Earlier this year, I did something that, for me, was extraordinary.
I finished the first draft of my first novel.
I’d like to say something elegant like, “this novel was 20 years in the making”, but it wasn’t. It was more like “it took me 20 years to get myself seated in that chair, in front of my keyboard, for long enough to finish that first draft.”
As for the writing of the draft, this is how I did it: I committed, publicly, to a writing goal of 20 minutes a day. Twenty minutes, I reasoned, because 20 minutes didn’t scare me much at all.
That little voice of mine that likes to surface and wreak havoc and destruction on my writing habits finds itself rather speechless against “I’ll write for 20 minutes a day”.
After all, what exactly could it say? It’s only 20 minutes, after all.
This goal worked really well for me. Within weeks, I had amped up my goal to 40 minutes a day. I was working that writing muscle. And I got that first draft finished.
But just now, I realized I’d lost sight of the importance of committing to a daily writing goal. My NaNoWriMo novel is still sitting there, waiting for the additional 20,000 words or so that it needs to be completed.
But the importance of that commitment came back to me just now when I stumbled onto author Stephen Pressfield’s blog. I have his book, The War of Art – it’s been a while since I last read it, so I’ll be rooting it out of the stacks when I get a chance later this week. Not all of his writing philosophy suits me, but it’s an inspiring book, and definitely a motivating one.
On his blog, Pressfield writes about What the Muse Wants. This was such a great reminder for me, a reminder that the time constraint thing is just something I’ve made up in my mind. When it comes to writing, the amount of time I have to spend on writing really isn’t the deciding factor.
What it all comes down to is commitment. As Pressfield notes in his post:
One hour. The goddess can live with that. If we can give her sixty minutes of undistracted, unscattered, deep, focused attention, she’ll accept that. Maybe not forever, but for now. For a start.
And I’ll go one further than that. This is what I know for sure. I don’t even need a full hour. That stack of pages, those 120,000 plus words sitting on my bookshelf waiting for me to read and revise, is testament to that.
All I need is 20 minutes a day. Every day, sure. But only 20 minutes.
Now, the question is, in the midst of all these deadlines, can I do it? Or should I put off committing until after the holidays and after this latest rash of deadlines. Put it off until January 12, which is when I have some breathing space?
I’m still trying to decide … am I ready to commit?
It’s only 20 minutes.