle now!”

~ Terri Fedonczak, Certified Martha Beck Life Coach,