I Get to Write Today

Over brunch, they said to me, “Well, but that’s you. You have discipline. I’m not like that. It’s hard to write all the time.”

I felt that word. “Discipline.” I didn’t like how that word landed in my body. Never do, actually. Too much Calvinism in my family of origin to respond otherwise. The word conjures a punitively big serving of nineteenth century prim self-denial and self-abnegation with a whopping big dollop of shame on top.

Happily, I was feeling centered at the bistro table. So without a struggle, the words emerged for a response.

Reframing Discipline

“I hear what you’re saying, although I’d reframe it.”

“Oh?” They looked mildly curious, mostly skeptical.

“Yeah. I kick up at the idea of discipline. It brings out reactions in me, like ‘make me,’ or ‘I don’t think so,’ or ‘you and what army?’.”

“Yeah.” They smiled. “I do that too. So how do you see it?”

“One day, I get some satisfying writing done. The next day, I am moved to do some more. The day after that is too busy with other commitments. The next day, I recall how good it felt those two days when I got into writing. So I make room for a little writing. It feels good. Time passes this way. Gradually, I store up more and more memories of that good feeling. As I do so, it gets progressively easier to make the time on most days for some writing – even a little bit. It feels good, so I want to do more of it. You can look at it as self-interest.”

“Okay, I can see that.”

“It’s the difference between ‘ought to’ and ‘want to’. Or even, ‘get to’.”

“Yeah.”

A circular diagram entitled "I get to write today" with text and symbols indicating a three-part virtuous cycle: Write / Enjoy / Soak it in. The Anne Carley Creative logo is at the center of the image and the URL for the ACC blog appears under the image. annecarleycreative.com/blog

Graphic by the author

I could tell they were considering this idea. As I watched their thoughtful silence, I remembered another step.

“For bonus points, there’s an extra piece you can add. You can pause at the end of a rewarding writing session. Just stop for a minute or two and take it in. Let the satisfaction sink into your body. Make an intentional memory of this feeling and how your behavior and intention brought it about.”

“Huh.”

“When I remember to do this, I get more than just that good sense of satisfaction and habit-building. Stopping to be present with the moment spreads that wellbeing around in my awareness. Technically, it strengthens the neural pathways even more, so that I’m going to be more likely to keep making the time for writing, no matter what else comes up.”

“So you stop to appreciate the moment, when writing was enjoyable.”

Take in the Good

“Right. It’s science!”

I didn’t get into the details at the restaurant, but I was thinking of Buddhist psychologist Rick Hanson and his “taking in the good” method.

Hanson adds a fourth optional step, for even more impact. “[I]magine that [the good experience] is sinking down into old places of lack or pain (like being neglected or rejected), and gradually soothing them, and giving them what they need. The key is to keep the current positive experience intense and in the foreground of awareness, with the old material dim and in the background.”

A Virtuous Cycle

Did our chat affect my conversation partner’s behavior? I hope so. The next time we speak, I’m going to ask.

Did it affect mine? Yes. It led me to write this piece, which led me to reflect on how useful this recursive process remains for me and my writing practice.

A virtuous cycle with staying power.

A pleasure rather than a list item.

A joy rather than more gotta-gotta.

Aaaaah.

Thanks for reading!
~Anne

PS When you subscribe to the ACC Today newsletter, you’ll get each new blog post like this, as it’s published, including occasional guest posts from wonderful writers and coaches. Here’s where to sign up.

PPS Do you have your copy of my book, FLOAT • Becoming Unstuck for Writers? It’s full of small interventions to help you build a writing practice that you love.

PPPS Rick Hanson’s Neurodharma offers a more comprehensive view of ways to make intentional changes to the brain.