On Changing Small Things

On November 11th, I decided I was going to start two new habits:

  1. Drink three glasses of water every day.
  2. Stop drinking soda.

HabitBull, the app I use to track my progress

That was it. Those were my guidelines. After I’d made it to three glasses of water, I could have anything I wanted to drink, except soda. I am by no means addicted to soda. I never drank more than two cans a day, and that was rare to begin with. My problem with soda stems from one thing—my work provides free snacks and soda. All I have to do is walk down twenty stairs, and there it is. When we run out, the office manager buys more.

When I was tired, the call for caffeine would get to me (I don’t drink coffee). I would go downstairs, grab a cherry Coke, or a Mountain Dew, or a Pepsi, or a Dr. Pepper if supplies were getting low, and sometimes that would be the only liquid I drank until dinner.

Now I’m one month in to my no soda/extra water experiment. There have been a few days I didn’t meet my required water intake (every time I failed I only drank two glasses of water a day, and every time I failed I wasn’t at work), but I haven’t had soda since I started tracking it.

The thing is, now I don’t want soda. It doesn’t sound good. For dinner, my drink options are apple juice, orange juice, iced tea, raspberry lemonade, and various flavors of Powerade. Even though I could have any of them, recently I keep choosing water. I drank some Powerade last night, and my favorite flavor tasted gross and overly sugary.

I’ve changed just two habits, and in exchange, so much more has changed. I crave water. I keep my goal at three glasses a day (about 24 ounces) because it’s manageable even on hard days, but I often double that. I crave vegetables and want to start eating healthier so I keep feeling better.

Zen Habits and Becoming Minimalist and other sites talk about it over and over again, and I’m finding it to be true: change one small thing, and everything else changes. I’m fairly certain this works for better or for worse.

It’s also true in writing. I recently finished a critique for one of my CPs. She was telling me about suggestions her agent made for revision, and how one sentence made her giddy. Why? Because in one sentence, she addressed two different plot holes. In one sentence, her characters became more fleshed out and connected to each other.

Sometimes, I think we as writers get scared during revision. Maybe we note that a character is acting completely out of sorts in one scene. Or the timeline is way off. Or a relationship needs justification. Or the goal/motivation/conflict in a scene isn’t clear enough. I know I personally get overwhelmed when I look at the long list of things I want to change in my NaNo WIP. And I’m not even a quarter of the way through deciding what needs changed.

However, it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. You might not have to change every single word of your story in order to make something work. Sometimes the only thing you need to change to revamp your entire manuscript is a single sentence. And sometimes, changing a single sentence gives you the courage to change the next one. One word, one different nuance, can impact the entire MS, like it did for my CP. Like how drinking water and not soda unintentionally branched out to affect the rest of my life.

What scares you about revision? What small change can you make today? Let me know in the comments a way you’ve seen a small change impact your manuscript or your life for the better.

Comments

  1. Great points here. Drinking water makes us feel so much better. Funny how something so simple can make such a difference in our energy levels, mood, general health, etc. As with any other new habit, it’s hard in the beginning, but it’s become automatic, oh, how wonderful! And then we can move on to making a new good habit. Like writing regularly. 🙂

    • Thanks! It is weird how much better I feel. I don’t think I even miss the soda. 🙂 I love how close I am to automation, so I can move on. Although writing regularly hasn’t been too difficult, and I find it’s easier to slip from one health-related habit into another health-related habit, instead of thinking “Hey, now that I drink enough water, maybe I should write more.”

      Thanks again for the comment!

  2. isn’t it crazy how that happens? I was never a soda lover but I did drink a few glasses a day. I gave it up completely when I was 17 and taking a dance class with a strict teacher. I never looked back. I still have it if I go out to eat at a restaurant, but I only like water now, and when I do drink soda it tastes like pure sugar. Blech. And i love the comparison to small changes in a MS b/c this JUST happened to me tonight. I was struggling with something so simple and decided to change the tiniest snippet and it allowed me to have a good writing flow 🙂

    • I’m a bit older than 17, but I was exactly the same way. I never loved it, but I drank it fairly often. I don’t know if/when I’ll go back to the occasional soda. Maybe never, because water tastes so much better and doesn’t upset my stomach or make my teeth feel icky.

      I love it when that happens when writing. Glad the small change made such a difference in your writing flow! Great work!

  3. I gave up pop over a decade ago and i don’t miss it. I drink water almost exclusively. Now, i’ve relaxed a bit, so i will drink pop up at my cabin (root beer mostly) and we occasionally order a 2 litre diet pepsi when we order pizza, but otherwise i just crave water.

  4. I totally need to start drinking more water each day! (Drink too many carbonated beverages) Also great word on starting revisions. I can do one sentence at a time, that is doable 🙂

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