How you can increase your willpower for writing

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This is my weekly installment of “writing about writing,” in which I scan the world to find websites, books and articles to help other writers. Today I discuss a post about how to increase your willpower for writing…

I’m not a big believer in using willpower for writing. It makes way more sense to me to build a writing habit.

Why? Habits are self-sustaining. They take little effort. They are easy to “enforce,” and, in fact, they rarely require enforcing. We want to complete habits. We are drawn to them.

But when you’re working to build your writing habit, you may need some willpower to get yourself started. For many people, willpower seems to come more easily in the morning. I’ve written about that here and here.

But new research is showing that there are, in fact, ways to increase willpower. A recent post by science writer David Robson outlines these findings.

For example, psychologist Veronika Job has published some intriguing evidence showing the sense that we just “run out of willpower” depends on people’s underlying beliefs.

If we believe willpower is finite (which is described as a “limited view”), we become tapped out relatively easily. But if we believe we can always draw on more (a “non-limited” view), we’re able to do that. As Robson puts it:

“If they believed that their willpower was easily depleted, then their ability to resist temptation and distraction quickly dissolved; but if they believed that “mental stamina fuels itself”, then that occurred.”

And Robson continues:

“Further studies showed that the willpower mindsets could predict students’ procrastination levels in the run-up to exams – those with the non-limited views showed less time-wasting – and their ultimate grades. When facing high-pressure from their courses, the students with the non-limited views were also better able to maintain their self-control in other areas of life; they were less likely to eat fast food or go on an impulsive spending spree, for example.

“Those who believed that their willpower was easily depleted by their work, in contrast, were more likely to indulge in those vices – presumably because they felt that their reserves of self-control had already been depleted by their academic work.”

For me, the message is simple. If you need to use willpower to get something done, believe that you have the ability to muster it.

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