Feeling pretty good about meditating for 100 days and making it nearly automatic, I decided to see if I could create a second habit.
I was excited about this. If I could start “habit stacking” (also called habit chaining) by making the completion of one habit the automatic trigger my doing of the next habit, who knows what I could accomplish?
A few weeks ago I wrote a post about how I started to find my blog voice. That post covered some of how I formed by habit but I want to give it a closer examination here because the habit lessons I learned were very valuable to me.
After reading Austin Kleon’s “Show Your Work” and speaking to some friends who had benefitted from their own blogs, I was convinced to give blogging yet another try. I was not able to make a habit of it in previous attempts, but with my recent success developing the habit of meditation I felt I may have the skills to keep it going this time.
As far as I could remember, my reasons for stopping in the past were:
- The failure of hoards of fans to show up at my doorstep after I had spent 30 minutes writing a post left me feeling too disappointed to continue.
- The earth began to spin much faster and the days suddenly started to come at me much quicker and finding time to blog became much harder.
- Trying to “get ahead” and write 2-3 posts a day for a few months in case I got behind later just made me feel oppressed and exhausted.
- I wasn’t exactly sure why I was doing it or what I was going to get out of it.
So let’s examine each of these obstacles and how I might address them.
# 1 I had unrealistic expectations of when it would payoff.
Saying that I expected hoards to show up for post #1 is sort of an exaggeration. And sort of not. Writing your first post and having NO one – ZERO people – show up feels incredibly lonely and pointless. At the same time you are not being noticed, you are faced with reality: this is going to take some work. Feeling unwanted and faced with an uphill battle to achieve validation seems unfair and it is easy to hide your head instead of accepting the newly revealed true terms of your mission.
I don’t think I have ever landed myself on someone’s blog who had only done 30 minutes of writing but somehow I expected that people would land on my blog. If you want to be a writer you have to write. A lot.
Despite knowing that other people make this same mistaken assumption, I thought myself immune or special. I love my optimism but sometimes I think it has it out for me.
Solution Part A: Commit to the long-haul or get out.
Solution Part B: Don’t post them to the public until you feel like you have developed a habit that is strong enough to continue through the sound of crickets.
#2 I didn’t schedule something that was both hard to do and easy to avoid doing.
Morning would come and I would think I’d do it in the early afternoon. Early afternoon would come and I’d say “after dinner” Dinner would end and I would think… eh tomorrow!
And that happened most days,.
Solution Part A: Schedule time to do it. If it’s not on your calendar, chances are it’s getting done tomorrow. By that I mean: never.
Solution Part B: Routinize it. Which meant:
- In an environment that is used only for this job. (For me this was going to desk that hadn’t been used in months).
- Make the getting ready process something special. (Having to take my laptop and coffee into that room was friction, but a good kind of friction, like the joy of going through a turnstyle to a waterpark)
- Tie it to the end of a strong habit. (The end of my post-mediation breakfast would be the trigger to start the blogging.)
- Doing it every day. (Paradoxically doing something 7 days a week is easier than 5 days a week.You never find yourself dreaming of “the day off”. It’s just something you always do. Period.)
#3 I tried to start big when I needed to start small. (Also, I expected to fail).
I had not written any blog posts in years. When I tried before, I couldn’t even eke out one a day. And now, due to some delusion of optimism, I was going to go from zero to 2-3 blogs every day. This was a bad idea.
Solution Part A: Start small. Very very small. 1 blog post a day. And no minimum size.
Additionally I was front-loading the work because I was *expecting* to fall behind later. Ack! I haven’t even begun and I know that I was going to start failing in the future.
Solution Part B: Accept this as a habit that I would just automatically do indefinitely and consistently. If that was unpalatable, then don’t do it.
#4 I wasn’t clear on why I was blogging
Maybe I had visions of fame, or maybe I wanted to see if I could do it. I probably wanted people to say “Wow Mike, that’s some great thinking you’ve got!”
A previous attempt at blogging was for The Eureka Room. I wanted people to get excited about project, get involved, help out, tell people, help make it real.
The more recent attempt at blogging was to share my musings and learnings. This sounds possibly good on the surface but it started feeling a little self-indulgent. Troublesome questions like “Why would someone read this?” crept in my head a lot. (My self-doubt used the fact that no one WAS reading it as proof that no one WANTED to read it.)
Solution part A: Don’t worry about Why just yet. For two weeks just write about whatever comes to mind. Don’t get discouraged or expect it to materialize right away. At the end of two weeks do an evaluation of what works and doesn’t work. Given your evaluation and thoughts, do another experiment of seeing what comes in the next two weeks. This is a little more “trust the muse” but I don’t think you can just sit down and reason out the WHY of your blog. You just keep blogging and eventually the possible WHYs start emerging.
Solution Part B: Once you get a few possible WHYs, think about which WHYs to focus on for the next six months or year or so. Consider where each one might get you. Consider which ones excite you. Consider which ones are easy to write and which ones are hard. Are the hard ones hard because you don’t like them? Or are they something you like but you are at a hard part of the learning curve? Consider which ones will be helpful to others. Consider which ones are helpful just to you. If you’ve written 50 to 100 posts you still might not know exactly but you’ll probably have a better idea.