So today, according to my editorial calendar, you were supposed to be reading a detailed and amusing essay on why writing exercises are a great way to get yourself writing, even when there is little time.
And then life got in the way.
It does that, doesn’t it?
I am a big devotee of those home interiors and lifestyle blogs that tell you all about how to organise your cleaning equipment, how to update that hideous credenza with a quick lick of paint (here’s one I did earlier), and offer funky downloadable printouts of chore lists and records for when you last took the dog for his shots. You know the ones? The ones that are supposed to make you feel like your life is amazing and completely within your control, but actually make you feel like one of those weird hoarding people who live on indoor garbage heaps in documentaries.
Reading this blog, you might feel just that way too. You may think I’ve got it all together. That I write oodles of books and I’m so productive. Well, I’ll let you into a dirty little secret – I’m not.
Just like the lovely ladies who write those amazing lifestyle and organising blogs, I have mess, and piles of dirty laundry, and weeds in the garden. I get up in the morning and really don’t feel like writing. Or there is just no time. Like today. I seriously did not feel like doing my Morning Pages today. I felt ill and all I wanted to do was sleep. I wanted to scream at anybody who came near me, and then get under the duvet and have the world just GO AWAY AND LEAVE ME ALONE THANK YOU VERY MUCH!!!!
(I’m sure you are familiar with those kinds of days.)
Sometimes it happens. It probably even happened to Dickens. What the hell.
I didn’t beat myself up about it. Instead, I wrote my Morning Pages. I scribbled three pages of growls and groans about how I have no time to do the things I want to do because I’m faffing about doing a bunch of other stuff that is urgent but not important. In the course of those three pages, I realised that the reason why I am so crabby today is that I haven’t written a story in weeks.
I’m crabby because I am not writing.
At this point, it becomes profoundly obvious that even a fifteen minute writing exercise has to be fitted in to today. Otherwise I will be up before the beak for homicide!
This is why you have to make time to write: because if you are a writer, you need to write in the same way as you need to eat your greens and take exercise. Writing makes you sane.
The distance between sanity and insanity is the width of a pen nib.
(I wrote that years ago, it’s good isn’t it?!)
And you’d better believe it.
So join me in stopping the grumps. Get out your writers notebook and try the following exercise. I guarantee it will make you feel better.
Get a timer and set it for fifteen minutes – ten, if you are really pushed. Write down the following phrase and then finish it as a sentence.
I haven’t written anything lately because….
Let your mind tumble onto the page. It doesn’t matter if it is a list of reasons, like that your husband ought to put the kids to bed a bit more often so that you can have some time to yourself, or that you’ve got the finish that damned presentation to give at work first thing tomorrow. Maybe it’s that you have a character rumbling about in your head but you are having trouble with some aspect of him or her, in which case, write that down too, and expand on the problem. If you keep on writing until the pinger goes, you may just have found the edge of a solution.
Write whatever comes to mind. Complain, moan, plan, get excited, drone, create, wonder what subjects you are interested in. Whatever you need to get down. At the end of fifteen minutes, I guarantee you will have either worked out what is stopping you (and if you are anything like me, it may turn out to be that YOU are what is stopping you), or you may have come up with a plan of how to carve out some time to write, or you may even have come up with a new story idea or scene.
Whatever. The important thing is that you just spent fifteen minutes writing. Hooray! Now do it again. Maybe today. Maybe tomorrow. But do it.