FOUR STEPS TOWARD A HEALTHY HABIT

 

Trust in what you love, continue to do it, and it will take you where you need to go.  Natalie Goldberg

I have listened to thousands of clients’ stories in my role as a psychotherapist. It seemed only fair, that after everyone had courageously shared their stories, I should share mine in a memoir.  Once I made this decision, I discovered that wanting to do something and finally doing it are two different things. I just couldn’t begin.

Oddly, in my forty-five years as an active artist, I have never had this problem, and faithfully worked on my art.  Every morning I enter my studio at 9:00 a.m., leave briefly at 11 o'clock for a break, then return and stay until 1 o'clock. I leave feeling both energized and creatively spent. 

"Dragon Fly on Lotus Blossom"                                                         photo: Carol K. Walsh

"Dragon Fly on Lotus Blossom"                                                         photo: Carol K. Walsh

In contrast, making writing a habit was a struggle, except for journaling.  The thought of writing a whole book was stupefying. I wasn’t even sure how to begin. I was puzzled. I pondered, “I have written three other books, what’s wrong with me?”  Of course this was different, because this one would be about my life. 

At first I tried disciplining myself, but each attempt ended in frustration. I even tried going to Panera or Starbucks to write. I still couldn’t write with commitment, only wanting to do my artwork.

 

1. Support is helpful and often necessary to begin any new habit.  

I eventually remembered that when I wanted to develop a running or yoga practice, I used supportive groups.  So I applied this thinking to writing and found great help. I took a couple of writing classes, which then led to hiring a writing coach and eventually joining a weekly writing group.  All of this supportive encouragement motivated me, and helped me focus on small writing goals. It didn’t take long before I really wanted to write.

2. Begin slowly, with small goals.

My support system helped me develop a new approach -- really new for me.  I started with short, well-defined goals.  I began my new writing pattern by writing as soon as I came into my studio.  At first I committed to write only one page on my “assigned” subject during each sitting, but it only took a week to realize that writing one page didn’t feel long enough.  I wanted to write more. So I stretched my commitment to two pages, and eventually increased my writing time to two hours. Before I knew it I was craving time to write.

3. Don’t judge your process or progress.

Natalie Goldberg and her books have always been an inspiration for me, so I made sure to write a la Natalie – that is, to put pen to paper and just write without judgment and without (at first) re-reading what I wrote.  Natalie says: The correctness and quality of what you write does not matter; the act of writing does.                         

4. Give yourself a reward.

After each writing session, I promised myself a reward – I could work on my artwork or photography.  It took a year of disciplined writing to realize I was truly committed to writing a memoir about my recovery from a trauma.  After three years, this resulted in my new memoir, Painting Life: My Creative Journey Through Trauma.

When something feels right, our soul and spirit want more. Then, a healthy habit is born.

Writing is now part of my daily routine. Even though my memoir is done, I am writing blogs and articles, which satisfies my newly developed craving.

If you want to turn an area of life into an emotional, physical and/or spirit-energizing habit, it is helpful to remember these four things;

  • Start with small goals and gradually increase the size.
  • Obtain outside support:  a mentor, class, or writing group.
  • Do not judge your progress or attempts.
  • After each success, give yourself a reward:  go for a walk, call a friend, drink a cup of tea.

I would love to know what habits you have successfully developed and how.  Will you share by clicking on http://www.ckwalsh.com/contact.      

Because I love Natalie Goldberg, I wanted to share one of her videos:

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