ďToday I Write,Ē including these short newsletters, is all about actually writing. Itís about the opposite of writerís block. The purpose of the newsletters is to be useful to people who want to start writing, to write more, or to reach The End.
Iíve been studying block for the last 5 years in 6 research studies, with more ahead. And my problem is: I kinda agree with the people who say there is no such thing. Iíve had block. I had it for years at one point. It has hit most writers (including most of the famous people we think of as productive and successful). But it doesnít exist as a real thing you can point to. When therapists refer clients to me who are troubled by it, there is no official diagnosis code and itís usually described as ďdepression.Ē
For different writers, "block" means various things that attack from different directions, strike in different ways and have to be battled with different weapons. In these ďToday I WriteĒ newsletters youíre not going to hear about some new one-size-fits-all cure that worked for my writing but might not work for yours. I do have some clear beliefs youíll be hearing about. And if they contradict each other, that's fine with me.
To my way of thinking, talking about obstacles is not as helpful as talking about what to do and where to head for. Thatís why it isnít called ďToday I Sit Around.Ē Thatís why Iím writing about the opposite of block.
Okay, so letís talk about actually writing.
Today: creating time to write
I'll keep this brief, feel free to read it quickly.
ďLord, give me chastity and continence, but not yet.Ē
Ė Saint Augustine
I noticed years ago that I always did the second-to-most important thing on my list. And that gave me a useful way to get the important things done: I just made sure to have some task that was even more important. Even today, I got around to writing this because I had something more important to do. But you can only do that for so long before things pile up: the one most important thing never gets done.
But of course it does. The important task gets done, not because it gets more important (it doesnít), but because something else changes. You see, importance isnít, in fact, what controls what we decide to do. Hereís the central idea in how I think about actually writing: almost all the time, people prioritize whatís urgent over whatís important.
Even if the urgent is trivial. Even if the important is very important. Almost all the time, people prioritize whatís urgent over whatís important. The important task gets done just before the deadline... once itís urgent.
People donít buy insurance or make wills because it doesnít seem to be urgent. And then one day itís too late. Right?
I want to lose weight, but one more slice of cake doesnít matter. You want to quit smoking, but one more cigarette wonít kill you. Until guess what.
You want to start writing your novel (or your script, or whatever), but you donít want to start it today. Think for a moment. Was it the same yesterday? And the day before? And how long before that?
Hereís my belief. You really do want to start work on the novel (or whatever it is). It really is important to you. I donít doubt that. But there will always be something more urgent.
Checking email. Making coffee. Straightening up the house. Little things that donít take much time... so you do ten of them...
Every day there will be something more urgent. It's so stupid that it's embarrassing. And it happens to most of us. And itís what Iíd like you to change.
One way to change the urgency level is to sign up for one of those speedwriting events like National Novel Writing Month. That gives you three things: being part of a group, a sense of fun (I know, an unusual definition of fun, in the same way that running a marathon is fun), and a clear hard deadline. These are all helpful in getting yourself into a mindset where you might actually write.
Another way to change the urgency is to schedule your play time. This is called the Unschedule, and was invented by Neil Fiore. When you plan your time for next week (and please consider doing that) begin by planning your downtime. Like this:
Get your schedule. Whatever it looks like. A napkin with the days of the week written on it? Whatever. You can actually do this, instead of just reading along. Go, get it. Because your writing is important. Because we both respect your writing.
Now schedule the things you canít change Ė such as going to your day job.
The very next thing to schedule is your downtime. Going to the gym, if that is fun for you. Seeing friends. Watching tv. Doing nothing. All the things that you normally think of as distractions from worthwhile productive grown-up responsible activities.
Schedule them. Schedule them generously. Be good to yourself.
And now they are not distractions any longer. Now theyíre legitimate activities you can do, at their allocated times, free of guilt.
Next, safe in the knowledge that there are no distractions, schedule your writing time. And when that time comes, writing will be more urgent than anything else, and you can enjoy it wholeheartedly.
One more time, my central idea: almost all the time, people prioritize the urgent over the important. Look for ways to make pressing activities less pressing, and to make writing more urgent.
Happy new year Ė
David Jung McGarva
+1 (818) 707 1871
Write me: david at todayiwrite dot com
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