Tuesday, January 03, 2017

JUNOWRIMO: Writing five minutes a day for a year equals a book

You CAN write a novel (or a script, or a TV pilot....) in whatever time you have. Even if that’s only five minutes a day. If you have kids, if you have the day job from hell, if you are clinically depressed – whatever is going on in your life, if you have five minutes a day, as long as you write EVERY DAY, to the best of your ability, you can write a novel that way.

I just don't think that's said often enough.

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I wrote my first novel, The Harrowing, by writing just five minutes per day.

My day job was screenwriting, at the time, and yes, it was a writing job, but it had turned into the day job from hell.

But fury is a wonderful motivator, and at the end of the day, every day, I was so pissed off at the producers I was working for that I would make myself write five minutes a day on the novel EVERY NIGHT, just out of spite.

Okay, the trick to this is – that if you write five minutes a day, you will write more than five minutes a day, sometimes a whole hell of a lot more than five minutes a day most days. But it’s the first five minutes that are the hardest.

Sometimes I was so tired that all I could manage was a sentence, but I would sit down at my desk and write that one sentence. But some days I’d tell myself all I needed to write was a sentence, and I’d end up writing three pages. I finished that book, and sold it to a major publisher, in less than a year.

It’s just like the first five minutes of exercise - something I learned a long time ago. As long as I can drag myself to class and endure that first five minutes of the workout, and I give myself permission to leave after five minutes if I want to, I will generally take the whole hour or hour and a half class, and usually end up loving it. (There are these wonderful things called endorphins, you see, and they kick in after a certain amount of exposure to pain...)

The trick to writing, and exercise, is – it is STARTING that is hard.

I have been writing professionally for . . . well, never mind how many years. But even after all those many years—every single day, I have to trick myself into writing. I will do anything – scrub toilets, clean the cat box, do my taxes, do my mother’s taxes – rather than sit down to write. It’s absurd. I mean, what’s so hard about writing, besides everything?

But I know this just like I know it about exercise. If you can just start, and commit to just that five minutes, those five minutes will turn into ten, and those ten minutes will turn into pages, and one page a day for a year is a book.

Think about it.

Or better yet, write for five minutes, right now.

Alexandra Sokoloff


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Unknown said...

This is so true. As a clinical psychologist and published author, I work full-time plus some. I used to rationalize that I needed a time block of at least a few hours to make writing worth my time, which was total crap. I have 2 novels and an anthology story coming out this year, and am on track to finish writing three more books this year despite having a day job. Similar to the 5 minutes a day technique, I make myself do 500 words per day, which adds up quickly and I often go over. It's very doable if you are determined enough. :)

Alexandra Sokoloff said...

That is so great to hear, Kristi!! It really is a fallacy that you need a few hours for every writing session. As Tibetan master Tsoknyi Rinpoche says (about meditation, but equally applicable): "Short moments, many times.”

500 words a day is a great baseline goal, and totally workable. You go!