Writing as a habit

Recently I resolved to write every day.

In chapter 5 of Atomic Habits, James Clear advocates creating a new habit as an “implementation intention”: I will behavior at time in location. In the iOS app Atoms he expands on this statement: I will habittime/location so that I can become type of person I want to be. As he summarizes in chapter 2, The real reason habits matter is not because they can get you better results (although they can do that), but because they can change your beliefs about yourself.

The intention I wrote for myself is: I will open Mars Edit and write one sentenceevery day at 08:08to become a better writer

I decided to make the habit small and specific. I had hoped that the simple act of opening MarsEdit and writing a sentence would immediately lead to writing more, and indeed I am now on a 19-day streak of starting and completing a blog entry. By the way, years ago I chose MarsEdit to manage my blogs because this app is MacOS-compatible, because it allows me to write and store my work locally (I abhor overreliance on the Internet and outside services, which is why I almost always go through the trouble to set up my email accounts with POP rather than IMAP), and because the software is license- rather than subscription-based (which is one reason I actually use Streaks for habit tracking, although I do recommend downloading Atoms for its excellent advice).

I decided on 08:08 because it’s at the start of the day and at an oddly specific time. I’ve generally been awake at that time for at least an hour, if not three. In truth, I’ve been counting the habit unbroken as long as I begin writing sometime in the morning. Today, after flying a redeye and having an early morning doctor’s appointment, I’ll still count it.

I decided to become a better writer because this is foundational to my being. It is a superb way to organize, clarify, develop, and record my thoughts. This is especially important now that I am liberated from everyday job responsibilities. During my career as a professor, I was focused on teaching and advising students and on building and enhancing programs. These activities were intellectually and emotionally satisfying, but nearly all of my writing was in service for others. Now that I have the free time to pursue my own scholarly interests, I want to rebuild that muscle of writing for my own sake.

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