Today, when I went to write, my laptop cord was so twisted it almost didn’t reach the table where I wanted to work. I’d already turned the power strip on and I didn’t want to unplug the cord because power fluctuations are what shortens battery life. I tugged until it barely reached and did my writing session hoping no one came home as it hung ankle height across the walkway.
I noticed the problem again when I was shutting down and stopped to untangle the cord, the whole time wondering how this could have happened. What gremlins had come and twisted my power cord?
Then I realized the truth.
I am the only one who uses my laptop.
I keep it plugged into the strip on one side and the computer on the other.
I am a creature of habit.
Almost every morning, I take my laptop from its resting place on a tea tray, stretch the cord across the walkway, and turn the laptop to face me so I can work at the table. When I’m done, I pick up the laptop and replace it on the tea tray so it faces the other direction.
I had twisted the cord a half turn in the beginning and another because of how I set it down. I had been performing a circle rather than retracing my steps in reverse.
It wasn’t noticeable in the moment. In any one day, the laptop was where I wanted it and how I wanted it, so everything was fine. But over time, my behavior, my habit, had a significant impact.
While a tangled cord doesn’t seem like a positive sign on the surface, in fact it means I’ve been consistent about writing, and that I’ve found a method that works for me. These are both good things.
At the same time, it is a metaphor for how we can get so involved in a habit that we fail to recognize its impact on a greater scale until the situation is so tangled we can no longer reach what we were trying to achieve. That’s when it’s time to take a step back and solve the problem the habit caused.
Habits can be useful, helpful, and productive, but they should not be followed mindlessly because they can also become destructive. It’s important to review your habits and make sure they are not causing a problem even as they help solve one, or worse, that they’ve become a problem we ignore because it’s easier than breaking the habit.
We talk about this in exercise all the time. How the impact isn’t obvious at first, but if you persist, over time it becomes so. The same is true in the reverse with something like posture. It doesn’t bother you at first, but it becomes a habit, and then before you realize what the habit has done, your back is out and you’re calling for pain meds.
I’ve found this especially true about my writing habits. What worked for me five years ago, or even on the last novel, might not be the best technique any longer. If I didn’t reassess periodically, I’d keep using the same techniques out of habit and get frustrated because of the assumption that if it ever worked for me, it should still.
And to bring this to an end on a high note, those self-same habits, when performed by actors, become the subject of music videos:
Found on io9.com.
You’d think the costume crew would have added some hooks and eyes to the waistline to keep the shirts down, but perhaps the habit wasn’t visible to them in the midst of all the other complexities.
How about you? Is there some habit you’ve noticed having a cumulative effect whether good or bad? While I love to chat in the comments, the question stands even if you don’t share the answer. Habits can help or harm. The only way to know for sure is periodic reassessments. Don’t forget to do yours or you might end up with a cord too tangled to reach your objective.