Bad Habits vs. Good

During the first week of my Creative Nonfiction class, I spend a lot of time asking students where they might find themselves writing and under what circumstances. In a notebook or on a laptop? Do they listen to music? Do they need a cup of coffee? A glass of scotch? A cigarette? Complete silence? Prefer to write in noisy coffee shops? In the morning? Late at night? I tell them to buy a cool notebook and pen for writing in class. I bully them (a little) to write every day, even if just for this quarter, as an experiment if not as a burgeoning passion. Naturally I start thinking about such things in my own life, too.

I write every day, early in the morning, in my potting shed (as you know). But I think I could get a little more writing done if I could establish a habit of writing in my office at the college — just a little — every afternoon. As Dorothea Brande says, even the meanest employer has to give you a break sometime.

I’m reminded of my days as a waitress when I noticed that the cocktail waitresses always took their 2 10-minute breaks. One before “lunch” (whenever that fell in their shift) and one after. I asked one day, “Why don’t the rest of us take 10-minute breaks?” “Because you don’t smoke,” the cocktail waitress told me.

If you smoke, maybe you can write while you smoke. Maybe you can just tell your supervisor that you need a smoke, and write instead. Maybe you can tell your supervisor that you’re taking a 10-minute writing break.

Writing is a much better habit than any other I can think of.

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