When is a writing habit not a habit? When it's grounded in something more concrete and becomes part of you. Habits that support your self-concept and values can strengthen a foundation that ensures success.
Values come from beliefs about yourself and the world around you, and are influenced by your culture, experiences, peers, and family. Values can guide your thoughts, which, in turn, determine your behavior. When your values are clear, the definition of yourself becomes clear. This recognition of who you are can also help you set and meet your goals.
Spending time in support of your values feels right. Although they can be unpleasant to others, tasks like outlining and research can feel like heaven to a writer. Implementing my writing habits seem natural because it reinforces the idea of who I am.
Recently, a student gave me the gift of seeing life not as a line, but a space to establish and support our values. When I look at life as a circle (think pie chart), the focus is clear: The higher the value, the bigger the space.
Draw your own circle, and divide it into the important aspects of your life. These areas might include family, work, writing, exercise, spirituality, friends, and relaxation. The more important the item, the larger the space it should occupy.
When you look at the slices of the pie (division of time), your values become clear. If your values and time spent aren't equal, then adjust your schedule. Once you identify your values, then you can devote more time to activities and behaviors that support those values. Writers will be able to maximize their writing time, and minimize time spent doing the things that just don't matter. And it will feel right.
Mary Horner teaches communications at St. Louis and St. Charles Community Colleges. She recently had a pie-chart epiphany.