Silk’s Post #78 — Quick, what’s the first word that comes to mind when you hear ‘habit’? I’m guessing that you didn’t think of ‘nun’ unless you happen to be one. I’m also guessing that if you’re anything like me (ie: conscientious but sometimes weak-willed), you may have come up with ‘bad’.
Mostly we hear about bad habits because people are always trying to break them. Smoking. Drinking. Bad posture. Sweets. Nailbiting. Gossip. Speeding. Procrastinating. Nosepicking. Whatever. There are too many etceteras to mention. The point is, bad habits always make for lively criticism, whether from others or self-inflicted.
But bad habits are hard to break.
Good habits are increasingly also part of modern discourse. Thanks so much, you do-gooders. Stephen Covey gave us his iconic Seven Habits of Highly Effective People back in 1989, and since then it seems like every doctor, nutritionist, spiritual guru, yoga instructor, fitness trainer, efficiency expert, life coach and writing teacher have tried to inspire us to adopt healthier, more productive habits guaranteed to deliver ‘personal improvement’. The point is that advice about good habits sell books, because we all live in a state of eternal optimism.
But good habits are hard to acquire.
I have no comments to offer on either bad or good habits. I personally have lots of the former and a few of the latter. I’m in a perpetual struggle to shift the balance the other way around and become a person with few bad habits and lots of good ones. So far I’ve had limited success (if you define ‘limited’ as ‘almost none’). So you’re welcome to you own bad and good habits, and let me know if you find the magical formula to change them at will.
But there’s another category of habits I call ‘snuggly habits’, and I think these are at least as important as the good and bad kind.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with these snuggly habits, in fact they’re part of life’s delights. However, they do their part to keep us, for want of a better word, inert.
The reason this is important to writers is that our comfort zone is exactly the place we do not want to be all the time. We need to seek a certain amount of disruption in our lives. Willingly jolt ourselves. Stop trying to be normal day in and day out. Put fun, and quality of life, and deserved rewards aside sometimes … and get uncomfortable.
Sometimes I think we need to break our snuggly habits simply for the purpose of waking up our hunger, our unease, our beastly creative spirit. Change can be a stimulant.
Listen, if you don’t need to write (or fill in the blank with your own passion), that’s perfectly okay. Most people don’t. Snuggly habits are very comforting, and very addictive, and that may be all you need to live a very happy life. Mazeltov. You have my (envious) congratulations.
But, personally, I’m fighting it. I have been for some time now. For some perverse reason, I don’t want to simply enjoy the easygoing retirement I’ve earned, and I deserve. I prefer to torture myself trying to become a really good writer. I don’t want to live in my comfort zone.
But I’m realizing that breaking those snuggly habits is as hard as getting rid of bad habits, or acquiring goods ones. Maybe harder, because no one is nagging you to do it.
So, here’s me nagging you, my artistic friend – whoever you are, and whatever habits constitute your comfort zone – to consider inserting some creative disruption into your life. Change something. Put yourself off-balance. For at least a time, challenge yourself to act like the crazy, driven creative person you could be, at the expense of the much more reasonable and comfortable person you usually are.
Easy to say. Hard to do. I’m going to give it a try, in the hope it’s nothing like sticking to a diet – in which case, I may be stuck in my comfort zone forever.