BRENT STOLLER

Writer. Advice giver. Peanut butter and chocolate enthusiast.

My Struggle to Build a Life-Changing Habit

Typewriter on a desk with a blank sheet of paper

Several years ago, when I was just getting started as a writer, I received one of the best pieces of advice from someone who already was one.

This guy, whom I viewed as a mentor of sorts, asked me rhetorically, “Why do you write?”

“You write,” he continued, “not because you want to become famous, or to get a bunch of email subscribers, or even to make a lot of money.”

“You write because you have something to say.”

Honor the purity of the process, he reasoned, and the results will follow.

Today, I have nothing to say.

Yet here I am, writing anyway.

Back in May, I took on the challenge of publishing an article every day for 100 consecutive days.

Given my affinity for doing nothing, I knew this wouldn’t be easy, nor would it come naturally.

But I’ve wanted to write more consistently, and I figured my only path to success was one lined with structure and accountability.

I figured right. And after completing that challenge, though I’ve begun taking weekends off, I’ve remained committed to the spirit of that schedule.

From the beginning, as much as I’ve feared not being able to write quickly enough, my bigger fear has been that I wouldn’t have enough to write about.

I don’t have the nerve to discuss politics and current events, and my life just isn’t that interesting.

Would I be capable of constantly coming up with (compelling) topics?

That’s the question that’s hung over me.

And thankfully, while not every topic’s been a winner, the answer has been yes.

Until today, of course.

As I’ve done all along, I’ve been thinking about what to write next since I published my last post.

At the grocery store, on my commute, while dragging the trash out for pick-up — my eyes and ears have been open. My mind hasn’t stopped churning.

In general, this process has gotten easier; the more I write, the more in tune I am to potential ideas.

But over the last 24 hours, it’s been a slog.

I’ve observed, and I’ve brainstormed, and I’ve procrastinated, and…nothing.

Whenever I’m stuck like this, the only way out I’ve found is to ask:

What am I dealing with right now? What am I struggling with? Is there anything from my current situation I could use to illustrate a larger point?

Thus, you’ve ended up reading a post about how I have nothing to write about.

For every article I publish, my goal is to provide value to the audience.

And while I’m hoping you’ve gained something from this behind-the-scenes look at my inadequacy, my goal for this article was more selfish:

I wrote it because I needed to write.

I needed to go through the mechanics of putting together a story. I needed to sit down, start something and finish it.

For no other reason than for the sake of doing it.

This morning, as I grasped for ideas that never appeared, I noticed a greater threat on the horizon.

Yes, I was frustrated at my lack of creativity.

But I was also almost relieved by it, in the same way the D-minus student is relieved when the test he didn’t study for gets postponed.

There was a part of me that was thrilled I wouldn’t have to sweat and stutter through sentence after sentence, that I’d be free to screw around and unproductively read about Texas Longhorns football.

This wasn’t a good thing.

It’s been my experience that it takes far less time to break a habit than it takes to build one.

Which is why the second I sensed mine bending, I had to step in.

But whether I solidified this habit or simply delayed its demise, only time will tell.

Let’s hope that next idea comes to me before I find out.

 

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