I’ve heard it said that for every break you take from writing, it takes ten days to get back into the habit.
Ten days seems to be a popular truism. Everywhere advertisements promise you can lose weight or quit smoking in just ten days. Maybe there is some truth to the ten-day rule–or maybe it just looks good in print. After ten days of not running you lose muscle. I guarantee if you don’t go to work in that time span you won’t have a job.
There is a fallacy to the ten-day rule. Ten days is hardly enough time to form a habit. If forming habits could be done in a snap, we’d all eat well, exercise, show up to work on time, take our vitamins, and we’d never lose our keys. Another popular truism is the twenty-day rule, which my boss is a firm believer. Instead of ten days, this rule promises you can form a habit in twenty days.
It’s more beneficial to know how to make and keep a habit than to know how long it takes. For starters, you must first have a goal. This is the big picture you want to achieve. Without a goal, you won’t have the motivation to keep going. Do you want to publish, write a trilogy, become a best-selling author?
Second, you must complete smaller task that will help you achieve the major goal. With writing, it’s simple: WRITE. Set a quota. It can be pages, wordcount, or time limits. Let me just start by saying, you don’t need to write for hours, or give up an entire day (As much as we’d like to have an entire day to write). Even ten minutes a day counts. If time is the real issue (not browsing the internet, checking Facebook, and posting on Twitter) start by writing ten minutes every day. If you have more time, write for 20-30 minutes. I always shoot for no less than an hour. In that hour, I may only write a paragraph (or a sentence on really bad days), but it all adds up.
Taking a day off here and there isn’t that detrimental, but significant lapses will set you back. Real life example/cautionary tale: I haven’t written since April 28th. If I do my math (let me just take off my shoes), I’ve taken roughly two weeks off. When I opened my word document I had to go back and read a few pages to find where I left off. Not only that, but it took me forever to start writing and what I did write is cringe-worthy. The process of getting back into the flow looked something like this.
Let’s face it, your writing will suck after a break. It’s like when you return to work from vacation and it takes a day just to get back in the flow.
So let’s say you’ve missed a day, a week, a month, or a year (it happens), it’s never too late to start writing again. So whether it takes ten or twenty days to get back into the flow, it all begins with day one.