“Habits are things you get for free”

“Write every day. When you write every day, it becomes a habit and you do it automatically. Habits are things you get for free.” – Cory Doctorow, in Lifehacker

Fantastic insight. I think of it often. And it applies to everything, not just writing.

I have literally spent decades of my life wishing I did creative writing every day. Now I do it. It has gotten to be a habit. I do it even when I’m insanely busy with other things, or I’m completely wiped out from work. Just 20 minutes a day, as Cory has said elsewhere. Sometimes even less. But every day. It adds up. For me, it has added up to several short stories, and three novels (one complete, two complete drafts — if you’re an agent or a publisher and want to see them, let me know: mitch@mitchwagner.com).

Same thing with exercise. I went for decades wishing I was the kind of person who exercises every day. Now I do it. I take a moderately-paced walk, every day, even when I’m insanely busy doing other things, or wiped out from work.

Same thing for eating. I used to eat a lot of junk food. Now I eat more healthy foods. I eat lots of fresh fruits and vegetables. When I’m hungry for a snack, I reach for a piece of fruit, or nuts, or carrots, or yogurt. It no longer occurs to me to reach for potato chips. (I do enjoy my nighttime snack of chocolate cookies — but that’s OK. Treats are part of a healthy diet.)

I don’t say these things to brag. I’m just pointing out the power of habit. If you cultivate good habits, they’re automatic. You know longer have to think about them.

Habits are things you get for free.

I have plenty of bad habits too. I’m a slob. I’m sloppy about personal finance. And even my good habits fall away when I travel: I don’t do creative writing. I don’t exercise. I eat a lot of crap. I’m working on better habits.

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