The only trick I've learned about bad habits is to give myself a break.
It's almost impossible to change in the moment. But if you break away, think about it for an extended time, figure out what and how you want to change, then fix a future date and prepare for it, that seems to work.
I remember way back when I was trying to quit smoking. I read something about sometimes it's better not to keep failing. So I quit trying to quit, but thought about it, figured out all the mistakes I'd made, then pinpointed a date to make a "real" effort.
I've gone through different approaches to employees over the years, and I've been pretty terrible about it sometimes. So during those times when it all fell apart and I couldn't afford employees, I had a chance to think about what I'd done wrong and to try and correct it. Each time, I've gotten a little bit better.
When I quit writing in 1984 I had so many bad pernicious habits that it was overwhelming. Over the next 25 years I thought about it, tried to figure out how to fix them. Frankly, if I'd come back to writing too soon I probably would have got it wrong.
When I finally did dive in, I had winnowed it down to one rock solid rule: Finish the book before engaging in re-writing.
Once I started writing, I found a freedom to write more often than I'd ever contemplated before. I wrote what and when I wanted, and gave myself permission to "do it all."
So now I think I've reached a point of diminishing returns. I want to take another step upward, but I'm not sure how to do that. So it is probably time to give myself another break, even if it's just a few months. I have actually identified things I should do--researching, outlining, and planning, rewriting--but "in the moment" I haven't been able to install these new habits effectively.
I've written a lot of words over the last six or seven years. Each book has been different. It's often been a case of three steps forward and two steps back. Sometimes the improvements are hard to identify, and sometimes a book just doesn't work. I'm not sure this can ever be fixed.
But I can identify my strengths and weaknesses, refine the process, and try a fresh start. It's a little messy. I have unfinished projects I want to finish. I'm in the middle of a book (See above #1 rule.) But I'm kind of working toward one of those breaks, giving myself time to absorb it all, and come back with a sharper focus.
Friday, December 7, 2018
Changing bad habits.
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