Do you rebel against yourself? Me too. Sometimes I have to trick myself.
I’ll decide to do something that seems so good for me. I’ll purchase books and watch webinars and do the research and decide, That’s it! That’s the thing that will change my life for the better!
Then, as I embark upon the journey to make this astounding life transformation… Did you hear the door slamming behind my eternal teenager as she flees screaming, “You can’t make me!”?
Hello, resistance! Not nice to see ya!
Some of us successfully defeat resistance in hand-to-hand combat. Others have to trick her into letting us go.
For the second group, here are my five steps to trick yourself into a creative habit. They worked for me, and I think they can work for you too.
Step #1: Decide on Your Goal
When deciding on your goal, make sure that it connects to your purpose and meaning in a significant way. You want this goal to be something that can get you out of bed on cold mornings or keep you awake when all you want to do is collapse.
For example, I wanted to FINALLY finish my novel. I decided to wake at 5:30 am for a full hour of writing.
By day three of waking at 5:30 am, I thought I was going to die. Thoroughly exhausted in every way, my day job suffered—and I still needed that sucker!
On day four, I accidentally slept in until 6:45 am and felt great all day. No more super-early mornings, I decided. I guess I can’t do that.
I could have stopped there, but my novel! I want to write! Get published! I don’t want to die without finishing all the writing I want to do! When I thought of giving up, my regret laid on top of me like a bag of concrete.
“How can I make my writing happen?” I despaired.
At the same time, with that question, I knew I’d picked the perfect goal.
You’ve found your perfect project the moment you look at your goal and, instead of “It’s too much. I can’t do this,” you say “How can I make this happen?”
The trick worked!
Step #2: Pick One Tiny Step You Can Take Toward Your Goal
“How can I make this happen?” is the right question.
And the answer? Pick a tiny, itty, bitty step to take.
Something that you can’t possibly NOT achieve. This trick shuffles you inevitably toward your goal.
Something that you can repeat each day.
I decided to write for fifteen minutes a day.
That was it. That was all I asked of myself. That was all I could ask of myself.
Fifteen minutes each weekday. I didn’t even make myself write on weekends. Fifteen minutes a day, five days a week.
Step #3: Create a Ritual Around that Step
Create a ritual around that step that propels you into your writing space.
To do this, acknowledge your truths. For example:
- I wake up early, but if I get up too early, I’m sleepy and grouchy all day.
- My wife sleeps late.
- I am at my most creative in the morning.
- I like to get my most important work done first.
- If I move making lunch from the morning to the evening, I have my fifteen minutes.
Mornings, in the still and quiet, promised the best results for me.
Answer these same questions for yourself. What time of day are you the most creative? Are you good at getting things done at the end of the day or do you need to get them out of the way? When will you be least likely to be distracted? Do you rise early or stay up late? Do you have any final or beginning chores for your day? If yes, can you move them to the opposite time?
Now, visualize your ritual. Does it feel possible? Great! If not, tweak the ritual until peace rises in your soul at the thought of performing the actions.
My visualization went like this:
Before I go to bed, I make my lunch and store it in the fridge. Off to sleep!
At 6:30, I rise. Fifteen minutes to feed the pets and walk back into my office. Write from 6:45 until 7. At that point, get up, take my shower (½ hour), walk the dogs (½ hour), eat my breakfast (½ hour). At 8:30 am, get in the car and go to the day job.
Yep. All doable.
Time to set my stage! Make sure everything you need to write is ready to go when you enter your writing space. A working pen sitting on top of your notebook. Laptop in its place.
Now all you have to do is take this same small step, over and over.
Once you start to write regularly, even if it’s only fifteen minutes a day, the words you put on the page will begin to pile up. As you begin to yearn for more time, go ahead and give in. Use a small chisel and chip tiny bits of extra time into your schedule. Too much time at once can undermine your efforts, so go slow. Patience is the key to this trick.
Step #4: Celebrate Your Victory
Each morning, I wrote for fifteen minutes. Done with my step, I proceeded through the rest of my day—so pleased with myself!
For me, the celebration for fulfilling my step was reveling in the work on the page. When I finished up that first day and looked at my word count, I saw that I’d created 50 words. I danced my joy in writing those 50 words all the way to the shower!
Your celebration is the daily manifestation of your victory! Dance, sing, have a cup of that tea you keep for special occasions.
Allow your celebration to proceed in any way that you wish. But make sure to rejoice each time you succeed in taking that step. The continual reward helps you return to do the step again and again—and that keeps you moving forward.
Step #5: NO GUILT ALLOWED.
Finally, here’s the biggest trick of all—we all have those days, a day when we oversleep, a day when we feel sick, a day when we have to get the trash out and the cat pukes in the middle of everything and the dog runs outside and barks at a deer and we spend our fifteen minutes of writing time corralling him back into the house.
But our real goal is that when those things happen, instead of dwelling on our failure for that one day, we put that day behind us and show up brand new the next day. That one day’s worth of failure doesn’t get to seep into the next. Tomorrow, we return to our desks with our heads held high and write.
And trick ourselves into continuing to write every single day that we can for as long as we can.
LA (as in tra-la-la) Bourgeois supports writers, makers, and other creatives to find their meaning and use their creativity to manifest it in the world. And, if they want to turn their creative work into a business, her twenty-five+ years of entrepreneurial experience answers their questions. Writing and knitting are her nonnegotiable mediums, and she can usually be found with a pen or knitting needles in her hands. Find her free guide, “Tricking Yourself into a Creative Habit” online on her website and start writing those words today. She can’t wait to read them!