Written by: Jorinde Berben
Image credit: Jorinde Berben
I’m sitting in my car again, waiting outside the building where my son has his therapy. It’s become my traditional Thursday spot for blogging. I have just about 50 minutes to write, sometimes that’s enough, sometimes I finish later in the day, but I can usually get the gist of a blogpost down.
Today is also the 2 year anniversary of this blog. In my anniversary post from last year, I wrote that I couldn’t believe I had lasted an entire year of writing twice a week, without missing a single post. This year, I could repeat that statement with emphasis, considering the depression I’m still recovering from. Yet, I also gained some insight into the mechanisms that help me continue to write these posts, the stuff that helps me hang on. Since developing habits is tricky for me, it’s worth looking at what makes this one so successful because I might be able to transfer some of those qualities to other habits that I’m trying to develop.
Here are 8 factors that I believe have contributed to making this a habit that lasts:
1. Showing up is all that’s required.
I try to write quality posts, sure, but in order to maintain the habit, not every post has to be the best I’ve ever written. Sometimes, a blogpost is the one thing left on my to-do that I really don’t feel like doing, and I’m happy with posting a quote or a few photos. As long as I show up, I’ve succeeded in my goal to write twice a week.
2. I write about what’s close to me
This is a cliché among writers: write about what you know. I don’t think you always have to write about what you already know. It can be really powerful to write about what you don’t know yet but are curious about, or about what you’ve just learned, or about what someone has shared with you that they know.
Writing about something you don’t care about at all, however, is really tricky to keep doing, especially if you’re not making any money doing it. Of course I think about what you might want to read, but I’m first thinking of what I want to share with you, which makes it easy to come up with topics.
3. I write about topics more than once
There are several aspects to any topic you may write about, most are really diverse. So I’ve written about the same things over and over again. My top tags are ‘emotions‘ and ‘beliefs‘, they encompass quite a bit. But I also wrote a lot about parenting, self-care and made 3 series (Dealing with Depression, The Work by Byron Katie and Healthy Relationship Practices). Dealing with an aspect of something in a single a blogpost makes the texts shorter and more digestible, and also easier to write. This helps curb procrastination. It also allows your ideas to progress, to ripen.
4. Blogging is a non-negotiable
I know people must have rolled their eyes behind my back when I exclaimed in panic at 10 PM that I still needed to write a blog post that day. But this space is my promise to myself, it is where I build my reliability to myself, it is where I show up for myself. My whole life is a history of how I’ve failed to show up for myself (thank you ADHD), and I still often don’t. But here, on this site, I very much do. I’ve made a vow to write twice a week, and it’s become a non-negotiable. Throw in a dash of OCD and you’ve got yourself a pretty reliable system.
5. A set space and time
I’m currently reading Atomic Habits by James Clear (which I also wrote about in this post), and one of the lessons in it is that habits need cues. Without a cue, we don’t even think about starting a habit. A cue can be a reminder on your phone, or a letter you left on your table, but often the most reliable cues are time and place. The fact that I’ve been writing blog posts in my car on Thursdays between 1 and 2 PM is an example. For my weekend post, I have less clear distinctions, but the post has to be published on Saturday or Sunday, which still makes it time-bound.
6. My posts are being read
Accountability is really powerful. Knowing that others read my posts helps me get them out there, although I’m also realistic enough to know that 99% wouldn’t notice if I missed a post. I know how hectic life gets. We do a million things in a day. That’s why it’s such a gift to me when one of those things you do is reading a blog post. When you reach out it lights up my day!
7. I don’t limit myself
This blog isn’t ‘about’ anything really as much as it is a space for things to be in. Sure, there are recurring topics, and yeah, my experiences – and my ego – are a common thread. That much is obvious. But there are also posts that have less to do with me, and there are some that stand out from the rest like poppies in a field of daisies. When I go through a new phase, so does the blog. In the midst of my depression, this was a blog on depression, and when I recently got my ADHD diagnosis, it became a blog on living with ADHD. The fact that I don’t have to conform to something that no longer expresses who I am helps to keep me engaged.
8. I love it!
I know why I write this blog. Heck, I could probably give you ten reasons why I write these posts: because writing is part of who I am; because I love exploring ideas; because this is how I process; because I can help open up conversations about difficult topics; because it helps me connect to people; because it helps me connect to myself; because I get to practice my writing skills; because I love the English language; because…; because…; because…
I’m deeply and intrinsically motivated. Even if there’s a time or two when I don’t feel like writing, there’s never a doubt in my mind that I want to be a writer. With every blog post, I get to affirm the person I want to be, the reality I want to live. That’s very powerful magic, and I don’t think there’s been anything else in my life that I’ve clung to as religiously, except, maybe, for breastfeeding my kids.
I now know (as much as you can ever know anything for sure) that I will never stop writing. How much longer this blog will be the form that my writing takes, I don’t know. For now, it still feels right.
I’m still hoping this blog will be the precedent for many healthy and fun habits I’ll build over the years, but I’m not so sure about that either. This happens to be something I’m completely in love with. Could I ever love healthy food and exercise in that way?
As you can tell, I still have lots of stuff to blog about. Thanks for visiting when you have. I hope to see you again here soon!