The habit of writing, or what Indi taught me

Recently, my dog, Indi, tore open the corner of a plastic garbage bag that I had sealed and temporarily left on the kitchen floor. She smelled some loose flour and was chugging it down when I got to her. Unfortunately, she spent some time choking and gagging on the flour stuck in her throat.

Since then, she has become a hardened criminal. She got into a grocery bag (just delivered by Instacart) and pulled out a plastic bag of tomatoes. She tore open the bag and was feasting on a tomato when I caught her in the act. She is now on the lookout for scavenging opportunities.

In case you’re wondering, Indi is an older dog, a gentle, lovable terrier who has never before engaged in criminal behavior. She’s wild about tomatoes, the crispy ends of iceberg lettuce, apples, hard-boiled eggs and, of course, anything made with flour. In my establishment, she has little access to meat, other than her dog food.

The point is, Indi picked up a late-in-life habit after one rewarding lurch into criminality. She was almost instantly habituated. And my question is, can we as readily pick up (or resume) the habit of writing?

I kinda think so.

My writing habit has always been to write in the morning. At one period in my life, for a long period of time, I got up at 5:30 in the morning to write, before I showered and dressed for work. For a couple of hours each morning, I wrote by hand, sitting cross-legged on the floor, at a coffee table now in the living room of my California family. I wrote my early novel manuscripts that way.

Mornings work for me. Sometimes I continue into the afternoon and evening but I like to start my engine in the morning–the earlier the better. I got up at 3:30 a.m. recently and wrote all morning and into the afternoon. I was, surprisingly, not at all sleepy that day, probably because I was on a creative high.

I have, of course, gotten off track many times. That’s when the writing is hard—-hard to come back to, hard to write when I do come back to it.

Writing on a regular basis is a homely habit. It’s simple, modest (a few pages a day, maybe?), and only rewarding in itself. It’s like housekeeping. You do it; it lasts for a day or so; you do it again. It’s both satisfying and frustrating, since you know it’s only good if you repeat it on a regular basis.

Still, I highly recommend writing as a habit. The more you do it, the better the results. Indi picked up a (bad) habit almost instantly, because it was rewarding. My reward, as a writer, is words on a page, and more words on a page, and so on, until–voila!–it’s a finished draft, on its way to becoming a story or a novel.

Speaking of which, my latest novel, Only Yesterday, is now available both in print and as an ebook. Look for the print and ebook editions at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Other ebook destinations are Scribd, Smashwords, Kobo, and Apple Books.

“You never have to change anything you get up in the middle of the night to write.”
― Saul Bellow

“Quantity produces quality. If you only write a few things, you’re doomed.”
― Ray Bradbury

“There are three rules for writing the novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.”
~ W. Somerset Maugham

2 thoughts on “The habit of writing, or what Indi taught me

  1. Age 16 through 65, I wrote, always, late at night. Ten years ago I started writing in the morning–every single morning, and it often stretches into the afternoon. I agree that morning is the best time to write, if you can.

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