Good Habits Beget Good Habits

Am I a writer who is a mother or a mother who writes? Is there a difference between the two? I know that, as an author, I put writing as a high priority. There are some of us who place it above all else in their lives, and, sometimes, I envy those women.

They're the ones who can knock out 500 words or more every day while their children are raising all kinds of hell. I've known women writers who could focus on their writing even if their children were giving each other lobotomies in the kitchen.

Sigh. I'm not like that. I'm a mother who writes. That doesn't mean I piddle with my writing. I take it seriously. I conduct my career like a smart business person. However, when my kids were little, if one of my kids was unmercifully teasing his or her sibling, I felt compelled to step in and point out the error of his ways.

Age Doesn't Matter

Now that they're grown, I still find myself helping them with problems and with projects that need to be done albeit only if asked. Sure, my writing is priority numero uno--but it's still not more important than raising good human beings and helping them when they need it.

This tightrope we stay at home moms walk as we raise children and also try to have a meaningful career is pure hell sometimes. I found many years ago that one of the secrets to success was habit.


Ben Franklin said: "In the beginning, man makes the habit. In the end, habit makes the man." OMG! How very true. If only I'd been smart enough when I was in my formative years to make only good habits. Sadly, I'm like everybody else in realizing the power of habit only when I'm older.

Virtually 90% or more of everything we do is dictated by habit: what we eat, how we dress, whether we exercise or not, how we communicate, how we spend our leisure time, what we read, what we watch on TV, how we spend our money, etc. Changing a bad habit to a good habit requires immense motivation and action and time.

Design Your Habits

If you want to be a writer, begin now to establish a writing habit. Set a quota for how many words or pages you'll write each day, and get started. So you've got a house full of munchkins? That's wonderful because as soon as they can understand verbal communication, you can start educating them about establishing habits.

They will grow up respecting Mom's writing habits, and they'll see the rewards you reap because of those habits. You'll be teaching them that they can get what they want out of life by working at it and creating positive habits and also what's important by what you let take you away from your work.

It Is What It Is

Face it, when working at home, there are always distractions. When your child is a toddler, they require intense mommy time. When they're older, you might think that the time issue becomes none existent. Wrong! There are play dates to monitor, school projects, volunteering, dance classes, soccer, baseball, and car pools ad infinitum. There are sicknesses and broken hearts and teen hormones to get through.

Then there are life problems like your aging parents, bad economies, unemployment, failing health, failing relationships, and home remodeling to distract you from your writing. The list is endless.

How I Did It

Our house was the house where all the kids gathered, and I'll give you a tip. That's what you want. It's a lot easier to make sure your kid isn't getting influenced by stuff you don't want when they're all at your house.

When my youngest was a toddler, I decided I wanted to write for publication. So she and I played a game every afternoon during the time when she once napped. (She gave them up early.) I put her at her little table and chair with a big drawing pad, and I sat on the floor next to her. I told her we were going to play school. That school was a wonderful place she would go where she could use paper and crayons to create anything she wanted.

I told her we would make lots of pictures. One for Daddy, one for her brothers and sister, grandmom, granddad, friends, neighbors, and we'd talk about her pictures and what they meant and show them to everyone. I told her it was okay if she didn't finish every picture by the end of our "school day."

For at least an hour every day, she would draw pictures, and I would write words. I admired her art work, and, when she tired, which usually took much longer than an hour, we'd put school away and read stories.

Long Term Perspective

I never realized how that daily afternoon of playing school formed her until years later. As she got older, she had the ability to entertain herself doing art and crafts. She was always investigating some new artistic endeavor. In high school, she said she wanted to be an artist. She won first in state art and went on to major in fine arts.

After graduation, she worked in graphic art design, and then decided she wanted to teach. Today, she teaches art in high school and does freelance graphic design for clients. (She does my book covers.) She's also getting her Master's degree in Art Education.

To this day, if she wants to work on some huge project, she'll break it down into how much work she must do every day in order to complete the project by a deadline.

Start Now

You can do this too whether you're trying to teach a child good habits or trying to teach yourself how to form good habits. Get started writing or painting or whatever it is you want to do. Set a plan that lets you accomplish a manageable chunk each day.

Desire will get you going. Discipline will make you keep at it for a time, but there will come a day when those two just aren't enough to get you through the malaise of daily life or the twin demons of rejection and lack of validation. That's where habit can carry you through to the finish line. A habit makes it easier to do an action, even when you really don't want to do it, than to ignore it and let it fall by the wayside.

Takeaway Truth

Make good habits and communicate to your children about what you're doing and why. Be faithful to your habit, and that will teach them the value of commitment and follow through.

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