“I want to write, but I just can’t bring myself to do it every day.”
We’ve all said it. You could, of course, substitute any number of good-for-you activities in place of the write. This is because writers are all procrastinating and lazy. Come on, admit it. It’s the first step to recovery. So how do you trick yourself into doing something worthwhile? You lie to yourself.
I can’t remember where I read it, but there was a trick for getting your kids to clean their rooms. Actually, I don’t think that’s what the story was about, but I adapted the methodology to suit my purposes. What you do is ask your kids to clean their rooms for five minutes. Not the whole room, you see, because their rooms are in such a horrible state of chaos and disrepair that to clean it in its entirety would take them the whole day. I know this to be true because they tell me so. My kids would never lie. But to only clean for five minutes? No big deal. They feel like they’re getting away with something. Five minutes is nothing. A couple of songs on their iPods maybe (They don’t listen to Led Zeppelin or Pink Floyd).
But what they don’t realize is how much you can get done in five minutes. That’s five minutes of actually moving with some purpose, which they are more likely to do because they only have to do it for five minutes. This is in lieu of the usual misanthropic throes and woes they verbally radiate, like a bad case of verbal diarrhea, as they clean with all the vigor of a sloth on Zoloft. There is a light at the end of the five minute tunnel; it’s a short tunnel.
And herein lies the problem with writing. The tunnel can be a very long and lonely tunnel. We know this. We sometimes, even though we love writing and the finished product, secretly and unconsciously abhor the thought of writing on a deeper level. Because it’s like cleaning your room. The room is your story and it could take forever to finish it. But you can use the five minute trick on yourself.
Here is the lie you say to yourself when you can’t bring yourself to write – I will write for five minutes.
You can write anything. On a project. Short story. Novel. Poetry. The state of affairs in Bhutan. Make your own crossword puzzle. No rules. Just 300 seconds of pen to paper or fingers to keyboard. And like your kids, if the five minutes are up and you don’t feel like continuing, don’t force yourself, or them, to do any more. Stop and move on. But wait a minute. Where was the lie?
The lie is that most of the time you won’t write for five minutes. Your kids won’t clean for five minutes. Because once the juices get flowing, creative or otherwise, it’s hard to stop them. They might clean for 10 or 20 minutes. You might write for another five minutes or another five hours. And even if you don’t, you’ve accomplished one very important thing. You’ve written for the day. And the next. And the next. And before you know it, you’ve created a habit. And since we are creatures of habit, writing every day will become easier and easier.
Don’t worry. It’s a tiny lie. And you’re only lying to yourself. And maybe your kids. It’s also a better alternative to my other method for reaching goals.
Lowering your standards. Use only in case of emergencies.