The Easiest Tool for Doing the Hardest Part

“The scariest moment is always just before you start.” – Stephen Kingunsplash_Tirza van Dijk

When you settle down for your writing time do you compulsively look at Facebook? Do you then click on a link to a shared article? And then do you see another link after that and think, “Ooh, a 90’s nostalgia list on BuzzFeed”? And then before you know it, it’s thirty minutes later and you’re staring at your laptop, glassy-eyed and drooling?

No, me neither.

Okay, maybe it’s happened to me one or two or three hundred times. Distractions are the reason I have the Self-Control app installed in my computer. Self-Control is for people like me, who need an app to block websites while they’re working, an app that you cannot turn off under any circumstances whatsoever. You just have to wait for the timer to run out.

But I know the distractions aren’t the problem. I know that I am my own worst enemy. It doesn’t take a whole lot of mindfulness practice to show me that I go to Facebook and click on one link after another, because I’m terrified of writing.

I’m afraid that it’s going to suck. And even though one of my biggest pieces of advice is to embrace the suck, sometimes I’m afraid that all I’ll ever do is suck. I’m afraid that what I’m writing will never get better than it already is. Worse still, my spiteful, petty internal editor comments every single thing and every little word I write.

Starting is the hardest part, because you have to set aside all those nasty voices that are trying to keep you away from writing and all the tough work that it entails.

I’ve found a tool that helps me effectively deal with these thoughts, while making the hardest part about writing a little less hard.

Just write for 15 minutes.

I make the commitment to write for 15 minutes. It’s a very small amount of time, and freedom from the pressure of huge accomplishments subdues those critical thoughts.

If after 15 minutes I’m truly struggling, then I call it a day, and at least I know I tried and will try again the next day.

But that rarely happens.

Usually I write for 15 minutes, and I feel as if I’m just warming up and want to keep going. Then I write until I can’t keep going, which is usually for another 30-45 minutes. That’s enough time to knock out a draft of a blog post or 600 words of my novel. Not too shabby.

You don’t have to do it for 15 minutes. You can do it for 5 minutes or 20 minutes. I picked 15 minutes, because I know that’s usually how long it takes me to get into the flow.

Try it. Just 15 minutes and see where it takes you.


5 Comments Add yours

  1. Oh, no, I’ve never done that. Three hours later… This sounds terrific. Great advice! Thank you. (Now, back to writing.) 🙂

  2. christawojo says:

    That’s so funny! I just started my third novel today–a sort of belated JunoWriMo. First, I kept checking every email that popped in, but finally I said to myself (like I would to a toddler) ‘no-no, nothing is more important than writing today.’ I forced myself to shut down Outlooks. Then I stared at the blinking cursor. I had no real plan, per say, and my brainwaves started turning into white noise as the white screen glowed in front of me. Then I thought, ‘Can I really just sit down and start writing a book? What???’

    I didn’t even know which character’s head I would start in. I knew I needed to listen to some music to get a scene going in my mind. After a while I had to quit that too. I couldn’t find the write opening song.

    Anyway, lo and behold, a few hours later (there were some coffee breaks and laundry in between), I had written like 2,500 words! How did that happen?

    Just sit down and start typing. Jane is right. The 15 minutes thing works! If I had told myself I had to type 2,500 words this morning I would have curled up in a fetal position on my bed. So just go for it. Embrace the initial suck (I love that), and don’t look back.

    Woo-hoo! Day 2, here I come!

    1. wordsavant says:

      Thanks, Chris! Way to be persistent and stick with it, and good luck with your June NaNoWriMo!

  3. P. C. Zick says:

    Such good advice. I felt as if you were writing to me in the opening! Yes, fifteen minutes sounds good.

  4. That sounds like me when I’m facing social media. 🙂 Great advice. So much of writing is pushing forward. That app sounds great, too!

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