The Gift of Writing

Driving home after dark last night, I turned onto a block festooned for Christmas.  With all the colored lights twinkling at me, I realized that, this year, I wanted to help writers give themselves the gift of writingfor Christmas.

It’s actually an easy gift to give–and it’s free.  No internet shopping, trying to decide among the thousands of choices at your fingertips.  No driving and parking and pushing your way through the holiday crowds in the stores.

Five minutes a day is all it takes to give yourself the gift of writing. Yes, as little as five minutes a day–not much longer than it takes to brush your teeth, and probably less time than you spend getting dressed each morning.  

So, if you’ve been wanting to write but never seem to get around to it—for whatever reason—I suggest you write yourself a Christmas gift card, promising to spend at least five minutes a day writing.

I know this doesn’t sound like much.  Or enough.  But five minutes is enough—if you actually show up daily—to create and support the practice of writing.  Five minutes a day will help you learn to sit down and put at least several sentences on the page.  And several sentences is certainly better than nothing at all.  It’s a start, and likely more than you’ve managed lately.  In fact, it’s more than a start. If you give just five minutes a day to your writing, you’ll discover that it accumulates—and much faster than you anticipated.

I once worked with a writer who completed a great deal of her novel writing for five minutes each morning.  She would have liked to write for longer—and she eventually did.  But in the beginning, she struggled with so much anxiety, that anticipating more than five minutes caused her to flee.  To do anything other than write.

Start with five minutes.  Once that works well for you—well enough that you can sit down and begin writing easily—you can think about adding another minute, or perhaps five.  Write for that new time for at least two weeks.  Then consider adding a bit more to your writing time.  

Before you prolong the writing, check in with yourself.  Ask yourself if you will feel comfortable writing for longer.  And when you ask, pay attention not only to your rational answer, but to how your body feels at the moment.  Do you feel tenser now?  Did your stomach lurch when you suggested lengthening your writing time?  Did you begin breathing faster?  

If you feel anything but calm at the thought of writing for more time, don’t do it.  Stick with the time that’s been working for you for another few weeks.  Then check in with yourself again.

At some point, I promise, when you check in, your mind and your body will say, “Yes,” and you’ll be ready to extend your writing practice by a few minutes.

I’ve worked with many writers using this strategy, so I know it works. And I hope you agree that this might just be the best gift you could give yourself this holiday!

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