Timer (#3 of 6 Tools to Write)

#3 in a series of 6

photo http://www.sxc.hu/photo/429177 by scott craig http://www.cancerbox.com/Being passionate souls, writers have a tendency to over promise, over commit and just plain try too hard.

When facing a challenging task, it’s human nature to try to swallow the elephant in one gulp. Every “getting things done” specialist in the world tells us that’s wrong — and yet we persist. If you want a jump start on eating the elephant, start with one tiny bite.

If you’re 12 years behind on your book, it’s easy to assume that it will take four hours a day for the next 10 years to catch up. And what happens is you spend four hours a day worrying about writing and zero hours a day doing it. If you missed yesterday’s post on habits and rituals, go back and read it. Then we’ll talk about why a 5-minute timer is such a great habit-building tool.

This all-or-nothing perspective makes habit-building a real challenge. Not only are we biting off more than we can chew, we’re telling ourselves to plan on doing it repeatedly. It’s no wonder your unconscious sabotages you.

If you’re in the habit-building phase, at your next writing session

  • sit down
  • set a timer for 5 minutes and then
  • either write, or don’t.

At this point it doesn’t matter. You’re training your unconscious to be willing to show up for your writing sessions. If you sit there and do nothing, at least you showed up. If you write, that’s great.

But those are the two options. Don’t set a 5-minute timer for a “writing” session and then visit with me on Facebook, check your email, and reorganize your mp3 files.

Write. Or don’t. But those are the only options.

You can do anything for 5 minutes. Doing nothing for 5 minutes is a little more challenging. You’ll probably write. You can easily type or hand write 100 words in 5 minutes. If you sit and do nothing, that’s okay for now. You’ve honored your commitment to show up and started building the habit of showing up for your writing sessions.

As you build this 5-minutes-per-session habit, add more days before you add more time. A trick I learned about practicing musical instruments: if you quit while you’re still excited, you come back wanting more. If you play till your fingers bleed, the next session seems even harder.

Once you have 5-minute sessions scheduled on as many days as you can afford, feel free to lengthen them if you like. Or just write 100 words a day. In 3 years you’ll have a 100,000-word book written. Sure, 15 minutes a day will finish that book in one year. But that’s only if you do the 15 minutes a day.

Baby steps. Doing what’s possible accomplishes far more than wishing more was possible.

Continued tomorrow.