• Benson & Hedges & Writing

    Posted Posted by Guest Writer in WBN News & Events     Comments 2 comments

    I used to make New Year’s resolutions, then gave up a few years ago because I never followed through. This year, though, I thought I’d make a go at resolutions differently, particularly when it comes to writing. My approach to writing-oriented resolutions is a little unorthodox, but it worked for me in a different context:

    (Preface: For everyone who smokes cigarettes, I have no intention of preaching. I still get perturbed when nonsmokers give smokers grief for things they already know. Like “It’s bad for you.” Please, tell me something I didn’t learn in kindergarten.)

    I quit smoking cigarettes last February. I only smoked for five and a half years, but cigarettes were a big part of my routine, especially when I was writing or under stress. However, I had chronic bronchitis, sleep apnea, and exercise asthma. Of course, plenty of people don’t quit when faced with various health problems. Honestly, I probably would’ve kept on truckin’, smoking my Benson & Hedges (ahh, nostalgia), but I felt really bad about myself for doing it. My habits were costing me money and my own mobility, and I felt scummy for compromising myself like that.

    After dozens of failed attempts to quit, I finally reasoned that the only way I’d ever quit would be through a change in perception. Since I was incredibly pissed off at myself, I channeled a lot of my anger into mental self-discipline. (The intense energy of feeling angry had to go somewhere.) Every time I wanted a cigarette, I meditated on all the things I couldn’t do as a smoker. Reminding myself of the long-term effects like cancer or emphysema felt too abstract. Instead, I focused on the things I couldn’t do in the present–like saving more money, riding my bike for miles, and going into deep sleep without waking up, startled, feeling like I was suffocating.

    I want to have that outlook on writing. Instead of imagining myself as an old woman on my deathbed, bitter because I never created anything of merit, I want to approach my writing goals like I did smoking cessation. I’ve wasted so much time daily indulging in unmemorable activities instead of creating. That’s a painful realization which bothers me at the end of every day.

    Yet, being a slacker is a pretty pleasurable way to live. A slacker’s life revolves around the path of least resistance and instant gratification. Similarly, continuing to smoke is easier than quitting and smoking often satisfies the instant gratification urge. Writing is not conducive to laziness, nor does it provide instant gratification–it can be laborious and sometimes you’re unsatisfied with your creations. But at the end of the day, most of the stuff we do to slack off amounts to little or nothing. The issue ultimately comes down to what will make you as a writer happier about yourself. For me, that means more writing and less slacking.


    Share with us your New Year’s literary resolutions and how you plan to accomplish them.


    In addition to writing for WriteByNight’s blog, Jenna Cooper writes for BE Mag and a blog called FemThreads.  Aside from writing, Jenna served as an AmeriCorps Member from 2008-2010 and will start her M.S. in Information Studies in Fall 2012.  She graduated in 2009 with a B.A. in English from the University of Texas.

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    Laura Roberts

    Great blog! I definitely identify with feeling scummy at the end of the day when I haven’t done my writing “work” on a particular project. In terms of motivation, I think having some kind of record or journal or even a special calendar where you X off days (a la the “Don’t Break the Chain” method) helps keep me on task. I also like to surround myself with motivational quotes and images, so when I feel really stuck I can look up at my wall of awesome and think “Someday, someone will have ME on their wall.” If all else… Read more »


    Oooh, I like the idea of the mock cover! I find doing artwork almost always stimulates my writing. Thanks for the input!

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