Two years ago, I was struggling to find my voice as a writer amidst the demands and joys of having my two children home for the summer. I entered my July checkpoint meeting with my 24 Carrot Writing buddies having let nearly five weeks pass without a written word. Progress on my novel had come to a halt, the creative well was bone dry, and I was depressed, angry and frustrated. Depressed because I had shut out something I loved, angry I had put my desires and needs on the back burner—lest I be selfish, and frustrated I hadn’t yet kicked myself in the butt and righted the course of action.
When it was my turn to state my monthly writing goals for August, I declined comment. I could think of nothing to say. No inspiration. No goals to set and achieve. I could imagine no scenario where I would achieve any goal I set for myself—that’s how little faith I had left in my writing. The others took turns stating their goals and when we got to Annie, she said simply, “I’m going to write for 20 minutes a day.”
With that one little sentence she snapped me back to reality and snapped me back to being a writer. I decided I could write for 20 minutes a day. Because if I couldn’t give myself 20 measly minutes, what could I give myself?
That became August’s goal.
I undertook this challenge with unwavering devotion. No matter what, no matter what hour, I set the timer for 20 minutes and attacked the page with my pen. With a timer ticking along in the background, there was no time for hesitation. And day after day, scene after scene, words poured out of me.
Twenty minutes might not seem like much, but that summer I had 10 hours of writing at the end of August that I hadn’t had in July. I continued into September, then into October. Weekends, Thanksgiving, Christmas. I wrote through them all, because it was a gift to myself to sustain that flow of writing.
In all honesty, some writing days are easy and some days are more challenging. But I write anyway. If I’m drained when I write (like on those nights I pick up the pen at 11:30 p.m. because I didn’t “get to it” earlier), I tend to use prompts or pose question after question about my characters and plot and setting. Often those questions are answered in the writing sessions over the next couple of days. The thread of writing every day deepens my craft and brings a level of complexity and honesty that hadn’t existed before. And it feeds the hungry writer’s soul inside.
As I pointed out in Monday’s blog, November is the perfect month to stretch your creativity. Even if you can’t commit to NaNoWriMo or PiBoIdMo, dust off your timer (or find the one on your smart phone) and give yourself 20 minutes a day to devote to your craft. Try it for a month, and watch the miracles unfold.