Humans, as a species, are lazy. It’s easy to check Facebook, Twitter, email. It’s easy to come home and turn on the TV. Habits that demand nothing of us are easy, and so we default to them. It’s easy to keep a job that we dislike, because it’s habit, it’s what we know.
I broke the TV habit years ago. It was mind-numbing. Now I make conscious choices about what I will watch. It saves me money and I have reclaimed untold hours of my life. Untold hours. Sure, I periodically get lost in pop culture conversations. I have no clue why everyone is upset about the latest twist in Game of Thrones. I haven’t seen the series (although Sean Bean is always tempting to watch). I didn’t read the books, before I started the first, someone told me that the story gets lost in book four. Why would I start it then? Hours reclaimed.
I have read several books in The Dresden Files series. Butcher writes well enough. But then, I made a disastrous mistake; I went to Netflix and watched an episode of the ill-fated TV series. Oh. My. God. So bad. I watched episode one and thought, ok, it’s a pilot, I have to watch more than the first one. Not true. Each episode was worse than its predecessor. I stopped reading the series for a while. I could hear the bad series voices narrating the books. So bad.
Writing is a habit. It really is just that simple, like exercising, reading, or gardening it’s a demanding habit. I try to foster demanding habits, conscious living. It’s not easy. People work to discourage it. I recently obtained a reel mower. You know, a push-mower with no motor. Why? Well, why not! Why do I need gas to cut the grass? Ok, so it’s harder work, but I’ve lost almost five pounds pushing it. I like the idea of exercise, as a concept, but, in the end I don’t feel productive. I like being productive, so I push the reel mower. I am being environmentally conscious by not expending fossil fuels; I’m exercising; and my yard is cut. A win-win. When I suggested that I wanted one, you would have thought I was asking for, oh I don’t know, heroin, access to a nuclear reactor.
We don’t foster demanding habits in the people around us. We have a riding mower. You’re going to do WHAT? Why?
The same is true of writing. I maintain a writing schedule, and by that I mean I keep it in my Google calendar. Actual writing is another story. It’s an under-valued, invisible habit. Oh, she’s on the computer, probably playing on Facebook, not doing anything of value. Oh, she’s just writing, it’s ok to interrupt, she can go right back to what she was doing.
The thing about conscious, deliberate activity is that it requires focus. It’s not interrupted every ten minutes by commercials. Interruption breaks the flow, disrupts something vital, tangible. Removes consciousness.
I find this same level of concentration when reading, and gardening. I was so engrossed in my garden yesterday that my poor uncovered Irish skin was scorched. But, I cleaned the weeds and encroaching grass from around the strawberries, tomatoes, and mints; edged the box gardens; placed solar lights.With my grandson Ryan’s help, we planted another tomato, watermelon, radishes, and two varieties of hot peppers. All of my plants are bearing fruit. It’s focused effort, a habit to care for them. And one thing leads to another. I have moved from growing things to making things with what I have grown.
And making things, that feels productive. I helped to make plants, now the plants help me make food—better meals, slower food, and bug spray, and lotion, and house cleaning solutions… It’s awesome.
I find one habit fosters the next. I am focused about my gardening, and feel more focused in my writing. I feel more conscious, more grounded. I have fewer moments of mind-numbing, commercial-filled laziness. I sleep better at night, my mind is busy—trying to make up for the dullness of my day, my body isn’t restless because it wasn’t active.
And so, after a weekend of gardening, I played with two book ideas this morning and posted them to one of my writers’ groups.
And now I have blogged. Life is good.