In the nineties, I worked in the probation service running groups for offenders. An analysis of the evidence for effectiveness produced a very interesting finding. The best predictor someone changing their behaviour was not participation or interest in the course, but the number of sessions attended. If they kept turning up, they were more likely change.
Recently, I was co-leading a mindfulness-based cognitive therapy group, and mentioned this fact to my co-leader – a Buddhist with over twenty-five years’ experience of meditation. He laughed and said it was exactly the advice given to meditators. It matches my experience. Often, the day I don’t want to meditate – but do – is the day I make progress. As if I am coming up against the bounds of my resistance and, by ignoring them, breaking through to something new.
So it is with my writing. This morning I sat down after a lousy five hundred words yesterday, and wondered if I could just get away with a couple of hundred. But as I persisted, one of the characters did something I didn’t expect them to do. Soon, I was flying.
If I had to give one bit of advice to my younger self it would be to keep turning up. Whether that means doing two hundred, five hundred or one thousand five hundred words a day. Keep turning up. As soon as you enter a dialogue with your doubts, you will find the knots pulling tighter.
Missed a session? Keep turning up.
Everyone else seems to be achieving far more than you? Keep turning up.
Tired of the idea you’re working on, and other ideas seem so much more appealing? Keep turning up.
No hope, no agent, no interest, no progress? Keep turning up.
Tired of people who keep telling you to keep turning up? Keep turning up.