First, forget inspiration. Habit is more dependable. Habit will sustain you whether you’re inspired or not. —Octavia Butler

How Do You Get Inspired?

This is one of the most common questions I hear when I speak to people about writing. The fact is that I often get inspired by starting to write. Like Octavia Butler, I don’t wait for inspiration to come to me and, frankly, that means that it doesn’t matter if it shows up or not. The work gets done either way.

It’s more fun to feel inspired, but I just don’t always have that kind of time and I’m sure you don’t, either.

Instead, I rely on my habits. When I sit down at my desk, I always start my day with my writing. That’s how I ensure that it gets done. 

If you’re looking to build a creative habit, the simplest, strongest way to do it is to tie it to another, existing habit.

Stack It

Tying a new habit to an established one is called habit stacking. For example, I know that when I sit down at my desk, it’s time to write. No putting it off to deal with Emails (that’s not the kind of writing I’m talking about) or phone calls. Writing first. Then check the task list.

Back when I was in college, I started talking to my mother on Sunday mornings. Why? Because the long-distance rates were cheaper then and I was broke. I would wake up with my morning wide open, get some coffee, then get back into bed and have a leisurely Sunday chat. We did this every week for more than fifteen years until one of us realized that there were no more long-distance rates and cell phones meant we could talk whenever we wanted.

If you’re looking to build a creative habit, consider what habit you can tie it to. Do you go for a run every Saturday morning? Do you like to read in bed at night? Do you like to spend Sunday morning with the newspaper? Maybe writing could come before or after.

How Long Does It Take?

You may have heard that it takes 28 Days to build a new habit.

That’s a myth. 

The truth is that the time it takes to build habits is variable. Studies show that the speed at which you build habits is directly tied to how often you perform them.

So, for example, if you want to build the habit of flossing after meals, you can accomplish that in a week or two. That’s because you’ll be doing it three times a day. In seven days, you’ll have repeated the habit twenty-one times.

If you want to build a weekly habit—like going for a hike—it will take several months. Why? Because you don’t build a habit by doing something one time. So a weekly habit will take months to build because, in two months, you’ll only have repeated the habit seven times.

But that’s okay! It doesn’t make it harder, it just means that it will take a little longer to make the habit sticky.

So—how often do you plan to write? And what habit are you planning to stack it with? (I send a newsletter every Monday—if you’re a regular reader, you could stack your writing habit with reading these inspirations.)

Fall is a great time to build a new habit to take you all the way through the winter. Happy writing!