Last week we covered why you need to write, even when you don’t want to. Today we’ll talk about how to bring this about. I’ve warned you already—there will almost never be a perfect, serendipitous confluence of all aspects of your life at which point writing with a clear head and humming mind is the only thing you can dream of doing. You will ALWAYS feel the tug of obligation—homework, children, housework, significant others, friends, your favorite sports team, taxes, dental appointments. Sometimes you will find yourself with some free time, and still not want to write, because another entertaining opportunity has arisen.
This is okay. This is normal. This is life.
But economists and scientists, studying the allegedly rational choices humans make, have shown time and again that procrastination is not only in our blood, it’s in our brains. For all our best intentions, A Serious Man languishes in our Instant Queue while we settle for Transformers 2. We bemoan our lack of time on Facebook, then waste two hours on Mafia Wars. We measure opportunity costs in the here and now.
What stops you from making the hard decision to write? If publication is something you truly, desperately want, there’s a good chance it’s fear—that you won’t write well enough, that your time will have been wasted flailing and putting nothing on the page except hard evidence of your own incompetency. It could be mental or physical exhaustion, and Writing means saying Important Things, and Important Things take Effort, and Effort is hard.
So make yourself (and me) a promise. One time this week, when you are tired and want nothing more than to flop down onto the couch and catch up on You’re Cut Off! On VH1 (no judgment here, I love rich girl catfights too), I want you to drag yourself to the keyboard instead. Open up a blank document. Say out loud: “I will write for sixty seconds, and I don’t care how terrible the words are, because as long as I write something, then I will have something to edit.”
Butt in chair, hands on keyboard, go.
Getting started is often the biggest obstacle to overcoming that mental and physical exhaustion. We cannot even fathom changing our state from relaxation to effort. Like Newton tells us, a body on Tweetdeck tends to stay on Tweetdeck. But once you’ve taken that first step, I promise you can accomplish more than you would have otherwise.
And I bet when you look back up at the clock, way more than a minute will have passed.