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50 days

Megan Betz

I'm home from work with a coughing, wheezing, chill-filled sort of illness. I think it has something to do with the package of miniature donuts and cran-grape juice I had for dinner Sunday night.

 

Okay, so I'm not blaming the donuts per se. I'm blaming everything they represent in my life: I have fallen hard into a midwinter slump of caring about absolutely zero things. This has led to me consuming a box of Thin Mints, three boxes of theater candy*, and donuts in the last week. Not to mention my daily waffle for breakfast. Since the start of 2014, I have wanted to do nothing but eat carbohydrates and sugar, then sleep. I've worried about my emotional state, which then just led to me eating more sugar. I wake up at 7:30 to do my morning hour of writing, but it's still dark. I go back to sleep instead of getting to work. 

Last night, surrounded by blankets and used tissues and my husband, I spent some time feeling really sorry for myself. We were watching videos from my husband's favorite video game site. They were talking about the addictive nature of video games, and one of them mentioned that it takes something like 50 days to form a habit. I'm in no way saying that they have any science to back up this claim, but I am saying that 50 days is three things: less than the time I've been binge eating sugar, so I can tell myself this isn't yet a habit; less than three months, so it doesn't seem too long; and something to use as a target.

At the start of my PhD program, my advisor told the incoming students to pick a schedule. We need to carve out time to write, to do non-student things, and to just sit with our ideas and think. I knew I needed to be sticking to a writing time. It wasn't the first time I'd heard this. I grabbed How to Write A Lot when I was finishing up my Master's, and that was the key take-away. My favorite authors, from Hemingway ("I write every morning.") to Murakami ("The repetition itself becomes the important thing.") to Kingsolver, say the same. Pick a time. Stick with it. Make no excuses. I took my pen and wrote "8-9 a.m. writing" on every day of my 2014 planner.

I've stuck to it, oh, six times? That's a .139 batting average. That's not even good for MLB.

Now, I'll never be batting 1000. But I could easily start batting 500 and working my way toward more productive mornings. So, I'm taking this 50 day idea to heart. April 2nd is 50 days from now. By then, I want to have established a morning writing habit and an approach to my work that doesn't depend on refined sugar and white bread to keep my energy up. (I'll just endlessly eat these hearty rolls while writing my first publications.)

Today is Day 1. I've accomplished this post and read more about the successful writing habits of others, and I even created an Excel sheet to track what I accomplish during my 8-9 a.m. writing. I've gathered all the articles and research I've been hoping to read to begin telling the story of the Orchard. Next step: reading and synthesizing. Hopefully, by next week, I'll actually be writing. 

 

*Reese's Pieces, Butterfinger Bites, and miniature Snickers, if you were curious.