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2 Powerful Tools to Jumpstart Your Writing

Joan DempsyA guest post by Joan Dempsey, Literary Living

I’m not going to lie to you.

Reading this blog post isn’t going to cure your writer’s block once and for all. Nor will it eradicate your self-doubt. Those issues run far too deep to solve with a simple blog post.

What you can learn, though, is to curb your tendency to resist sitting down at the writing desk, and that’s the first step to resolving those more complex issues that every writer faces.

If you use these tools I guarantee you’ll get into the writing habit in no time. And the beauty is, they’re simple!

The first takes only 10 minutes a day, the second takes 20 minutes whenever you need to use it.

The 10 Minute Habit Builder

I learned this one from Leo Babauta (ZenHabits.net), author of The Power of Less. If you want to get into the habit of writing every single day (or doing anything else with great consistency), this is the tool for you. I’ve used Leo’s 9 Rules to Form a Habit three times now:  to write, do yoga, and read every day. And the participants in my Literary Living program have each developed four new habits in the course of our 12 weeks together. It’s amazing what you can accomplish in only 10 minutes!

The 9 Rules are simple:

  1. Choose one habit.
  2. Start small.
  3. Commit publicly.
  4. Write your plan.
  5. Find a trigger.
  6. Be consistent.
  7. Report progress.
  8. Motivate.
  9. Be positive.

To get started, just read the one-page description and choose your first habit.

20 Minute Magic

When I was in the MFA program at Antioch University Los Angeles, I had the great good fortune to attend a 2-hour seminar with Ron Carlson, a wonderful writer and teacher of writing.

In his seminar he talked with us, in part, about how important it is to “stay out of the kitchen.” He suggested that if only you can stay at your writing desk for 20 minutes, “magic will happen.” Of course we all wanted to try out the master’s approach, so a bunch of us decided to commit to at least 20 minutes with ourselves firmly planted in our writing chairs to see what would happen.

You know what? It really was like magic.

No matter if we spent 15 of those 20 minutes with our heads on the desk in despair, by the time 20 minutes rolled around something had happened, even if it was something as small as an important captured thought about the work at hand. To this day, when I’m having trouble staying at the writing desk, I think about Carlson and give myself 20 minutes to find some magic. I’ve never been disappointed.

10 minutes a day, or 20 minutes when you need it . . . it won’t take long at all before you’re writing every day.

What are your simple but powerful tools that have worked to jump start your writing?

Joan Dempsey is a freelance writer and developer of Literary Living, a 12 week designed to help writers overcome self-doubt. You can find out about the program at: www.literaryliving.com

Two newsletters:
Abundant Freelance Writing – a resource for freelance writers including 3x a week job postings.
Writing With Vision – for those who want to get a book written.

{ 18 comments… add one }
  • Ha, I like the 20 minute thing. In that amount of time, I have usually moved past all the “throat clearing” and have got moving. The only thing that sucks is when I’m writing on my lunch hour and just when I’m roaring along, I have to stop!

    • I know the feeling, Elizabeth. Who is the author, though, who stopped writing each day in the middle of a word because then he’d know exactly where to start the next day? I’ve used that, too, to great effect. 🙂

  • I have to add that I need to actually focus for the 10 minutes, which is harder than it sounds. Since I write on the computer, and am almost always online when doing so, it’s so easy fall into the trap of distractions and just peek at Facebook or email or whatever. That always leads into something else that eats up my 10 minutes and leaves me having only typed one sentence. So, I’m going to work on focusing on JUST writing for 10 minutes, with no distractions. (Now, if I can just get my family to cooperate 😉

  • Hi Anne,

    Great advice as usual. I actually struggle a lot with leaving bad habits behind and start new more productive ones. I keep trying though and I’m sure to look into that information you shared.

    Thank you
    susana recently posted..The Superhero AttributeMy Profile

    • Susana, my father used to quote from an old typing exercise of all things: The chains of habits are too small to be noticed until they’re too large to be broken.

      • Interesting quote, Anne, and I imagine you share my sentiments that even heavy chains can be broken, with enough will power and attention. 🙂

        • I can remember my father’s ponderous tone of voice when he quoted that 😉

  • Cindi

    Thanks for the tips, Joan! These look like they will work with a minimum of effort, which seems to be what I require lately. Thank you again.

  • Even though I wish I could create magic each time I sit down to write, I’ve realized it may not always happen. However, what I’ve realized is that if I don’t work on my craft, I won’t get better. If I don’t release the ideas that are in my head, I’m not making room for other ideas…so, I sit down, time myself and write. I resist the urge to be critical and just write. It’s liberating knowing that I don’t hold myself to a standard of perfection, when I do this, the words somehow show up 🙂

    • and sometimes we only see the magic months or years after

    • Ahlam, you’re right that magic doesn’t always happen (although that 20-minute thing makes it pretty darned consistent! :)) and the consistency you speak of is critical to any writer’s success. As is the liberation of not letting perfection stand in your way. Keep up the good writing on your blog – good stuff!

      • Joan, so true if you write regularly you make it possible for the magic to happen much more often…

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