In my senior year in high school, when other people were getting the Most Likely To Succeed award, my classmates voted me Class Rebel. At the time, it was an uncomfortable fit – there were certainly plenty of other bigger, smarter rebels than me in my class, I thought – but I’ve never forgotten it, or stopped using it as a reference point. The truth is that I LOVE RULES, but generally, for me, that means that I love grammar and morphology + the rules I make for myself.
And making your own rules, I suppose, does a rebel make.
I am constantly constructing rules for myself. Maxims, you could call them, ergo rules to live by. At a certain point, I was inspired by Gretchen Rubin, who came up with her own 8 Rules for Happiness. Earlier this year, my rule-ery got stronger when I read the fabulous The Life Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck, which recommends Personal Policies as “an excellent way to conserve your fucks swiftly, efficiently, and with an extremely low risk of hurt feelings.” So, for example, “Thank you for the invitation. I have a Personal Policy against attending baby showers. It’s nothing personal. It’s just my Policy.” Now, that is a kind of rule-making I can really get behind.
Anyway, last weekend I was reflecting on the week that was, and got onto this whole tangent with myself on All The Things I Know I Should Be Doing/Want To Be Doing That Would Make Me Happier But That I’m Not Doing Anyway. Maybe you have one of those lists? Honestly, it’s kind of fucking ridiculous, really. That there are things I want to do, that I want my life to be about, and yet I don’t do them. What?! But what a great reminder -- the only way for my life to be the way I want it to be is to Just Fucking Do The Things. Number 1 on that list of Things? Writing.
For years there, I had this solid morning writing practice. I’d get up at 4:30, make the coffee in the quiet dark kitchen, take my cup to my office and write. I loved this solitary habit so much. It seemed like it would always be a part of my life. It was set. For years. And then everything changed. Menopause kicked my ass, I stopped sleeping, I became incapable of rising at 4:30, since I’d just be falling asleep around 3. Damn it. The writing slowed. Then I started training for a half-marathon, eating into morning hours. The writing stopped.
The writing stopped.
Instead of writing, I’d be on my email, checking social media with that first cup of coffee in hand. Then dashing out to walk the dog. Coming home and going for a run. By the time all that shit was done, well, damn it, time to start the other work. I’d still write, but sporadically, when I felt like I needed to publish a blog post or send out a newsletter. And that’s all fine, I guess, but as my inquiry last weekend reminded me, I wasn’t really OK with it. I want to write. I love to write.
It occurred to me that what I needed was a simple rule, a Personal Policy to point me back in the right direction. To replace one habit with another.
Enter: 1KW B4 R.
I’m a reader. I can’t help it. I nearly always, unless I’m running or hiking or nerding out on birds (but then sometimes, too, I’m looking shit up), have to have words in front of my face. My habit of daily writing had devolved into reading everything on my email, reading everything fresh on social media, reading the headlines on the New York Times. To stuffing my eyes full of other people’s words.
My new rule is simple: NO READING AT ALL, not of anything, not the book I’m carrying around with me everywhere right now (Frozen in Time: The Fate of the Franklin Expedition - seriously, SO GOOD), not email on my phone. NO READING AT ALL until I’ve sat down and written 1,000 words. Words first, reading second. One Thousand Words before Reading. 1KW B4 R.
And because I’m such an avid reader and can barely stand not to read, that serves as all the motivation I need to get the writing done.
Just like that, I’m back in the groove. I’ve written 7,600 words in 6 days, including this here blog post. All because I made a rule.
The right rule. I win.
So yeah, Rules FTW. What are the things you want to be doing for yourself that you’re just not doing for whatever reason? Could you make up a rule to make it easier for yourself, to remove choices and just point you in the direction you really want to go? Do it!