My brother, Benj Curtis, challenged me to simply work on one of my books for 15 minutes a day. That's it. This was on Sunday.
I'd been fairly stuck in my book writing process. I had one book with a partially finished first draft, limping along. A second book had been burning inside me but I told myself I needed to put this one off until I finished the first one. Talk about a subtle form of self-sabotage. This way, neither book ever gets written and I can say I am a writer who is writing nothing but morning pages. Not that there is no value in morning pages. They simply are not a book.
It's this little thing called performance anxiety. "What if it's crap?", "What if it's terrible?", "What if no one likes it?", "What if I can't actually write, but just think I can?", "Why would I write a book, let alone two or more, when there are already so many?". And on and on it goes. I have had to learn to tell my inner critic to shut up and go to the corner, tying her into a chair if I have to. Her name is Edna. I say, "Edna, go to the corner and be quiet." And sometimes she does, sometimes she doesn't.
I get overwhelmed when I think of writing for a four-hour block of time. Even a two-hour block of time. But, for whatever reason, this 15-minute thing seems to work for me. So, for the last two nights, after getting ready for bed but before reading and going to sleep, I set my phone timer for 15 minutes and write. Guess what happened? In two sessions, I have almost 1500 words.
Sometimes I hate admitting this, but my brother was absolutely right. It's easy for me to do 15-minutes. And I have found there is something magical about writing when the world is quiet. Plus, I'm writing kind of a creepy tale so the darkness is a good place to do it. I write my story out long hand, using a pen or pencil, on good old-fashioned notebook paper. I date it, number the pages (back and front) and then put it in a plain white binder when I'm done.
I type the words into my laptop the next day, so I can keep track of word count and don't get overwhelmed by having to type the whole thing in all at once. I do teeny, tiny edits when I am typing, but for the most part, keep it as raw as I can. For me, there is something so important about touching pen or pencil to paper. This is exactly how I write songs. Chicken scratch on paper, and then I copy it to a computer or somewhere else once it's finished. Poetry and short stories too. I write them out by hand, messy, scribbled and very rough. And then I refine them, after I have birthed the initial idea.
And then I came across this video by Neil Gaiman in one of my emails. This is why I write. Not because I am better or smarter, but because no one else can tell the stories I must tell. Cheers!