Getting Started Writing and Starting Up a Power Mower

At the end of the day, the participants in the “Jumpstarting Your Writing” workshop I taught several weeks ago, agreed to settle on a small amount of time—15 minutes to a half hour–Writing and Starting a to write, at least five times a week, and to report their success to the group every day or so. Everyone seemed so enthusiastic, I had high hopes for their success. One of the students even went home and created a Google Group to facilitate the process.

It’s now two and a half weeks since the class, and as far as I can tell, only one student has managed to write every day. Others were able to write for several days in succession, but then they stopped checking in. Others have been checking in sporadically.

At first I was discouraged by the low success rate. I thought I had given everybody valuable tools to help them get up and writing. But after thinking about it a bit more, I’ve realized, once again, just how difficult it is for any of us to give ourselves permission to write.

So much of life is unpredictable, and so much gets in the way of our writing. No matter how hard we try, we can never plan our days or our time completely. We might want to write every weekday morning, then one morning we oversleep, and that’s it: we’ve missed a morning’s writing, we’ve failed, what’s the point of trying? It’s that easy to get off course.

So instead of feeling disappointed, I want instead to encourage all those well-intentioned participants in “Jumpstarting Your Writing” not to feel that it’s too late; to stop thinking that more than two weeks have passed and they’ve not succeeded. Instead, I want to help them think of tomorrow as a new day, another opportunity to start or continue to cash in on what they learned in the class.

It’s never too late is an excellent message for all of you out there who have written but have stopped, or who have wanted to write, but have never begun. Stop giving yourself negative messages. Don’t say, “I always fail,” or “I’m just not disciplined enough,” or “I must be too lazy,” “Or I must not really want to write, or else I would!” Don’t assume that because you haven’t succeeded once or twice or three or four times that you won’t succeed this time. You never know when something will take hold.

Have you ever watched someone trying to start an power lawnmower or weed wacker that hasn’t been used in a while? They pull the recoil starter handle once. Nothing. They pull again, a little more forcefully this time. A sputter, then silence. They bend over, grab the handle once more and pull a third time. The sputter lasts a bit longer. They try again. This time the mower seems to start, then suddenly, it stops. Silence. But instead of giving up, the person who wants their grass mowed and trim, tries one more time. She has experienced this before and knows it sometimes takes several tries—even more than several—before the motor takes.

Roarrrrrrrrrrr, this time the mower turns over and stays on!

That’s just how it can be for a writer who wants to launch a writing practice. She may promise to start several times. And each time she might write for several days in a row, then sputter out. But that doesn’t mean that she will never succeed. She may have to try one or two or three more times, but one of those times, her writing motor may just come to life and put words on the page, not for one or two or three or four days, but for two weeks, then three, then a month, then two months. And if this writer takes care of her commitment to write—the fuel for her practice—she might find her writing engine starting up more and more easily, until she experiences no more sputtering, no more stopping and starting. Just writing for the allotted time, year after year after year.

NOTE: I’m off to France for a month–to practice my French–so posts may be a bit sporadic.

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