A lot of people say they have “no time” to write.
I have a solution for you, friends. It’s something you already own and it’s with you right now.
It’s called “20 minutes.”
You can write something in 20 minutes. The minutes may be your enemy at first. Your email will call your name. The trash will suddenly need to go out RIGHT. THAT. MINUTE. And, most likely, you’ll have an urge to clean your study, kitchen table or wherever you work. That’s all normal. I believe those thoughts are part of our “mean brain voices” that, for some reason, don’t want to us to do cool things like write books. (Hint: We need to ignore the mean brain voices.)
Take a look here. These are just five of the things you could do in twenty minutes.
- Start a mind map or outline
- Write a paragraph
- Write a memo to a friend or yourself explaining your book’s concept
- Write a resource list to include in your book
- Write a list of action steps for a chapter
John Updike suggests writing a whole hour a day. Don’t let that scare you if you’re already resisting the the idea of writing for 20 minutes. Instead, read this and see what’s possible. He addresses this to “young” writers. If you’re not young, just ignore that part:
To the young writers, I would merely say, “Try to develop actual work habits, and even though you have a busy life, try to reserve an hour, say—or more—a day to write.” Some very good things have been written on an hour a day. Henry Green, one of my pets, was an industrialist actually. He was running a company, and he would come home and write for just an hour in an armchair, and wonderful books were created in this way.
Guess what? You’re in charge of you. You don’t have to write an entire hour. Even though Updike was smart and successful, his solution might not be your solution. You don’t have to listen to me either. You can come up with what works for you. “20 minutes” is a suggestion for you to find the right amount of time for you.
If you decide to aim for a certain number of minutes, keep in mind that you don’t have the write all at once. If necessary, you can write for ten minutes in the morning and another ten at night. Plenty of people do that.
- Write X hours per week and keep a log to track your hours
- Aim for a certain word count
- Aim for a certain amount of time per day
- Write X pages per day
- What other ideas do you have?
A few months ago, I decided to experiment with using both word counts and time counts as challenges for my writing. First, I challenged myself to write 1,000 words per day. That could take 30 minutes if I was really rolling or an hour if I wasn’t. I always left the session with 1,000 words. I liked this a lot.
My dad almost died during this time, so I got off track. Other writers would not get off track, but I did. I forgave myself and kept going. When I came back to the writing, I experimented with word counts and kept a chart with my daily progress. This worked until my dad got sick again. He was sick for weeks, and I tried bringing my laptop to the hospital with me. What I found out is that the day I’d bring my laptop was the day the doctors would want to talk with me or I was invited to watch him in physical therapy. I had to stay open to whatever would happen and that often meant I accomplished no writing.
After I wrote 1,000 words, it became pretty easy to write 2,000 words. Sometimes, the words became blog posts. Sometimes, they became part of a book.
If you practice writing for 20 minutes, it might become extremely easy to write for 25 (and then 30) minutes. With that time, you’d be getting in more writing practice. You’d be making the space for new ideas to arrive. You’d be prioritizing the work you want to share with the world.
If this goal isn’t for you, you can make up what works. Creativity allows you to do this, and what I’ve discovered is that there’s no wrong answer if you’re getting yourself to write on a regular basis.