It isn’t often that you read something that you know as soon as you read it has the capacity to change your life, but today was one of those days.
A bit of context: a lot of self-pitying and self-deprecation and moaning and procrastination and guilt. I am not talking about poems here, or journaling, or blogging. I am talking about the day job. Research writing, for academic purposes: papers, articles, conference presentations, bids. I won’t describe the project specifically except to hold my hand up and say that I have been guilty of putting it off, despite warm and critical feedback.
And then putting it off. And then putting it off some more, each time adding a new excuse with extra procrastination.
I felt that change today, somewhere around line 4 of the introduction of Joli Jensen’s Write No Matter What. Her suggestions might be obvious to the rest of you, but they weren’t to me:
- Create a project folder
- Create a ventilation folder
- Write for 15 minutes a day
There isn’t a number 4. That’s it.
I thought I had mastered the project file. (I hadn’t. It was all over the place. It took a day to sort out.) Now I know where everything is. You would have thought I might have learned this sooner.
The ventilation folder was new to me. This is where you put ‘every hostile, resentful, negative thing that [you] think and feel when [you] try to write […] a nonjudgmental arena to express the doubts and fears that academic writing so often generates’ (18-19).
No 3: she advocates writing for 15 minutes a day. ‘We do not need huge swaths of time to do our writing. Instead what works best is contained, inviting ‘writing minutes’ as often as possible’ (20). ‘Brief daily contact with a writing project results in more creativity and productivity than long intermittent writing bouts do’ (20).
I think this is the killer. The revelation. The admission fee. I am sure I have read it before somewhere (OK, I know where: in every book on writing I have ever read, by, among others, Anne Lamott, Julia Cameron, Natalie Goldberg, Robert Boice, Paul J. Silvia, etc.), but seeing it there in black and white, 15 minutes, well, even I can do that.
Even me. Even a lazy procrastinating guilt-ridden slacker like me. I can do 15 minutes. 15 minutes of rubbish, probably. But in there, hidden in there somewhere, will be gold. And that will give me enough confidence to face tomorrow’s 15 minutes with something less than terror. I still feel a lot of very bad things about myself and my first draft, but I will do my fifteen minutes. I am not promising to enjoy them. But I will commit to doing them. And that is enough.