Last week, I challenged myself to write for 15 minutes every day for at least 30 days to get my writing routine back in shape. And this week, I did just that. I’m dealing with a hectic schedule at the moment which made some things easier, and others a lot harder. Here are three lessons that I learned so far.
1. Write as early as possible
When I write early in the morning, I feel a sense of accomplishment and liberation for the rest of the day. It’s done and dealt with, out of the way for the next 24 hours. If I skip the morning session, I get constant, mild anxiety about how I am possibly going to fit it in the crazy schedule of the rest of the day. I have a tendency to keep postponing it, and the later it gets, the more difficult it is for me to get started. On a couple of days this week, writing was the last thing I did before bed, and I can’t say that those late night sessions were overly productive.
Writing early probably won’t work for everyone, but it seems to work for me. And by early, I don’t mean that you should get up at 3AM to write unless that’s something that you want to do. I mean writing early in your day, whenever it starts.
2. Set low expectations
It’s a little counterintuitive, but I’ve found that I will do more and better work when I have no expectations of what should come out of it. At least, in the beginning, why bog yourself down with setting unachievable word counts and impossible deadlines? These may work in the short term — weeks or months — but then you burn out and stop writing altogether and drift back to square one.
My challenge has only one rule: write for at least 15 minutes every day. If I write 25 words, that’s a success. And if I just stare at my screen for 15 minutes, that’s ok too.
That’s a ridiculously low, almost inconsequential target. And it works great. It eliminates every possible excuse I might have from the equation. No matter how tired I am in the evening, I can always spend 15 minutes scribbling in my notebook.
There’s a time and place for using pressure to be more productive, but I don’t think that it will help me to establish a life-long writing habit.
3. Write whatever comes out
I used to be really pedantic about finishing a story before starting another one. You have to finish, that’s the advice, isn’t it? And it’s good advice, too, but sometimes, trying too hard to finish everything just makes you even more stuck and frustrated and much more likely to drop your writing routine.
This time around, I decided not to let that stop me. Over the past week, I developed four unrelated short-story lines. When I didn’t know what to write next, I just started something new.
I do realise that I can’t go on like this forever, but it allows me to get going and build momentum. Right now, I’m focusing just on writing every day. And if starting seven different stories in seven days helps me do it, then that’s what I’m going to do.
As for finishing stories, I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.
This is how things are going with me. I’m exhausted, but I’m feeling great. If you write, I hope that things are going well!
What I Am Reading
I’ve been reading mostly short stories by Ernest Hemingway, which I’m enjoying very much. After an excellent start of my reading year, things have slowed down quite a bit over the past few months. I’m taking my time, but I still read every single day, just to maintain the habit.
I read the following short stories this week:
- The Three-Day Blow by Ernest Hemingway
- The Battler by Ernest Hemingway
- A Very Short Story by Ernest Hemingway
- Soldier’s Home by Ernest Hemingway
- The Revolutionist by Ernest Hemingway
- Mr. and Mrs. Elliot by Ernest Hemingway
- Cat in the Rain by Ernest Hemingway
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