Today I’d like to talk about how I accidentally trained myself to be able to sit down anywhere and just start writing.
I say ‘accidentally’ trained myself because I didn’t go into it with the idea that I would come out able to plop down anywhere from a coffee shop to a bus, pull out my laptop or notebook, and just start writing wherever I left off. I realized later that was what my habits were training me for.
I decided I wanted to be an author in the 6th grade. So I invested in some nice pens (I was fond of Pilot Precise V5s back then) and several single subject college ruled notebooks. I started writing down stories. Sometimes the scene would start in the middle, sometimes at the beginning. I numbered each segment so I knew when I started a new scene or piece without having to waste lines in my notebook.
This practice continued into high school. I graduated to 5-subject notebooks, each numbered so I knew what order I’d filled them in. In middle school I wasn’t as confident about my writing and being a writer, so I mostly did my writing at home.
That changed in high school. I brought my current writing notebook with me absolutely everywhere.
I wrote between classes. I wrote whenever I had free time in class. I wrote at lunch (and have the food stains to prove it). I wrote on the bus while everyone was still boarding after school. If an idea was really pushing at me to be written, I sometimes even wrote while the bus was moving. Legibility was a little hit or miss sometimes, but I got the writing out.
This habit followed me home.
I wrote standing at the counter while watching dinner cook. I wrote on commercial breaks on the rare occasion I had time to watch TV. I wrote with whatever time I had left after homework before bedtime, even if it was only five minutes. And sometimes, I wrote long after my lights were supposed to be out, even after getting dressed down about it by my parents. I wrote in the five minutes between breakfast and needing to leave to catch the bus. I wrote at the bus stop (with gloves if needed).
So when I went off to college and found I was so busy I barely had time to write, I continued this habit. I would bring the notebook with me to class and write before the teacher arrived, or during lunch again. I was used to writing where it was noisy and there were plenty of distractions. I tuned them out. I’d trained myself over four long years of high school to focus on what I needed to and exclude everything else.
When someone asks for advice on how to get into their writing headspace faster this is all I have to offer them. This is how I did it, even if it was an accident. Any new writing habit you want, you have to work on it. Sadly, that really is the only secret I have to offer.
What advice do you have for someone trying to develop their writing habits?