Thursday, May 2, 2019

Atomic Habits - a Book Recommendation for Writers

by Lynn H. Blackburn @LynnHBlackburn

Atomic Habits by James Clear is one of those books that kept popping up in my world. I'd hear about it on the podcasts I listen to and I'd see it mentioned in Instagram posts and all sorts of random places. 

I put the book on hold at the library and waited for it to arrive. I love books about habits, but I rarely buy them. I check them out from the library, read them, make a few notes, and return them.

The picture above? It's what my library copy of Atomic Habits looked like when I finished reading it. So I had no choice. Y'all, I bought it AFTER I'd read it because I knew I was going to need more time to absorb everything. 

I don't have enough word count to tell you all the reasons why I had to own this book, so I'm going to focus on an idea that I think is important for writers to understand.

James Clear calls this concept The Plateau of Latent Potential.

The Merriam-Webster definition of latent ispresent and capable of emerging or developing but not now visible, obvious, active or symptomatic.You may be wondering, "What does this have to do with our potential?" As it turns out, quite a lot.

I'm going to share the example that James Clear uses to explore this idea, but I'm going to make it specific to writers. 

Imagine an ice cube. The temperature of this ice cube is currently 25°F. 
This is you when you first begin your writing journey. 

The goal of our little experiment is to melt the ice cube. We know that ice begins to melt at 32°F so we begin to heat the room. 

This is you when you think, "I wonder if I could ever be published" and you begin to study the craft.

The temperature increase is slow but steady. 25°F, 26°F, 27°F, 28°F, 29°F, 30°F, 31°F.

This is you as you find a writing group. Attend your first conference. Then your second. You get a critique. Query an agent. And another. 
But you get rejected. You still aren't published. Why? You've put in so much work! Why isn't anything happening?

If we end our experiment at 31°F, the ice cube will remain an ice cube. 

As James Clear puts it, "All the action happens at 32°F."

Unfortunately, many writers quit while they're still crossing their own Plateau of Latent Potential. That barren stretch where it seems like nothing is happening? That's not wasted time. All that energy you've been putting in? It's been stored. And when you finally cross the plateau, everything changes. Just like our ice cube that "suddenly" begins to melt at 32°F, your success may appear to be "overnight." 

Fun fact: No one is an overnight success. 

Ask around and you'll find that most writers who have "suddenly" appeared on the scene have been working their tails off for years. Maybe even decades. They have one, two, five, eight, ten manuscripts in a drawer because as they were studying and writing and producing, all that energy was going into helping them cross their Plateau of Latent Potential. And when they finally reached the other side?


Okay, so not those last two. Sorry. But yay for publication! 

When you can't see the end and don't know how it's all going to work out, staying the course through the Plateau of Latent Potentialis the challenge. And that's what the rest of Atomic Habitsis about. The book is filled with practical techniques and solid advice that will help you keep moving forward, whether your goal is to run a marathon, read more books, keep your house clean, or become a published author. 

I'm on my second read-thru and I'm finding all sorts of nuggets I missed the first time. If you pick up your own copy of Atomic Habits, be sure to let me know what ideas have the most impact on you!

Grace and peace,

Atomic Habits - a Book Recommendation & Review for Writers from @LynnHBlackburn on @EdieMelson (Click to Tweet)

Lynn H. Blackburn believes in the power of stories, especially those that remind us that true love exists, a gift from the Truest Love. She lives in South Carolina with her true love, Brian, and their three children. Her new Dive Team Investigations series kicked off in March of 2018 with Beneath the Surface. The second book in the series, In Too Deep, releases in November of 2018 with the third book to follow in 2019. She is also the author of Hidden Legacy and Covert Justice which won the 2016 Selah Award for Mystery and Suspense and the 2016 Carol Award for Short Novel. You can follow her real life happily ever after at WWW.LYNNHBLACKBURN.COM and on FACEBOOKTWITTERPINTEREST, and INSTAGRAM.


  1. Wow, that sounds like something to keep on the desk in front of me instead of the bookshelf. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Thanks for sharing, Lynn. I've ordered the book! :-)

  3. Great analogy. It sounds like a book I need to get.

  4. Linda,

    I agree with you about the value of Atomic Habits for writers. In the last week I finished listening to the audiobook version. I checked it out of my library (Overdrive). I found Clear's book very helpful. I also got on his email list. Thank you for pointing out this insightful book for writers to form new habits.

    Straight Talk From the Editor

  5. I saw this on my friend's counter top yesterday. My first time to see it and now here it is again. I needed this blog because this morning I was thinking it's almost embarrassing how long it's taken me to write my book. If I'd of known better in the beginning (5 or so years ago) I wouldn't have told so many people I was writing. Then I wouldn't hear for five years, "Have you finished your book yet?" LOL

  6. I saw this book at the bookstore last Tuesday. I should have bought it.

  7. I loved all the flags in your library copy! That sold me before I'd even finished the post!