Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Forming Good Writing Habits…Lent and Beyond!

By Debby Giusti

Throughout these forty days of Lent, Christians around the world are practicing acts of faith to draw closer to the Lord. The three primary ways of turning back to Him and putting God and neighbor first are through prayer, fasting and alms giving.

Prayer helps us foster a personal relationship with the Lord. From Sunday services to private prayer, spending time with Him deepens that relationship.

Fasting, while traditionally from food, entails doing without anything that brings pleasure. We can fast from TV or Facebook. Even from coffee at Starbucks. The idea is to focus less on self and more on God and neighbor. Emptying ourselves provides added room for the Lord. Hunger helps us form a spiritual solidarity with the poor. We relate to their suffering, and hopefully, take action to alleviate or mitigate their need, which leads to the third leg of the Christian tripod.

Alms giving encompasses our financial donations but includes the many ways we share our time, talent and treasure and any acts of mercy done out of Christian love of neighbor. Feeding the hungry, visiting the sick, comforting the grieving or teaching the illiterate to read are all as important as our monetary tithe and are included in the alms of self that we offer first to Christ and then to our brothers and sisters.

While the spiritual blessings of a Lent well-lived are huge, another benefit should be noted as well. Any action repeated for an extended period of time weaves its way into the fabric of our lives. Thus, the way we live Lent can become part of our daily routine that continues on even after our Easter celebrations. In other words, Lent helps us form good habits for the right reason.

How can we apply that habit formation to the writing life?

If you’re like me, you have a few things you’d like to incorporate into your writing routine. Let’s see how we can use the model of our Lenten practices to discipline our writing careers.

We’ll start with repetition. The former school of thought claimed habits were established after 21 days of repetition. We now know more goes into the mix.

In his article, “5 Scientific Ways to Build Habits That Stick,” Gregory Ciotti, author of Sparring Mind, talks about setting “micro quotas and macro goals,” The first step is to incorporate something small into our lives. Once that small step becomes routine, we expand the “quota” by adding the next step in the process that, eventually, takes us to the desired outcome. The small steps, when joined together over time, lead to the goal, or formed habit.

If our desired endpoint is to write 1,000 words a day, we might start by sitting at our computer at a specific time each day. At first, we’re not focused on the 1,000 word/day goal, rather just the step of coming to our computer and sitting there, whether we complete a sentence or write a page.

According to Charles Duhigg, in his book The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business, habits make up about 40% of what we do each day. He identifies three parts of what he calls The Habit Loop: a cue or trigger, the routine or action, and the reward. 

Not only can The Habit Loop be used by individuals, but also by businesses, which Duhigg illustrates with the story of the first successful toothpaste. In the early 1900s, the manufacturer of Pepsodent hired Claude Hopkins, a savvy advertising executive, to convince Americans to brush their teeth, something that wasn’t routinely done in that era. 

Hopkins used the three-step method in his ad campaign. The morning film, or plaque, on teeth was the cue or trigger. Brushing with Pepsodent was the desired action that removed the film, and the fresh, clean mouth that resulted was the reward. Three weeks after his first newspaper ad appeared in print, Pepsodent sales soared. More and more people started to brush their teeth, and eventually, brushing teeth became an established habit for most Americans.

Writer James Clear publishes a weekly online newsletter focused on creating habits that increase performance and productivity. He also offers a free handbook on his website, entitled, “Transform Your Habits, The Science of How to Stick to Good Habits and Break Bad Ones.”

Like Duhigg, Clear breaks down habit formation into three steps he calls The Three R’s.

Reminder – the trigger that starts the action
Routine – the action itself
Reward – the benefit derived from the action

To come up with an effective reminder, or trigger, Clear says to “link a new habit with a current behavior.” If we want to write 1000 words/day, we need a trigger. Perhaps we could pair sitting at our computer with drinking our first cup of coffee in the morning. We pour a cup of coffee—a process that’s already a routine in most of our lives—and head immediately to our office or work area to drink our coffee while sitting at our computer. The coffee is the trigger that moves us to the computer.

But we want to do more than just sit at our computer, we want to write a specific word count. Okay. Let’s take another look at our habit formation process.

We’ve established that if we want to form a habit of writing 1,000 words/day, we’ll start by sitting at our computer each day after we pour our first cup of coffee. Since I like timers, let’s set our initial “quota” in 15-minute writing increments that grow to 20 and then 30-minute periods. At the end of the writing session, we count our words. Perhaps we’re writing a page, or approximately 250 words, every 30 minutes. Gradually, we increase our output by increasing the number of 30-minute sessions until we’ve mastered four sessions each morning. That gives us two hours of writing time that should produce approximately 1,000 words.  

Let’s review the steps: Our morning coffee is the cue or trigger and writing each day is the repeated routine, but we still need the third step—the reward.

What can we give ourselves that is pleasurable and encourages us to repeat the process? Breakfast perhaps? Or a second cup of coffee. Maybe it’s showering and getting dressed for the day ahead. Perhaps it’s using a chart to graph the pages written. The gratification could be as simple as seeing our word count grow into a finished manuscript. Rewards don’t need to be big, but they should signal a successful completion of the task.

Going back to our Lenten habits…
Christ tells us to follow Him. He spent 40 days fasting in the desert. Lent is the cue that triggers us to do the same with our daily routines of prayer, fasting and charitable giving. Our reward is a closer walk with the Lord and the satisfaction that comes on Easter morn.
The steps to form a habit—Trigger, Repetition, Reward—seem easy at first glance, but in reality, we know it takes hard work and determination to make our goals--and our dreams come true.

What new writing habits or Lenten practices would you like to incorporate into your life? What trigger, repetition and reward will you use to form a new habit? Share your thoughts to be entered in a drawing for a copy of my February release, PLAIN DANGER. I’ll also include an adult coloring book.

Wishing you a blessed Lent!
Debby Giusti

By Debby Giusti
When Carrie York arrives at the house she inherited from her father in an Amish community, she's shocked to discover a soldier's body on the property. Her neighbor, army special agent Tyler Zimmerman, starts investigating the murder, and Carrie fears it's related to her father's mysterious death. Tyler doesn't trust the pretty speechwriter or the suspicious timing of her arrival—especially since her boss is responsible for his father's death. But when someone attacks Carrie, Tyler insists on protecting her. With his help, will Carrie be able to hold on to her inheritance and her life? 
Order your copy HERE!

For my Georgia friends:

I’ll be signing PLAIN DANGER on Thursday, February 18, from 4 to 6:30 PM, at Books-A-Million, The Avenues, Peachtree City. Proceeds from the signing benefit ExceptionalOPS, a Fayette County nonprofit organization that creates Exceptional Opportunities for children and adults with developmental disabilities to help them lead productive lives. The event is open to the public. 


  1. Debby, I recently set office hours for my writing. Right now my list of hours is my trigger. I hope by following it that it will lead to repetition. And my reward is a Dr Who episode. Knowing I've written allows me to watch without guilt.

    One other thing, I'm really thankful the toothpaste thing caught on. ;-)

  2. Hi Debby:

    Claude Hopkins', "Scientific Advertising", was the first advertising book I ever read. It has been said many times in the industry that new copywriters should not start work until they have read this book seven times! In my case, I was only asked to read it five times before being allow to write ads for real.

    "Scientific Advertising" was one of the first and the best of the first ad books ever written. It's also free as a PDF file here:

    It's under 100 pages and easy to read. It's worth a look -- especially for Indie writers who do their own marketing.

    I have found over the years that it does take about 21 days to establish a habit (these were all exercise related habits). You know you have established a real habit when, if you don't do the activity, you start to experience fidgety withdrawal symptoms.

    However the bad news is that I found it only takes five to seven days to break the habit an eliminate the withdrawal symptoms.

    What has worked very well for me is not trying to break a bad habit. Instead I try to start a competing good habit. If the rewards of the new habit are high enough, the old habit will fall away or be greatly reduced. I do this because it seems every time I rely of 'will power', the bad old habit wins.

    I'm so glad you only suggested giving up Starbucks coffee. Giving up all coffee would be 'conspicuous denial' and would veer very close to hubris. : )


  3. I tend to leave myself reminders in the form of notes. I stick them up where I am likely to find them.

  4. This is so interesting. I am looking a lot at my habits this year and trying to create better ones. I would like to get into the habit of writing every day. I tend to have days when I write a lot, and then a stretch where I don't. I'd really like to get past that into a regular writing habit. I'm starting by making sure I open the document I'm working on every day and at least look at it, even if I don't add anything to it. But I really like your suggestion of tying it to a trigger that we already do. Going to think on that a little more.
    Thank you so much for sharing!

  5. I like the trigger, repetition, reward concept. I think for me, when working on assignments, I usually end up getting distracted or going for my "reward" before I've completely finished my task. I need more willpower or just maybe turning off the wifi so I can actually write or study. =P

  6. Debby, I have used these methods for years and I love them. And you are so right, they become engrained and I don't even think about them anymore... I just do it.

    But the brilliance of this is tying it to the blessing of Lent and spiritual life.

    I love Lent. I love the mental and emotional reminder of something so much greater than me that I'm a Who in Whoville by comparison.

    But still worthy.

    And then I try to take that into my everyday life the rest of the year.

    This parallel is wonderful. Thank you!

  7. Jen, you have recognized the problem so many writers and people in general have... going for the reward too quickly or thinking "I've done enough"... and moving on before today's task is fully done.

    Try the 21 day test, it's a huge help for college and grad students! My kids found this to be the best way of accomplishing their current goals and that paved the way for their later goals.

    Go get 'em, Tiger!!!!

  8. Ruthy, funny you mention that ... I've only got about half a semester left to go and I really need to be on top of things. I'll definitely look into that! =)

  9. Terri, looks like you're a habit formation pro! I love that you've set writing hours. And you give yourself a reward! Mind sharing when you're at your desk?

    My life varies so much day to day, but my best block of writing time is in the afternoon. Of course, I'm writing in the AM and the evening/night as well, but I'm usually at my computer from 1-5.

    I'm glad brushing teeth caught on too! Thank you, Claude Hopkins!

  10. Good morning, DEBBY! Thank you for sharing these habit-forming reminders! Since the first of the year, I've been incorporating a few additional "habits" to help me get into my mornings. Because I'm up before 4 a.m. so I have time to write before the day job, in addition to my usual "quiet time" I'm adding a few minutes of "positive affirmations" for the day, as well as drinking water to rehydrate and time for warm-up / wake-up stretches. Adding these extra minutes to my morning routine has made me more alert and focused when I sit down to write.

  11. Vince,

    Thanks for offering more info about Claude Hopkins. Evidently, he propelled a lot of companies into stardom! Yes, the information in his book would be of value to all of us.

    Since researching this blog, I've been looking at the "habits" in my life. Interesting to find the cues that work...and the rewards.

    Good point about forming a new habit to break an old, bad habit.

    Seems the best time to break a habit is when we're out of our routine, such as on vacation. All the standard cues for our daily routines are gone, and we can start fresh, so to speak.

    But wait, Vince. I doubt you have any bad habits! :)

    Advertising is so very interesting. You've made me realize the importance of how we present and represent our product and our brand. Thanks for all the tips you share here on Seekerville.

  12. Mary Preston,

    Do the sticky notes serve as your cue? And do you repeat the action day after day, until it becomes a habit?

    What rewards do you give yourself?

  13. Debby,

    What a great challenge. I need to develop better writing habits. My work schedule is different every day and that's my 'excuse' for not having a set writing time. I need to just sit down with a calendar and make a writing schedule. Thanks for the inspiration.

    This year for lent a friend challenged a group of us to give up one article of clothing every day. I don't have a big closet which means I don't have a ton of clothes, so this has made me think a lot about Jesus' sacrifice. I have the clothes in a bag by my dresser to give to my church's clothing ministry after Easter. I've been amazed at how much this challenge has led me to reflect on Easter.

    Have a great day!

  14. Rachel, remember to start small. I like your idea of opening the document...a perfect micro quota. Next you could try to type something. Start with a sentence, then slowly increase your quota to a paragraph. Eventually, you'll be at a page or beyond.

    If we start with too large of a goal at the onset, we become discouraged and give up. We never want to give up! :)

  15. Artist, make sure your goal isn't too large. Remember starting small is the key. Break down your large goal into smaller parts that are each rewarded in some way.

  16. Ruthy,

    I'm in total agreement about Lent. When I look at my daily prayer routines, many of them started as a Lenten practice that has continued on. Plus, I need Lent to center me each year after the excesses of the Christmas and New Year's holidays. :)

  17. Thanks for mentioning that the 21 days of repetition worked for your kids, Ruthy. I'm sure you had them on a behavior plan from birth! :)

    No wonder that are all so successful! You're their Mama and a great role model for hard work and determination.

  18. Good morning, Debby.

    I really needed this reminder today. I hit a slump mid-December, and it's past time for me to make a conscious effort to get back on track. I also need to form better blogging habits. Sadly, I think my last blog post was Jan. 7th.

    Wish I could stick around and visit awhile, but it's almost time to leave for the day job. I'm looking forward to the day (somewhere around six years from now) when I can switch that habit for the habit of being a stay at home writer. LOL.

  19. Artist, we're proud of you! Don't get distracted when you're so close! You can do it! Keep working hard. The end is in sight!


  20. Positive affirmations and water! Two great habits to embrace, Glynna. I should mention that I start with prayer time, giving God the first fruits of my day. Seems everything goes more smoothly when I offer my day to Him at the onset.

    Stretches! My Physical Therapist daughter would affirm that habit and wag her finger at me for not doing the same! :)

    So the new practices you've added to your morning routine have been triggered by life-long practices. Not only do you brush your teeth, but you pray, affirm, drink water and stretch! Your reward is more energy to face the day. Thanks for sharing, Glynna!

  21. Jackie, I read about someone doing the clothing giveaway for Lent. It's been percolating through my brain, but I haven't done anything about it...yet!

    Your comment makes me want to join you. My youngest daughter filled two bags from her closet yesterday. I gather things when the donation trucks come through our neighborhood...but an item of clothing a days sounds like a great Lenten practice.

    Love that you're doing it with others. Accountability helps when we want to form a new, positive habit!

    Plus, as you mentioned, it keeps you thinking about those in need and putting your faith into action!


  22. Rhonda, I admire all of you who work full-time and also write! And also take care of families and all the jobs that entails. My hat's off to you!

    Have a great day at school! Your kids are so lucky to have you as their teacher! :)

  23. Reminder – the trigger that starts the action
    Routine – the action itself
    Reward – the benefit derived from the action

    Wow, you are correct. I now realize I have the trigger and the action but not the closure.

    Thank you. Must think on this.

  24. Debby, thanks for this inspiring, practical post! I love the tie to Lent. I love the suggestion to start small to create routine, then enlarge the goal.

    My best writing time is afternoon. Lunch is my trigger, but like Tina, I haven't set up an award, other than a growing word count. The biggest stumbling block for me is an active life that takes me away from the computer. Balance is key.


  25. I think it's really easy (at least it is for me) to forget to REWARD myself in some small way for my accomplishments (another chapter written, a book proposal approved, a manuscript completed).

    Too often my rewards are reduced to nothing more than ticking it off my checklist and then looking forward to the NEXT hurdle of this obstacle course called Staying Published! :)

    So this year I'm trying to reward myself a little more. I've started out with taking several Sunday's off from writing-related and real-world "chores"--including staying off-line as much as I can. Some Sundays it's REALLY HARD not to jump into the "To Do List" fray, as I'm so geared both at home and work to being "productive."

    But it's been amazing how much more refreshed and rested I am and ready to face the work week on Monday when I've taken time to back off. I suppose God's command to REST each week might have some merit!? :)

  26. Tina, I'm not sure what habit you're thinking about, but perhaps your reward is the satisfaction you get from having done the task. Although, a more concrete reward might provide extra staying power for the routine, or repetition.

    I have a couple negative habits that involve writing, which I'm trying to analyse. Like, why I don't clean my office. Hmmmm? Am I trying to say that I'm too busy to keep it neat and tidy. Or perhaps I'm subconsciously letting hubby know I work hard each day. Funny, huh? I know your office looks a bit like mine, although I think your's is neater.

    I'm visual. I like to see everything. If I tuck something away, I forget about it...or forget where I put it. :)

    Waiting to hear what suggestions Vince will offer...

  27. Debby, your inspiring post hit home this morning. I loved the blend of faith and writing. Also the toothpaste story. It reinforces my individual goals and writing plan. I write lists and love to cross off chores. A writing teacher, long ago, made us make a list of ten things we had to do that day. Would you believe everyone in the room put writing down as number ten. She told us to move it up to number one and push the first one down, if we really wanting to be successful. Good advice, I never forgot. Thanks for sharing.

  28. Wow, Debby Did I need this post today. I am so needing to get a routine for my writing. I have the reminder and the reward, but I think I will do better if I get a set time and routine going. The set time would be the cue. I try and catch the time here and there and it just isn't working. So thank you.

    And as we get older, the value of routine becomes more evident and important. sigh. I so needed this post.

    And timely at lent also. I love it.

  29. Janet, my block of writing time is usually the afternoon as well. But, like you, life pulls me away from the computer. Perhaps I need office hours as Terri mentioned!

  30. Hi Glynna Yes, I'm so thrilled you are seeing the benefit of resting. I always tell everyone "If God needed a day of rest, so do we."

    And it seems the messages I'm getting lately in my devotions is to stop being so busy and stop and listen to "Him" and there will be much more productivity.

    And you are proving it true. Needed to hear that so I'll get down to doing the same. smile

  31. Oops, I forgot to wish you many sales at your book signing. How nice to donate the proceeds to a good cause. You are a special person. God is shining down on you. Bless you.

  32. Vince That is so unfair, but true, that it takes so long to develop a good habit but only days or minutes to break a good habit and develop a bad habit. Too unfair. sigh

    Its like dieting. It takes weeks to lose 5 pounds but I can gain it back in one day. Now what is with that? Just like habits. YIKES!!!

    Thanks for the reference though to advertising. Worth looking into.

  33. Debby Can you give us the phone number of the store so we can order from afar. I know you'll sign the books for me as we have done that in the past. They will make a great gift.

  34. Glynna,

    I grapple with working on Sunday. We are supposed to keep that day for the Lord, but when I'm on deadline, pages need to be written.

    Our pastor has a personal rule of thumb that anything done, other than a hobby or a fun activity, more than two hours on Sunday falls into the work category. I have never heard anyone else give a time limit to Sunday tasks.

    After I published and before I got into a writing routine, I never felt closure as one project flowed into the next. It seemed that I was constantly behind and trying to catch up, which left me stressed and breathless. Your idea of not working on Sundays makes perfect sense, both spiritually and emotionally. We do need to relax and enjoy life, and as they say, all work and no play makes Jane a dull person...and perhaps a less-than-inspirational writer.

  35. Debby, office hours is a great solution, if they can vary. LOL


  36. Since I'm a creature of habit and thrive on routine, forming new habits comes easy. One habit I need to form is rewarding myself with rest. I feel guilty when I'm not productive...this is a big problem for me. I'm working on it though, and what better time than during the season of Lent. Thanks for this, Debby!

  37. Suzanne,
    What a valuable list. I need to do that with my writing group. They all want to write but never get pages written.

    I'm a list person when my schedule is too busy. Usually, I'm trying not to forget something that needs to be done.

    BTW, in the Briggs-Meyer personality index, certain folks are list makers. I believed they fall into what's called the "J" category. I had a friend who had a long list on her mirror. Each morning she would check off each item...comb hair, brush teeth, shower... She was an extreme J!

    Am I right that checking off a completed task on your list as done is your reward?

  38. Hi Debby, this is a good post with lots to think about. What comes to my mind is Speedbo. Last year, Speedbo got me in the habit of writing 1000 words a day. Once Speedbo ended, I kept it up, most of the way through November when my WIP was finished. Alas, the habit broke when I was feeling bad about losing my agent, then it was Christmas, etc. I finally got a kick in the backside (from Seekerville - thank you) and now I am pretty much back on track. The best way to keep a good habit going is to look at all the good things that come from it (finished books!)
    Can I make a comment about the writing on Sunday thing? I am not published. I have a full time job during the week which has nothing to do with writing. When I come home in the evenings, I'm tired. The weekends (yes, including Sundays) are my most productive writing times. I have no qualms about this as writing is something I love and do for enjoyment. However, should the day come when I can leave my job and become a full time writer for publication, I would definitely rethink this. Just another perspective for whatever it's worth.

  39. Sandra, thanks for asking about ordering books. As you might remember, my independent bookseller had to close her store. Tomorrow I'll be selling at Books-A-Million. I don't think they would ship the books, as my former bookseller used to do. I had to contact their corporate office before they'd agree to hosting me so it's all a new ballgame, so to speak.

    I'm hoping my local readers will follow me to this new venue. :)

    The proceeds will go to a wonderful local non-profit that helps the mentally disabled in my area. They run a home, and the kitchen needs to be remodeled so my donation will help with that effort. Right now, three handicapped folks live there with a guardian, but they want to expand the home. Housing for our handicapped folks is a real concern, especially when their parents die and there's no family to care for them.

  40. Jill, do you not sleep much at night? I need six hours, at least. When I'm on a tight deadline, that can drop to four or five hours. Once the book is written and submitted and the adrenaline rush wears off, I'm depleted, which isn't good.

    Two very productive author I know have recently had major medical problems. I wonder if their push to write a LOT of books wore down their immune systems. Our health is so important!

    I'm cheering you on to get more sleep. Set a nightly goal and remember to reward yourself in the morning! :)

  41. Jill, re-reading your comment and realizing you meant to rest and relax! Not that you necessarily don't get enough sleep.

    Perhaps you need to program R&R into your schedule. Just as you would include going to the gym or taking a walk. Even taking time to read in the evening would be a healthy activity for someone who works non-stop! Plus, you could think of it as doing research! A win-win for sure!

  42. A day off doesn't HAVE to be Sunday. It might not even be a full day. Maybe a little time set aside sometime during the week to catch our breath. I, too, write through weekends (I find it relaxing), and especially when I'm on an immediate deadline as I don't have the flexibility at the day job to take off on vacation every time a deadline looms. Try as I might to work ahead and finish well in advance of it, well, life happens. Things we can't control.

    A few years ago my church was overflowing during the morning services and volunteers were asked to go to a new Saturday evening service so that there would be room for newcomers on Sunday. I was one of those volunteers. But what I recently realized is that because I go to church on Saturday now, I'd gradually let myself turn Sunday into pretty much a total work day. No rest. No time for reflection or extended time with God. Rushing through the day and watching the clock, trying to see how much I could get done--and going into Monday still weary from the previous work week. So that's when I started re-evaluating how I spend Sundays. Setting a few of them aside since the first of the year to truly rest & relax has been refreshing.

  43. Cindy,

    So glad to hear that Speedbo was the trigger that got you into the 1,000 words/day habit. We'll be back to it in less than two weeks! Yay!

    But it sounds as if you've returned to your routine without difficulty. I applaud your success!

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on Sunday writing. Since it brings enjoyment, it can be a relaxing endeavor that is beneficial and not truly a work-related task, since you have a full-time job that's not writing related.

  44. Quoting as a Habit

    "Bad habits will always have the advantage because they provide immediate rewards while good habits make you wait and wait for your rewards!"

    "The harder a bad habit is to break, the easier it is to acquire."

    "Bad habits provide their own rewards while good habits often require a bribe!"

    "Both good and bad habits act to bypass free will. Unfortunately, the devil has more experience at doing just this."

    "Bad habits, like bad wives, never stop nagging you until they get their way." :)

    "Bad habits are like a reverse mortgage loan: they provide years of rewards until the end when the balloon payment kills you."

    "I could live with bad habits a lot better if they weren't so darn greedy."

    "My bad habits are all great salesmen: they won't take no for an answer."

    "I'd trade my bad habits for good ones if I didn't have to give up so many future draft choices."

    "A bad habit is like a bad penny: it coming back!"

    "Actually you only need one good habit: that is, avoiding bad habits in the first place."

    "I don't have any bad habits: they have me."

    Just playing. There are no nagging wives in Seekerville.


  45. P.S. That should be:

    "A bad habit is like a bad penny: it keeps coming back!"

    My mind has a habit of filling in missing words. It thinks it is being helpful.

  46. I'm drinking my coffee and reading Seekerville, so I feel as if Debby is watching me this morning! lol

    (Btw, I'm having Caramel Vanilla Cream this morning. Raise your hand if you'd like a cup.)

    You know, the reward is an area where I need to step up my game. I've always like to keep spreadsheets of successes, lists to check off things done, etc. And that works really well for long-term projects, but not as much for short-term encouragement. Something I can SEE at a glance without having to open another document on my computer. And something that takes seconds to update.... Seriously, a hard-core spreadsheet documentarian can spend as much time fine-tuning their spreadsheets as they do the actual task they're recording. Ahem.

    Must think of a really nice visual to help with this achievement. I like the idea of an instant graph. Scrivener shows Project Targets, but as far as I know, it doesn't create a chart showing daily progress.

    Maybe a simple dry erase board marking progress with colored pens.

    Or maybe a piece of cardboard with permanent marker notes.

    A notebook. lol

    But, Debby, this morning, I'll start with that 30 minute writing exercise you mentioned. Then breakfast!

  47. Glynna, I like the change you've made. Keep us posted on your progress. You need that day of R&R...and the Lord agrees! :)

  48. Love your bad habit quotes, Vince. All so true, unfortunately.

  49. Laughing, Pam. I've got my webcam on and pointed at you! LOL!!!

    I like using graph paper and a pen for my writing progress chart! :) I'm so low tech!

    Hugs! Raising my mug to yours.

    Plus, I've brought bagels and fresh fruit to share. A light Lenten offering. Sorry, I didn't mention it earlier.

  50. Thank you for such a beautiful post, Debby.

    That's really interesting about your pastor's 2 hour rule for Sunday. I've never really heard anyone be specific about it.

  51. Hi Cate.
    It's his own rule of thumb, but I found it interesting as well. Not that I agree with him, yet it does provide a measure of sorts.

    You're on vaca, right? Enjoy!

    Three of my grands are, as well. They're visiting. Must take a break from the computer to give hugs and kisses...will be back in a flash.

  52. Cindy,
    I'm with you on the 1k/day. I can't allow myself to miss a day. If I do, it's disaster because it's almost as if I've given myself permission to miss other days. So far this year, I've been on for at least 1k every day. I'm making myself still do it even though I'm editing one of the books now. By doing a rough 1k on an upcoming book, I'm getting myself into a better place.

    Debby, I didn't comment about this part before, but I've learned to use my subway time to get spurts in by typing on my iPod. I find if I have some words down already, it isn't so daunting to face the computer.

    Ideally, I get up with that cup of coffee and get in my words before work, but with the way life has been going lately, dragging out of bed in time for work is hard enough. I need to get back to it though because that morning writing energizes my day.

  53. Oh, so glad they're recovered to visit. Yes, mid-winter recess - the brightest idea NY ever had. They began this week off in mid-February during the energy crises of the 70s. I think they kept it up because it was a way of stopping the spread of germs. I know I was grateful this year because my class had about 7 children absent each day last week - and different ones as the week progressed!

  54. Debby, Perhaps I should have said relax, and be content with not chipping away at my "To Do" list. I have Crohn's Disease, so getting proper rest is critical for me. I do get at least six hours of sleep at night. I'm at my day job at 6:00 am, so I can only go to bed so early. :)

  55. Well, I've gotten a little off track this am.

    Going back to Reminder, Routine, Reward and turning off social media. Sheesh. I'm like a two year old.

  56. A great post, Debby. Thank you!

    Like Tina, I can off track easily. I often find it hard to get into a routine and stick to it. It might last a week, or maybe two, but then something happens to throw it off and I end up having to start all over again.

    One thing I've found that helps the routine is to set a time limit - "One hour BICHOK time." (Bottom in chair, hands on keyboard). Sometimes that hour is first thing in the morning, sometimes it's after lunch. But if I can get that hour, I have my 1K. And who doesn't have an hour?

    Okay, I didn't have that hour when I had children around the house all day, or when we were homeschooling. But I have no excuses these days. :)

    Thanks for the (gentle) reminder!

  57. Good morning, Debby! I really needed this sweet and gentle kick-in-the-pants today. :-) Thank you! My reminder has always been the act of putting the youngest children down for a nap. Then I would know that it was my writing time and I better hoof it to that laptop. Now, the youngest is five and doesn't always nap. I need a new reminder, and a tangible reward wouldn't hurt either. I'll be thinking on this today.

  58. GREAT post, Debby, thank you!
    Part of my morning routine (after brushing teeth, etc.) is cat care. The trigger or reminder is the fact that I've got 6 hungry kitties reminding me they are hungry, LOL. Yet I've been frustrated lately because I'm not getting to my Bible time and writing nearly as early as I'd like. Your post has helped me see the need for a change in my routine. Specifically, I need to go to bed earlier so I can get up earlier (I know---sounds like a no-brainer, but old habits are hard to break sometimes!). Thank you again for this post. The Lent season is such a special time as we prepare for Easter!!
    Hugs, Patti Jo

    p.s. Setting out a Georgia pecan pie for anyone who needs a sweet snack today. ;)

  59. Cate, I commend you for keeping your 1,000 words/day goal...even while revising. You're inspiring me! But then, you always do!

    Glad you have some down time. Relax and baby yourself. Monday will come too soon! :)

  60. Jill, Crohn's is a hard cross to carry. I'm praying for you to maintain your good health. Let us know when/if you need extra prayer support!


  61. Jan, I like your hour writing goal. Sounds doable. At least most days. Good for you!

    We all have to find what works for us.

  62. Meghan, seems the triggers and rewards are so important in this formation process. I need both to clean my office...but what would be reward enough?

  63. thanks for the post today, Debby.

    I struggle with good habits in general. After reading today's post, I believe my struggle lies in too big of a goal and no real reward. I know I have wasted much time around the house of late, partly because I've been half-sick (you know, just ill enough to be affected, but not enough to bring activities to a halt), and partly because I've been feeling overwhelmed with life break-downs that seem to be happening a lot of late (car, computer, etc.). *sigh*

    So, I shall make my goals bite-sized and pray about what reward will work for me. Probably reading Kindle books (esp. the Seeker books). I've been doing that a lot lately instead of writing :( Need more God time too - reading this post has made me realize this. THANKS!!

    I REALLY like the Lenten tie in as well.

  64. Debby, your post is exactly what I needed this morning! We have returned from a wonderful visit with our children and our youngest grandson...delightful in ALL ways...but a disruption of our routine. This first day at home seems like I'm slogging through molasses determined to keep the schedule...even if I'm behind in the schedule!! LOL Re-establishing my routine does help me get centered again.

    Thanks for the encouragement! Have fun at your book signing--wish I could be there!! I'll be praying your donation makes a sizeable dent in the needed funds for the new kitchen at the home you're supporting!

  65. Patti Jo, those sweet cats of yours must make their needs known! :)

    If I check my email while waiting for my coffee, I keep hearing a little voice whisper: First Fruits! First Fruits! So I know that prayer and scripture should come before emails, although sometimes I can't help myself and have to see what happened online over night. :)

    I'm analyzing everything I'm doing these days and seeing how my actions fit into that trigger, repetition, reward process. Actually, it's providing a bit of clarity as to why I automatically do some things. I always enjoy learning a bit more about how I tick.

    Thanks for the yummy pie, Patti Jo! You're as sweet as the desserts you prepare!


  66. DebH, maybe you're trying to do too much. When life throws rocks at us, sometimes we need to retreat a bit. Do what's necessary and let the not-so-important tasks slide, at least for a bit.

    As women, don't we think we can do it all? But we can't. Nor do we need to.

    My advice, look at the positives in your life. Your cutie pie! Your hubby! Your home! Your job! Your extended family! You're doing so much and doing such a great job in each area. Don't be so hard on yourself, and don't add anything additional until some of the stress eases. Okay?

    Sending hugs along with words of encouragement!!!

  67. Thanks, Kathryn!

    I know you had a wonderful time visiting with your little grandson! Aren't children special...each a gift from God.

    Coming home from a trip is hard. I always think someone should have come into my house and cleaned while I was gone, or tidied the clutter, or washed the clothes. But no, everything I left undone is STILL there, waiting for me! :)

    Take it one step at a time...and give yourself a few days to find your groove again.

  68. Great post, Debby--one well worth reading and rereading!

    Just got home from noontime Lenten worship and luncheon at our church. Very meaningful.

    Now to settle into my afternoon writing groove. I find that if I neglect the routine even for a day or two, it becomes harder and harder to get back into it. Mondays are always hard anyway because I don't write on weekends.

  69. Nice post, Debby! As you know, I'm not a writer but everyone can use some of your tips! I always make New Year's Goals at the beginning of every year. This year, I'm doing fairly well in my "keeping of them"! Always room for improvement but I'm doing better than last year as far as staying with it! For me, the key is keeping the written goals in front of me - on the mirror or someplace I look often - so that I can be reminded of them all the time!

    I would love to win your book, as you know! Thanks for the opportunity!

  70. Myra, interesting that you don't write on the weekend. Good for you. Do you spend a lot of hours at your computer Mon-Fri?

  71. Valri, good trigger to see your daily goals written and taped to your mirror. That visual reminder is important.

    Thanks for your interest in Plain Danger! I always appreciate your support!

  72. Had a quiet break at work to pop over here and found the exact words I needed to hear/read! Thank you, Debby! My goal this week, month, year is to be come consistent and diligent in my writing time and see my word count begin to grow for the week. And your post and the way you've broken it down makes it seem so much more manageable to my brain. What an encouragement to me today.

    (P.S. I have fallen in love with adult coloring books and have a stack of them now. They're so much fun to do while listening to a sermon or book on tape. Love them.)

  73. Debby, love this. And I love the connection to Lent. Lent has long been one of my favorite times of year, because we can rid ourselves of something distracting and draw closer to God.

    One of my goals this Lent is to get up early each morning. This way, I can get in my time with the Lord and my first writing session. It's not an easy goal for me, but I feel like your post is an affirmation of something the Lord wants me to do.

    Oh, and I already have your book, so I do not need to be added to the drawing.

    Thank you!

  74. Clari, so glad the blog helped you today. It has helped me as well. Seems the triggers and rewards are key!

    My grands are visiting. We're playing games now. Will color soon!


  75. I am needing to move writing back to the top of my to do list that is except Wednesday. I am crazy I have to have my to do list in alphabetical order except Devotions that goes at the very top. Now I am going to also move it to the top under devotions because a lot of days things happen and I don't get to the writing until I am so tired that I can't think straight.

    Wednesdays are different because I teach Awana Cubbies on Wed night so Cubbies lesson prep comes under devotions so I am ready to teach.

    I am going to see if this new plan works better

    Yesterday I had a treat. I was given a free ticket to Biltmore House. Since the first 2 books I have written plus my wip have a scene taking place at the Biltmore House, (I had been going on my memory from 9 years ago) When I got there yesterday I learned they are now allowing people to take pictures, so I took 197 pictures total. This will help when I go to edit those scenes.

  76. At last -- a way to use those triggers instead of having them control me :-) Those three R's seem so logical now that you've made me aware of them. Thanks for a helpful post, Debby!

    Nancy C

  77. Well, I've been good. Finished editing an entire chapter. NOW I can come out and play.


    And a sugar free fudgecicle. (how do you spell that?)

  78. Dana, rising early to worship is a wonderful Lenten practice that can carry on throughout the year. Good for you!

    I'm working on breaking the day up into various times for prayer. Morning and evening are part of my routine and have been for years. I'm adding night prayer at the close of the day and trying to hit the 3 o'clock hour most days.

  79. Wilani, how thrilling to have Biltmore pictures! So glad you were given the free ticket. Bet God was involved. Love how He works!

  80. Nancy, they seem easy-peasy don't they! Maybe not as we try to put our actions into practice. :)

  81. I spell it: SUCCESS!!!

    Good for you, Tina!

  82. Debby, I'm new at the office hours so I'm hoping it turns into a habit. I work fulltime so during the week they are at night. On the weekends during the day. Not all day.

    so during the week they are at night. Weekend, they are during the day. Not full days.

  83. Great post Debby. I definitely need to work on establishing new writing habits. I like the idea of finding the trigger and also the steps to achieving the desired goal. I will have to try these.

    Please enter me in the drawing!

  84. Trigger: My first cup of morning coffee.
    Repetition: Write 500 words. That's realistic. This should come before e-mail or Yahoo news.
    Reward: A piece of candy? Maybe not. Read a chapter in whatever book I'm reading. That sounds less fattening.

    If I don't start early in the morning, then I might get distracted by events of the day and never get back to writing.

  85. Great post, Debby. Writing in 15 min increments to get to 1,000 words is a nice, steady way to get to The End. Good reminder.

  86. Wow am I late here...but someone told me once it takes 21 days to form a habit. Do something 21 days in a row.

    But I have found a subsection of that.

    If I do something 21 days in a row (I've tried it) it's true that then you will REMEMBER to do it everyday.

    However, just because you REMEMBER doesn't mean you'll follow through and do it.

    You can LAUGH at the memory as you ignore your new habit.

    This comment has NO POINT.

  87. Forgot to mention to put my name in the draw for your book.

  88. God bless you, Terri, for working a full day and then writing at night. I know that's hard. Added prayers for your writing progress.


  89. Sandy, you're in the drawing! The triggers and rewards are so important. Good luck with your writing habits!


  90. Cara, 500 words is a doable beginning for that first "micro quota," leading to a "macro goal."

    Getting to read sounds like a great reward!

  91. Hi Lyndee! I've been seeing too many coyotes around your house, with the pics posted on Facebook. Oh my! Be careful and watch out for those pups of yours.

  92. Except, Mary C, if you add a trigger and a reward that 21 day repetition might turn into a lifelong habit! Just saying...

  93. HI DEBBY - I'm late getting here today, but so glad I finally made it! Very interesting post - so much to think about. I spent most of the day at the hospital with a family member (everything is fine now, prayers answered!) and wasn't at the computer at all. So my not-so-good writing habits were even worse than usual. Hopefully back on track soon...with better habits and renewed faith and appreciation for the power of prayer. Thanks again!

  94. Debby, what a wonderful reminder of what Lent is all about. We are in a season of reflection and refocusing our attentions and actions on God. What a great few weeks of developing the habits that make us rely on Him more and more.

    I loved the story about Pepsodent. That is true innovation. The trigger he used to get the action rolling to the reward was so simple, yet effective. May the good Lord bless us with such a simple path to our writing!

    Thank you, as always, for your insight and inspiration!!

    Have a great book signing!

  95. Debby,

    Stopping by to wish you a wonderful event today.
    Great info here, and love the tooth brushing history.
    Who'd a thunk it?

    Talk about ingrained habit!

    I for one appreciate the step by step on incorporating new habits.
    With these ideas, we can make a real success of those New Years Resolutions, with God's help.

    thank you!

  96. Debby,

    Thanks for such a great post! My hubby and I moved this past weekend - we downsized a lot - but as soon as I can find my desk, i will start the coffee-sit down at the computer and write. Except I will be drinking diet coke.

    I would love to stop by your signing this afternoon, but I still have about 120 boxes - literally - to unpack.

    Please put my name in the drawing!

  97. Laura, how wonderful that you could be with your family member. I know he/she appreciated your support, and I'm sure that's where God wanted you to be. :)

  98. Audra, hope you have a wonderful Lent!

  99. Hi KC and May...wishing you both a year filled with good habits and all God's blessings!

  100. Edwina, sending unpacking hugs. Being in the military, we moved so often. It's never fun!

    My dad drank Coke and then Diet Coke when he needed to watch his sugar. He claimed to have never even tasted coffee. :)

  101. Excellent article Debby!
    What a great way to get into the habit of writing daily. I also love the way you've woven Lent into your message.
    Thank you!
    P.S. - Sadly, I will be at work during your book signing. I know it'll be a great event.

  102. DEBBY!! WOW, did I need this today, my friend -- EXCELLENT!!

    YOU SAID: "Fasting, while traditionally from food, entails doing without anything that brings pleasure. We can fast from TV or Facebook."

    LOL ... I'd LOVE to fast from FB, but that would be like fasting from a root canal, so I guess I can't pick that one ... ;)

    LOVE THIS!!!!
    Reminder – the trigger that starts the action
    Routine – the action itself
    Reward – the benefit derived from the action

    I'm going to implement this, my friend, because this is GREAT!!


  103. Debby, I'm so sorry I missed your post yesterday. I've been sick and just didn't get on the computer much yesterday.

    What a beautiful post! Inspiring and helpful. Some great ideas for reinforcing those goals.