I know, the phrase is cuttingtothe chase. But that’s not what’s happening.
Poor Jake Calcutta has been in and out of my top drawer a hundred times the past 6 months. I’ve printed bits and read them, highlighting and underlining. I’ve binder-clipped and folded and organized and shuffled. I’ve enlisted pre-alpha readers.
I’ve ignored it mercilessly for weeks at a time.
A third of the way through, Jake left me. Hid out somewhere in the wilderness of Whatcomesnext and no matter how I coaxed, he wouldn’t talk to me.
Another mistake we make is to assume that what flows from our pen must be finished product. Logically, we know this makes no sense. There’s always a bit of re-writing before the proofreading and editing. We would never expect others to deliver perfection without practice.
Whether it’s the next chapter in your novel or a page of marketing copy for your website, it can help to sit down and intentionally scribble the ugliest, roughest draft you can imagine. Make it your plan to write something so simple, so messy, so basic, so ugly, that you can’t possibly use it. This is just a note to yourself about what you’re planning to think about considering writing.
This is much like the trick I use to get myself to do household chores. If a picture needs hanging, next time I see the hammer I lay it on the floor where the picture is to be hung. Then when I run across the box of nails, I set that in place. If the picture needs a hanger attached to it, that goes in the pile as well. Eventually I walk past, look at this instant picture hanging kit sitting on the floor, and realize that it will take almost no effort to finish the task. It gets done.
The hardest part about writing is writing. Not the polishing, the formatting, the editing. Just starting. Just putting down the few words that say what we really mean.
Pre-writing is a way to start ugly and simple and just get something down on paper.
Once the task is started, sometimes the compulsion to continue is overwhelming.
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.
I sometimes share this writing exercise (or rather, who-cares-whether-you’re-writing-or-not exercise) with authors who are stuck, who just can’t make the time to write.
You can do anything for 5 minutes. Even if you hate it, you can do dishes, mow the lawn, listen to jazz, even watch bowling on TV, if it’s only 5 minutes. Knowing that this ordeal will end, and even more, when it will end, fills your unconscious mind’s need for control. Continue reading “You Can Do Anything for 5 Minutes”