How long does it take to build a daily habit? It depends what kind of habit it is.
There’s lots “out there” on how long it takes to build and sustain a daily habit — 21 days, 40 days, a lifetime.
At the beginning of the year I set my intention that 2020 is the year I write the book that’s been running around my mind for a decade. As far as habits go, writing a book is a complex. First of all, if you don’t write, the book won’t just happen.
I found out very quickly that the book I want to write — a memoir inspired by my tumultuous experience in the self help community — is a whole different kind of writing.
It’s not the same as writing these Daily Letters, or podcast show notes, or emails to my list, or in my journal — although that’s getting closer.
Memoir writing requires focus, patience, and total immersion in the past. It’s been an exercise in designing my environment to have space for this to take place. It didn’t happen overnight. Quite the opposite.
Getting to the point where I’m writing for my book every day took six months.
Here’s a birds eye view of the timeline and what it has been like to establish the daily book-writing habit during the upheaval of the pandemic:
- December – January: Got my technology under control. Installed all updates, made sure Scrivener was syncing on all my devices
- December: With visions of writing in cafes dancing in my head, I upgraded my tablet.
- February through July: Took Seth Godin’s The Creative’s Workshop, an online experience designed to get you creating every day. Experimented with morning and evening writing to see what works best.
- Late February/ early March: I wrote most days on my iPad, even though I was on vacation.
- mid-March: Do I even need to say anything about mid-March 2020? Writing most days provided a pleasant escape – as long as I kept it light!
- late March: Apparently a pandemic wasn’t enough disruption to really put me and my book to the test. I developed an epic eye infection for which no help was available. Kept writing some days.
- April: Limping along on all fronts.
- Throughout May and June: Finally, some relief for my eyes. Able to write most days again. Starting to realize that I am happiest when I am writing for the sake of writing, not writing for a particular business goal.
- July 1st: I shared what I wrote for my memoir on July 1st and it was so revealing that it put me over the edge. I have kept writing daily ever since.
- As of today: I have a healthy daily streak of 20 consecutive days going. Mysteriously, I have changed from someone who is apathetic about the idea of streaks, to thinking streaks are the best! I will now say “No” to anything that interferes with my precious streak.
The practice is what changes you.
The practice of committing to daily writing has fundamentally changed me. That timeline is a bird’s eye view of my practical experience. It doesn’t even begin to touch what has shifted on the inside. The gritty daily work has shown me what is possible in the most chaotic of times. Doing it with a community has fundamentally shifted how I will guide and lead in the future.
Whether it’s writing, or running, or eating more greens on the regular, we don’t know what’s coming on the first day, the thirtieth, or the hundredth. It’s what happens in the practice that has the potential to be transformative.
One size never fits — not for shoes, and not for the practice of a daily habit.
Why this photo?
There’s no better example of the effects of the passage of time and commitment to developing a skill than the photos I took of The Subway. I wrote an entertaining piece about the lessons learned when all that is met with a harrowing hike. Looking for a laugh? You can find it here.
📷 The Subway, Narrows of the Left Fork of North Creek Canyon, Zion National Park, Utah, 2007