Bartlett's on habits

Bartlett's on habits

Last week was a turbulent one in my life, which was turbulent enough already. I won't bother you with what went on; in the spirit of "Epistle to a Young Friend" by Robert Burns, I shall keep that to myself.

But except for my habit of writing privately in my diary every night, the turbulence of last week knocked loose several of my habits -- including writing blog posts. So now that I'm back, I'm looking at Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, this time on the subject of habits. I hope that will be like a reset button for me.

William James (1842-1919) wrote some interesting things about about habits in his "The Principles of Psychology," published in 1890. (Unusually for Bartlett's, my copy has a dozen quotations -- from the same book. Many writers don't get a dozen overall.) Here are a couple of my favorites:

"Habit is the enormous fly-wheel of society, its most precious conservative agent. It alone is what keeps us all within the bounds of ordinance." (Chapter 10)

"There is no more miserable human being than one in whom nothing is habitual but indecision." (Ibid)

Robert Louis Stevenson, the great Scottish writer and member of a certain committee, wrote of a worthwhile habit:

"I am in the habit of looking not so much to the nature of a gift as to the spirit in which it is offered."

-- from "New Arabian Nights," (1882), "The Suicide Club"

Or perhaps you don't think of habits as being important -- even writing habits. Then I've found a retort from another member of my imaginary committee, Agatha Christie (1890-1976):

"It is completely unimportant. That is why it is so interesting."

-- from "The Murder of Roger Ackroyd" (1926)

For more fun with words, stop by the Margaret Serious page on Facebook.

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  • Wonderful post. I hope things are calmer for you, now.
    Yes, writing is a very good habit--and a labor of love. Write on!

  • In reply to Weather Girl:

    Thank you so much. Yes, things are calming down to "turbulent enough" again. As usual, writing helps!

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