HOW TO: Overcome Writer’s Resistance in 15 MInutes!
Writers: are you feeling guilty because you’re not writing for hours or jotting down thousands of words a day? There’s no need. Instead of sweating the details, try Fifteen Magic Minutes.
You can do anything that advances your writing in those Fifteen Magic Minutes. I’ve had days with a heavy teaching schedule, a project deadline, a sick dog to care for and a social event to attend that left me exhausted by 11:00 pm… just about the time when I realized I hadn’t given my novel any time.
If I thought I had to write for more than fifteen minutes on those days, I’d like to think I’d do it, but I know it’s more likely I’d just give up and promise myself I’d get to my novel “soon.” But no matter how tired I was, I knew I could invest fifteen minutes of Internet research or mind-mapping plot possibilities. Before I discovered the magic of a fifteen minute commitment, I’d tell myself I couldn’t write when I was so busy, that I would do it tomorrow when I had more time. But I never seemed to have any more time the next day. Sound familiar?
Some writers worry that they won’t be able to really accomplish much in just fifteen minutes. Unfortunately, these are often writers who haven’t accomplished anything for weeks, months or longer because they just can’t seem to find big blocks of time for writing. A little something repeated regularly adds up to a whole lot more than what might be a lot of something if you ever got around to it (but never do).
Besides, I’m not suggesting that you never do more than fifteen minutes. I’m recommending you commit to no more than fifteen minutes a day, four to six days a week. If you work beyond that commitment, fabulous! You can even schedule and reserve a target time beyond the fifteen-minute commitment. But the commitment needs to be so small that you know you can and will do it every day.
Almost convinced? Here are 5 reasons to keep your writing commitment to Fifteen Magic Minutes.
1: Three Brains in One
You don’t really have a brain. You have a brain system. Your cortex, or your creative brain, makes new connections and associations, alternates between divergent and convergent thinking, performs complex analyses and predicts future outcomes from present actions. As long as your cortex is in charge, you’re able to think creatively and honor commitments to your writing.
But when you’re stressed, the limbic system, sometimes called the mammal brain, will push the creative cortex out of the driver’s seat. The limbic system relies on the fight-or-flight instinct and the habits you’ve acquired through intense training. Your limbic system doesn’t care about creativity or your aspirations to write – it cares only about survival in the here and now.
Planning to sit down and write for hours on end is often stressful enough to trigger a limbic system takeover. But a commitment to no more than fifteen minutes, on the other hand, is small enough to not intimidate or overwhelm you. Your limbic system is less reactive and your creative cortex stays in charge.
2: Initial Inertia
Newton’s First Law of Motion states that a body at rest tends to stay at rest. Likewise, a person not writing tends to continue not writing. Imagine a Hot Wheels car poised at the top of a ramp. The only thing holding it in place is inertia – it just needs a little push to get started.
You are that Hot Wheels car. Your potential energy comes from your life experiences, observations, ideas, insights, creative inspiration and writing experience. What holds you in place is a little speed bump of initial resistance.
Knowing you’re going to write for no more than Fifteen Magic Minutes gives you the push to put you in motion. Once you get started, it’s easy to keep going.
3: Power of Habit
A small commitment encourages you to show up for your writing more often, which will create a stronger habit. The power of habit lies with Hebb’s Law, which states that “neurons that fire together, wire together.”
When a group of neurons frequently fire together or in sequence, a layer of fatty white tissue called myelin insulates the neurons in that neural pathway, making the circuit more effective. The more often you give the collection of “writing” neurons the opportunity to fire together, the more myelin gets wrapped about those neurons, the stronger the network that connects those neurons becomes, and stronger the habit becomes.
Habits also soothe the limbic system and reduce the likelihood of a limbic system takeover.
4 – Simplify the Logistics
On a practical level, it’s usually easier to find time for five fifteen-minute sessions throughout the week than to find a block of seventy-five minutes of unscheduled time.
It’s always easier to actually show up for five short sessions than to show up for one long one. The longer you think you’re going to write, the more likely you are to procrastinate, postpone and distract yourself. And the more likely you are to be interrupted and delayed by others.
5 – Repetition
Because they simplify the planning logistics, shorter sessions are easier to repeat. The more often you successfully honor your commitment, the more confident you are about your ability to honor your commitment. You become more invested and engaged.
Repetition also builds momentum. Your unconscious mind will continue to work on the writing challenge even after your conscious mind has moved on to other tasks.
As we’ve seen before, repetition strengthens habits, and habits, in turn, reduce the likelihood of a limbic system takeover.