“The scariest moment is always just before you start.” – Stephen King
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.