Habits: An Unfortunate Truth

The moment I wrote that 501st word on the final day of my first-ever writing challenge, a wave of excitement flushed through me. By the time I had finished my post and published it, I was on cloud nine.

Had I really done it? Was it really possible that I had written 15,000+ words over the past month? I didn’t know how I’d done it, but I was amazed. As the numbers sunk in, I thought Wow. This is something I can really be proud of. 

Just a month earlier, I had repeatedly sat in my apartment, wondering why I had wasted so much time not writing. I had done everything but write. I had been living in Korea (for the second time) for over nine months at that point, and had barely written anything at all in that time – and not for lack of subject matter. There were a ton of things I could have written about – my travels, day trips around Korea, my job teaching English, or what my daily life in Busan is like as an expat, to name a few.

But I didn’t. I just let day after day slip away, without a trace. No words or stories to remember them by. No evidence that they even occurred. There I was, in a great position to write some original and unique content, wasting this incredible opportunity I had. The voice in the back of my head (everyone has one, right!?) certainly didn’t approve. As each day passed, I could hear it growing more and more agitated with my general lack of motivation and productivity. You’re not always going to be living abroad, with unlimited experiences to write about, it would tell me. Stop wasting this adventure and get cracking!

Thankfully, my routine of avoiding that voice eventually stopped – with the start of the writing challenge.

But somehow, a week has already passed since I successfully completed it. So now, it’s truth time.

Have I written since then?

The short/truthful answer: hardly.

The answer I’m tempted to give: hardly, but…it’s because ___________ (insert every excuse I can think of here).

Sure, being busy or tired or lazy are all reasons why I couldn’t write every day this week, but are they good ones?

No.

So far, I’ve only written two days this week, and I can tell you that after writing for 31 days straight, it feels weird. It feels like I’m shirking a responsibility; like I’m getting away with something I shouldn’t be.

This week hasn’t been completely useless, though – it’s taught me a little about habits. In order for something to truly become a habit, there has to be doing involved. There needs to be some sort of action. Simply thinking about doing something doesn’t cut it. Since finishing the writing challenge, I still think about writing every day. When I wake up every morning, the intention to write is always there, but the follow-through, sometimes, is not. And that’s the most important part.

People say all it takes to build a habit is to do something repeatedly for a certain number of days. Sounds pretty reasonable, right? Maybe even easy. But I think there’s a lot more to it than that. Habits are not just going to sustain themselves, because you dedicated X number of days to them initially. They’re not going to reward you for your good behaviour – unless you put the work in to deserve the reward.

Just because I built up a writing habit during the last month doesn’t mean that the work is going to do itself from now on.

Without effort and dedication, habits can disappear just as quickly as they appeared in the first place.

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Allison Burney

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