1. Commit to writing for at least two hours every day. (Why? Because 1½ to 2 hours is the maximum that most of us can endure mentally and physically before needing a break.) So write for at least 90 minutes without getting up from your chair. Seriously. No breaks, no distractions, no getting everything else done first. And especially no e-mail and Facebook.
2. Write every day for two weeks. For most of us, that is enough to make it a habit. And I promise that if you do this, you’ll find out how much more productive you become as a writer. Try it.
3. What to do when you have holidays to observe and celebrate? Or when you are too ill to write? Or when you can’t possibly find even 90 minutes in your day to write? That is when you must write even 15 minutes each day. No matter how tired or busy or even sick you are, write 15 minutes each day. Here’s why this works:
- The hardest part of writing is getting started. We amateurs procrastinate minutes, hours, and days. (The pros – some of the best and most prolific writers – report procrastinating weeks and even years.) We’re afraid we won’t have anything to write. We’re afraid that what we write will be terrible. We’re afraid we’re not up to the real pain that good writing requires. For some of us, it’s only when the pain of what we would lose by not writing – fellowships, degree completion, book contracts, jobs – feels more real than the pain of actually writing that we even begin to write.
- If you make yourself write 15 minutes a day, you have overcome the biggest hurdle – getting started. I’ve never known anyone with the goal of writing 15 minutes a day actually limit writing to just that 15 minutes. Once you start, I promise you won’t watch the clock. You’ll write for 30, 60, even 90 minutes before you realize it. (The trick is that you tell yourself you only have to write for 15 minutes and that you can endure anything for that long. Once you start to write, the anxiety will begin to disappear and you’ll write longer.)
- Writing everyday contributes to continuity of your thinking and generating the ideas you need to write. Your mind will function differently when you write every day. We all think about our writing every day. But the cognitive processes involved in writing are different from those involved in thinking. Your project moves forward when you write… even if you write a gosh-awful first draft.