January is the month where two things are certain – everyone is focusing on New Year’s Resolutions, and everyone’s crowding the hell out of the gym (but more on that later). I’ve never really been one for resolutions; I’m more one to focus on something more tangible: goals and habits.

Everyone knows that habits are hard to form, and even more difficult to break. For all the habits I have around writing, I don’t make a habit of actually sitting down to write, which was by far my biggest cause of falling short of my writing goals last year. So it goes without saying that creating this habit is one of my primary goals for the year.

It’s amazing how powerful habits can be. Years ago, my writing routine looked something like this:

– Shut off all the lights in the house

– Find a playlist of music I can write to (this was the era before Pandora and SomaFM.com)

– Pull up the manuscript document

– Grab an ash tray, because I was about to chain smoke a lot of cigarettes

Then I decided to break a bad habit and quit smoking. I beat the habit, even overcoming the overwhelming desire to smoke after meals, while drinking, and in the car. But then a weird thing happened; I’d sit down to write, and become completely paralyzed without a cigarette in one hand. My brain wouldn’t let the words flow onto the page without a steady stream of nicotine to help them along.

I traded in one bad habit for another (no one’s ever done that, right?); I stopped smoking and I stopped writing. I was convinced that I’d never be able to write another word without smoking, until one day I realized just how ri-goddamned-diculous I sounded to myself. Like forming any habit, I just needed to put on my big girl panties, stop making excuses, and keep writing without smoking until it felt natural. Did I do it? You’re damned right I did.

Now my writing routine looks something more like this:

– Put the teakettle on

– Open all the windows to let the natural light in

– Turn on a Pandora or SomaFM.com station

– Pull up the manuscript document

Next step? Make it a habit to bring daily writing into my routine, even if it’s just to sit down in front of the screen and derp some words around only to delete them minutes later. That is, until I have to kick the caffeine habit, at which time I’ll have to revisit my routine all over again…

How about you? What bad habit do you have when it comes to your writing that you’d like to break? What bad habits have you broken? What good habits have you put into place?