Did you make a New Year’s Resolution to start that memoir, finish that novel, or revise those poems? How’s that going? Sorry. Don’t freak out. You’re not alone! The statistics are pretty grizzly so I’ll spare you dear people the live links. But here’s the sexy good news: you can write more often in 2019. It’s easier than you think.
(Goodness at the get-go: This process also works for reviving any kind of creative practice: painting, composing, jewelry making, blogging, etc.)
1. Find a spot.
Find a place where you can sit quietly. Find a time when you won’t be distracted. Stephen King wrote his first novels on a board across his knees stuffed in between the wall and the washing machine. I’m sure you’ve got a nicer place than that.
2. Make some room.
For some of you this means make some room on your desk. For most of you, this means make some head room. Turn off (silence, not vibrate!) all the bells and whistles on your gadgets and gizmos. This is a crucial step. There’s a ton of research about the distracting bummer of technology and myth of multitasking. If you use your phone as a timer, put it across the room from you.
3. Clear some space.
Take 30 seconds to relax and greet the Imagination. Take a couple of deep breaths! Take another 30 seconds to remember why you like to write, or re-connect to why you dig the current project you’re working on.
4. Keep it short.
All you’ve got to do is sit down for just 15 minutes, 3 times a week. Seriously, that’s all I tell my clients to do to begin to build a lasting routine. In fact, starting off small has a much stronger success rate for the long haul. Do you have time to do 15 minutes, 3 times a week? Of course you do.
5. Keep your butt in the chair.
Set a timer for 15 minutes. It’s OK if you spent your 15 minutes brainstorming transitions, revising, or writing about how you don’t know what to write about. Notice what distracts you (10 to 1 this will be a voice in your head), and return to the page. Keep your butt in the chair. When the timer ends, you’re done!
6. Cheer yourself on.
Did you do your 15 minutes this morning? Whoo-hoo! That’s 15 minutes more than you did yesterday. Or, that’s 400 words more on your novel to revise later. I put a big bright “15!” on my calendar when I finish my writing time. When I see those “15s” marching across my week toward my larger goal, it encourages me to continue.
FAQ: Can I write longer if the juices are flowing?
Of course, you can! But only if you have the time and you’re into it. The main goal is to build a muscle for sitting at your desk in short chunks, 3 times a week—and to associate writing with juiciness not agony (see #3). You don’t get extra points for going longer. Plus, ending in the middle of a sentence or an interesting idea will inspire you to return to your desk tomorrow!
Try 15 minutes/3 times a week for one week and see how it goes. Then start with a clean slate (very important!) and do it again the next week.
Let me know how it goes!
PS—Taking a class is a great structure to keep yourself writing. I’m teaching some poetry classes this month on revision and form, and spots are starting to fill for my Women's Writing Retreat in June.