How Breaking a Writing Habit Can Derail Your Entire Creative Process

Gillian Sisley

And what you can do to get back on track with your long-term goals.
Photo by John Jennings on Unsplash

Coming up to almost 4 weeks of post-operation recovery, I’ve had a very humbling experience in learning how weeks of consistent pain and discomfort can make working and being a professional creative a fairly difficult task.

I’ve spent the last year and a half publishing personal essays and social commentaries online almost daily — it’s now my fulltime job, and I couldn’t imagine a job I’d love more than this.

But when they say that it’s easier to fall out of a habit than it is to get into one, they really weren’t joking.

Even for me, a workaholic who has her husband kindly reminding her not to work during vacations and who has trouble cutting myself some slack after major invasive surgery, getting back into the swing of things with a writing routine can be incredibly hard after falling out of habit for several weeks.

But as many of my fellow writers know by now, this is the name of the game. We fall off the wagon, we get back on, and we hold on for as long as we can.

Here are the ways to catch yourself so that you can stay on track in healthy and helpful ways:

Consistency truly is key.

There’s a reason you’ve heard this rule before — it’s damn true.

If you don’t have a schedule or plan, or if you only depend on inspiration for your writing, it’s safe to assume that you’ll have a tough time making a real financial living or profession out of your passion.

That said, not everyone is looking to try and make a living from writing and quit their current day-job, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that!

But for people like me, who once aspired to and now finally does make a living from my writing, high-quality and consistent content production is key to making that dream of financial freedom a reality.

And this consistency isn't meant only for the sake of creating the written content itself, but its bigger purpose is that every time you take pen to paper or fingers to keyboard you’re practicing and improving your craft.

There’s always more to learn and ways to fine-tune our writing skills. That learning journey never really ends.

Each time you sit down to write, you’re investing in yourself and investing in your craft.

And that kind of practice is truly priceless in the bigger picture of your overall goals and writing journey.

Momentum, when lost, is difficult to regain.

Like any habit, such as going to the gym, for example, you’re not always going to feel super inspired to jump out of bed and just get to it.

But when we make a commitment to ourselves, we should honour and take that commitment seriously, to the best of our abilities.

As someone who lives with diagnosed PTSD from a traumatic incident, I know better than most that the “best of our abilities” part means that some days are just going to be a write-off, because preserving our own mental health has to take priority over goals some days.

But that said, despite my mental illness set-backs, I still intend to do all I can to thrive despite my PTSD, rather than letting it control and sabotage every aspect of my life.

Working as a creative writer, which is my current job, is what I consider to be my absolute dream job — and most days I just feel lucky and fulfilled. I’ve built my job to be exactly what I want it to be.

There are still days that I don’t want to sit down at my desk, for a multitude of reasons.

But if I gave into that feeling of not wanting to work when I know I should be? I’d lose momentum at least once a week. And once momentum is lost? For me at least, it takes about a week of consistent discipline to get it back to the point where it feels natural or pretty well effortless again.

And frankly? After having my trauma highjack and sabotage my life for so many years, any day it’s not acting up is a day that I feel extremely lucky, and am determined to make the most of the control I actually have.

Denzel Washington once said that if you’re looking for an excuse, you’re guaranteed to find one every single time.

If you’re hoping to achieve a big goal, then you’re going have to fight against that natural instinct to search for an excuse for why we can’t do something — within reason (remember, mental health has to be a priority).

The bitter truth? Sometimes you just have to sit down and get to it, in any capacity you can.

From there, you will naturally build momentum.

Setbacks are a given, and that’s not only okay, but it’s perfectly human.

Though this advice is meant to keep fellow writers accountable for staying on track with their goals and aspirations of making a living off of their writing, it’s worth mentioning something very important:

Life just happens sometimes, and that’s okay. Be gracious with yourself through the process.

I’m the type of gal who works while on vacation. When I’m not working, I feel a bit restless and useless (recovering from surgery was a real challenge for me, to say the least).

But rest is an important part of the writing process as well — otherwise, we’re on a one-way track to Burnout City.

Apart from my recent surgery, there’s only been one other time in my 2 years of my full-time writing career that I’ve taken an actual, intentional break from writing — and that was when I took 3 weeks off around the time of my wedding.

It’s okay to take a break for major life events.
It’s important to rest after something like an invasive surgery or a significant life trauma.
It’s necessary to give yourself a hot minute to collect yourself when you just feel like getting out of bed is hard enough right now.

The last thing you want is to miss out on the beauty of life around you because you’re too busy trying to write and publish content for strangers on the internet.

The internet will still be here when you get back.

Your words will still matter and have power in them if you write your truth this week, or a few weeks from now.

Stay on track and be intentional with your writing — but don’t dive so deep into your writing that you miss life happening around you.

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