…behavior that gets rewarded tends to get repeated. If you stop writing then you’re kind of rewarding yourself with not writing.-Octavia E. Butler
I was half-listening to an old Octavia Butler interview on YouTube when she said the above quote. I had to pause what I was doing and rewind the video to hear what she was saying more intentionally. It hit me that, in a way, I have been kind of rewarding myself with not writing for a long time now.
I’ve been delaying making the final edits to my book because I don’t yet know which self-publishing route to go. I’m at the point of going the cheapest, quickest route just to get it done and over with. It’s not fun anymore. Other than working on the book, and that one (published) short story that I’m still geeked about, I haven’t done much writing over the past year. Now, it seems, not writing has sort of become a habit.
Thankfully, I haven’t given it all up yet (I’m still here at least). I keep talking about forming new writing habits and indulging in online writing courses, but I have yet to do any of that. I’m not quite sure where I’m blocked, or what internal (or external) thing is keeping me from diggin in.
I remember when I started writing my first novel (yet to be completed). Granted, I wasn’t working at the time, but I was writing for at least two hours every day. I’d built up the habit because I was enjoying the story. Once the story I thought I was telling got jumbled and lost, I stopped enjoying it, and stopped writing that book. The thing is, I know I have more stories to tell. I even have notes for essays that I want to include in a second collection after I finally publish this first one I’m working on.
To put it simply, I’ve rewarded myself with not writing for so long that I’m not sure how to get it back. Another thing Butler said in that interview was, “If you’re a writer you can’t stop writing.” And I feel that. On one hand, she’s saying if you’re a writer you can’t help but to write, you have to write or it’ll drive you nuts; on the other hand, she’s saying if you’re a writer you can’t stop writing or else you’ll lose your skill… craft… self. One is a personality thing, and the other is instruction. I feel it both ways.
I keep coming back to these two blogs, I journal, I make lists (and more lists), and I take notes because I can’t not write. But it feels sort of washed in comparison to the loudly colored short stories I enjoy creating. I know that once I get back into the groove of writing again (because I will) I can’t allow myself to stop writing because I won’t want to feel this kind of emptiness again. I don’t want not writing to be my reward. I want my writing to become a habit that gets rewarded by better and better stories so that the writing doesn’t stop.
I’m curious…what are you rewarding yourself with? How do you build back up the habit of writing when you’ve been removed from it for a while? I’m going to start be looking for a writing challenge right now!
Until next time…