Saturday, January 31, 2015

Sixty Days: Making Writing a Habit

To be entirely honest, I probably wouldn't have realized the milestone if it wasn't for a student's inquiry this week.
"Ms. Guerrette, how's YOUR writing coming along?" was the question he quietly asked me during an unusual moment of calm in our writing workshop. 
"Oh, I'm still writing," I answered, my mind jogging for where this out-of-the-blue question had come from. "Thanks for asking!" I was reminded, yet again, that they are always watching. 
Then came his explanation. "I was just wondering. You must be behind on marking your chart."
The chart in reference is the Don't Break the Chain calendar that hangs on the bulletin board near my desk with other "about me" items: my mission statement, quotes I try to live by, a picture of story time with my nephews. And he was absolutely right. Somewhere back in the middle of January, I had fallen behind on crossing off my writing days.

But I had not fallen out of writing. 
And that...that was what I celebrated as this week drew to a close. I successfully maintained my commitment to writing for 30 minutes daily through a second month. Writing daily is becoming a habit.

At the end of December, I celebrated my success with this goal. It was my longest string of uninterrupted time. More important than the uninterrupted string though, I had succeeded in carving out time to write regularly. My previous efforts had started well, but been derailed by variations on the litany of excuse making for why I couldn't fit writing into my world.

At the end of December, I had some decisions to make about my goal. I had uncovered an idea that was nagging at me, it needed more of my attention to develop. But I was also afraid that my very new success of writing daily would take a hit if I restricted my writing to only this one "project." I need my writing time to be flexible enough that I can go where I need to when I sit down with my notebook and pen.

So, I kept the same overarching goal for January. I wanted to continue my commitment to find 30 minutes to write daily. And I threw in a few other measures, too. Instead of limiting the focus of my writing, I listed four specific writing "tasks" I wanted to complete in the month of January. These would be my measures of success: maintaining my daily commitment and accomplishing these smaller writing goals within the time frame of January.

I did it. Mostly.

One of my four writing tasks was to resume my Monday posts as part of the It's Monday, What Are You Reading? meme. I posted most Mondays in January, but this past Monday, I skipped. It weighed on me all week. And it means I didn't *exactly* accomplish my goal. But, that's awfully darn close. In addition to the writing tasks I had outlined, I began a blog series about our whole-school community reading project (OES Reads), posting almost weekly with updates. My blog saw more posts in January 2015 than any other month since I started blogging.

Being able to say I met my goal feels good, but I've been thinking about more than just accomplishing the goal. Reflection has a way of seeping into everything.

Writing has become something I do. I'm still afraid to say I've built my writing habit, because there are days when it takes everything I have to keep the commitment. Some nights I feel like my writing is more legitimate than others--better subject, more coherence, less "work"--but regardless of my judgement about the quality of my writing, I'm writing daily. The routine I'm establishing matters.

I value my 30 minutes. I appreciate that small chunk of time when I power down, put the phone in "do not disturb" mode, set my timer, and empty my thinking onto the pages of my notebook. Most days it is the most peaceful, attentive time I spend. 

Ideas abound. More than I can attend to. Phrases or whole ideas jump out at me, and I have a knowing feeling when loose ideas need to be tethered and captured in my notebook. Then I can play with them, get to know them, and find out the substance of these ideas.

Many ideas are asking to share my time. Daily, there are new things to scribble about in free writes, and yet many potential pieces or posts wait inside the pages of past free writes. I need to balance free-writing and discovery with time for revision and polishing.

In February, I will continue my goal to write for 30 minutes daily. In the next day or two, I'll make a "wish list" of writing tasks I want to accomplish in February, mindful that I want to balance new writing with mining pieces from the last sixty days of writing.

And I'll try to do a better job remembering to mark my progress on the calendar. For my students' sake.


  1. Love your commitment. Like you, I find the more I write I begin to find things competing for my time. When do we dig into those bigger projects that start to call to us? How do we balance the time for different types of writing? #goodproblems

    Good luck in February,

    1. Thanks for reading, Cathy. I agree, #goodproblems. I guess my concern is that when I turn my attention to the bigger project, writing will begin to feel like work. (I could be worrying about something unnecessarily, too.) I think I'm just going to need to leap and adjust course as needed.

  2. Melissa- Congratulations on meeting your goal! I enjoy reading your blog and am benefiting as a learner from your commitment to writing!

    1. Thank you so much for your kind words, Susan. I'm glad visiting here is helpful to you. I appreciate your feedback!