The Only Way to Stop Smoking

July 9, 2020 Writing Blogging

A couple years ago, I was stuck at my friend’s apartment in New York City. My suitcase hadn’t made the trip across the Atlantic with me, and the airline told me it would be delivered sometime the following day”. Unable to leave and walk the streets of Manhattan, I paced the apartment and found a worn copy of Alan Carr’s Easy Way to Stop Smoking”. And though I’m a non-smoker, I began leafing through it. The only way to stop smoking is to stop smoking”, it says somewhere in there, and it’s a phrase I’ve been turning over in my head ever since: Because the only way to do many of the things you set out to do is to… go ahead and do them.

I’ve spend about a year trying to come to terms with what happened to my habit of writing. It’s something I used to do almost casually, without thinking much: I’ve had a blog that I started when I was an exchange student in the United States almost 20 years ago. It served as this simple, frictionless medium for publishing some of my casual writings. I would post photos, thoughts, quotes, and by the (wholly underrated) habit of doing an easy thing consistently, I racked up a pretty huge body of writings. Not necessarily anything earth-shattering, but a repository of ideas and inspirations.

I had even started publishing that writing elsewhere, on Medium, turned some of it into a podcast, and generally been happy with it—it never felt like work, but rather like something I did on the side. That meant I never had to set time aside for it, or to establish some kind of routine of highly successful people”, where I would get up at the crack of dawn to write. It just kind of flowed from my general enthusiasm about the things I saw in the world, stumbled upon on the internet, or learned as I was reading a book.

All this changed in 2018 when I had a bike accident that I barely remember. I recall going down a street in the outskirts of Berlin and the next thing I knew, I was on the ground, my face covered in blood, with paramedics lifting me into an ambulance. I wound up at the nearest hospital, where three kinds of surgeons would stitch up the various injuries I had gotten from colliding with a car.

Almost two years later I have mostly recovered, save for a few teeth and some scars. I cycle more than I did before. That leaves my writing as the only lasting casualty of the accident: That collision disrupted my rhythm of writing casually, and I’ve struggled to pick it back up. What used to be spontaneous has been feeling like it needs planning; no longer a habit but something requiring concerted effort. And I couldn’t muster the strength to get back into it.

It’s dawning on me that the solution has been hiding in plain sight all along. Doing the thing I want to do, the thing I feel passionate about, isn’t about planning, making time, and waiting for inspiration to strike. It’s almost entirely about doing it, about resuming the habit of sitting down, hitting the keys, and filling these pages back up with thoughts and ideas that eventually grow into something much bigger.

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