“I don’t have enough time.”
I hear this statement often as a creativity and book coach. How can you change it to “I have enough time…even if it’s not as much as I would like”?
What, in your mind, is enough time to write or do your creative work? An hour? Several hours? A whole day, five days a week?
Believing you have to have a large block of time to create is a great way to fail to create.
Years ago, at a writing retreat, my friend Liz conducted an experiment with the small group of writers. She gave everyone the same story line and ten minutes to write the first scene. At the end of ten minutes, everyone had a scene or a solid beginning of one. Her point? You can write, even if you only have ten minutes.
While Liz’s point may be true, that isn’t all there is to writing productively because it didn’t address the need for consistency, for showing up to your work regularly.
Before you itemize all the demands on your time, think about the idea of writing in 20-minute increments—regularly.
At the Romance Writers of America conference, two authors, Mary Behre and Tracey Livesay, led a brilliant workshop titled “Write Your Way to Success in Just 20 Minutes.”
They encourage you to adapt those 20 minutes to your regular writing schedule (if you have one) or to commit to a schedule even if it is just on the weekend or three days a week or whatever works for you. Then, do those 20 minutes on those days, at that time, for two weeks.
The two weeks get you into the habit of writing because the chunk of time is doable. The first week, you only write 20 minutes even if you can write more. The second week, you commit yourself to 20 minutes and then, if you want to write more, you do so. But you write for that minimum 20 minutes.
The consistency of those 20 minutes not only creates the writing habit but puts you in the stream of your story or creative work, so that even when you aren’t writing, you are thinking about it. It’s the difference between getting together regularly with your friend and only seeing them once a year when you have to spend the first hours together playing catch up.
Committing to 20 minutes also helps with Steven Pressfield’s issue of resistance. You know that the longer you go without doing your work, the guiltier you feel and the harder it is to get back to it. Guilt turns into resistance. Instead of fighting with yourself, say, “I’m just going to do this for 20 minutes. I can stop after that if it’s not going anywhere.”
When life interrupts with illness or death or new baby? Go back to those regular (whatever that means to you) 20 minutes.
Writing in 20-minute increments is good for your health, too, getting you up to move, to get a glass of water or something to eat, or check on the well-being of kids and pets. The idea is also useful for limiting time online, on the phone, or on chores around the house…all of those things that “need” doing but that also act as excuses for not doing your work.
Where can you find 20 minutes to write, to create?
Just 20 minutes.