Thinking, Writing and Habit Formation


I set myself a goal last year. A goal of typing a minimum of 300 words a day, every day, for a year. Most of the days, I’d sit there and stare at the blank page, telling myself, “It’s only 300 words, it’s fine.”

I’d stare at the screen, huffing to myself and listening to all manner of weird and wacky songs to try to inspire myself. I’d be going through all of my old (and not necessarily healthy) self-comfort routines. I’d even try to slow down my breathing by singing to slow(ish) songs and every so often, I’d try tapping at the keyboard to see what would emerge.

Shockingly, it worked.

I hit that goal of 300 words a day. I can honestly hold my hand to my heart and say that yes, I did that. The whole process helped me in so many ways, but some of the things that I didn’t expect to learn along the way made me pause and take stock of how I see my life.

Having to articulate my feelings helped. It really did.

I always think in words — pictures accompany the words, but essentially, I’m thinking aloud inside my head constantly — so typing isn’t something that’s hard for me to do.

Apparently, not everyone thinks like this, though — which is something that blew my mind when I first found out.

Let me explain: One day, in the mysterious land of last year…

I was talking to S about my ‘writing process’, trying to explain the current block I was suffering through for my story, and, as I started to explain how I thought through problems he just kind of stared at me as if I were an idiot and said, “Is THAT why you read so slowly? Do you sound every word out…like how five-year-olds learn to read?”

I just replied with, “Well, isn’t that how everyone does it? How do you know what it says unless you make the sound of the word in your head? That’s how language happens, isn’t it? You think the word and then say it?”

His look of bamboozled confusion ratcheted up a notch and he said, “Urm, no…you just know what the word says when you look at it and move on? I don’t understand.”

We successfully broke each other.

I couldn’t comprehend thought without the sound of language, and he couldn’t imagine thinking every word aloud before you can process it.

As a result, learning occurred!

 

The whole situation got me thinking. I mulled over questions for quite a while before stumbling across this doozy:

 

How do we re-discover what’s obvious?

To me, thinking a certain way was just how it was done and trying to think in a different way was, quite literally, impossible. The same went for S. He couldn’t think in the same way as I did…but that didn’t mean that we couldn’t imagine what it’s like for the other person.

It’s something that I find fascinating: Discovering new worlds within worlds…ones that were so obvious that we didn’t even see their existence until an offhand comment forced a total standstill in our lives.

Sometimes, I wonder what else I’m missing? What do I do so naturally that I don’t even notice? What’s that one thing that others would find mind-blowing even to comprehend?

I suppose, for some, writing 300+ words every day would count.

So many people go through their daily lives without writing a thing. Others can’t imagine writing the way I do, and yet, will type the equivalent of whole essays to friends over internet chat. They don’t see it as ‘writing’ though, for them, it’s simply speech.

Those are the people that make me smile.

When I say to them that I write, and they say, “Oh wow, I could never do that!” I reply, “Well, you’re doing it right now!” and they stare.

They always insist that it’s different.

I suppose, in a way, it is. Creative writing comes from a very different part of yourself than a stream of consciousness does.

But the two are linked.

I will always maintain that if you can write a conversation, you can write a story.

It might not be a great story; it could be the worst one ever created…but the very fact that you’ve done it means that the capacity is within you.

The ability to write a story is often described as using ‘the creative muscle,’ and I do kind of agree with that metaphor. It’s a skill, and like any other, doesn’t come as readily to some as it does to others. But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible.

No one wakes up one day and can suddenly write a best seller; just as you didn’t learn to walk overnight either. It all boils down to one thing.

Practice.

It’s something that adults seem to shy away from, and I have no clue why. We tell children to do it all the time but then snub our noses at the idea ourselves. It seems ludicrous to me. How else are we going to grow as people?

I see people all the time wondering why ‘kids today’ are so lazy?

Kids aren’t lazy, they simply do what they see.

They see adults who sit and watch TV all night when they get home from work. They talk to adults who say that going for walks is what losers do and they see people who don’t even bother to try something for fear of failing at it.

Never fear failure: It’s how you learn what doesn’t work.

If writing 300 words a day has taught me anything, it’s that you have the power to decide what to do with your own life. I wanted to write, so I made myself do it. I wanted to improve my consistency, so I set myself a challenge that was long enough and hard enough, that yes, I might fail it. But that was the joy of the process too. Learning to let go of that fear could only be achieved through facing it. The more I talked to people, the more I saw that they set their own boundaries; ones that to me seemed so arbitrary and unnecessary.

So how about this, how about we open our minds a little, one day at a time, and ask each other the basic questions again? Maybe we’ll discover what was in front of our eyes the whole time?

Maybe we’ll find out that we can succeed.

Sophie, signing out.

 

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