How much time do we really need to write?

Every time I sit down to think about what I will write in this month’s blog, my mind returns to the concept of time, and specifically, not having enough of it. How does it happen that, month after month, I feel like I never have enough time for my writing?

I know I’m not alone in this. I know, because the writers I work with each week say the same thing: there isn’t enough time to write this week, or this month…. Maybe some day, they all say, when the weather is warm or our kids are grown or the day-job isn’t so demanding… When we’re retired, or when we win a fellowship or the lottery, then we’ll have time. Some day we will have the time, we all tell ourselves, and then we will write.  Then we’ll finish that book!

But the more I hear this refrain, the more I realize how unrealistic it is. No matter what our life circumstances, we never feel like we have enough time. I don’t have time. My mother who is 80 doesn’t have time. The retirees I write with don’t have time: there are the volunteer commitments and community groups, the ageing spouses, the pet care, the household chores and self care and health issues….

And I’m starting to think that as long as we tell ourselves there isn’t time, we will never have enough of it.

When I think about time and writing, I often think of the way I start each of my workshops: with an eight-minute warm up. It always amazes me what writers can create in these eight minutes: a tiny scene, a memory, a powerful image, a mini-essay…. An entire story, if they’re lucky. All it takes is eight minutes and, right in front of our eyes, in our bright and warm studio space, an entire world appears. Each and every time. Why then, do we put so many expectations on ourselves to carve out an hour or two each day? If eight minutes of non-stop writing is all it really takes to find our way into our work, why do we always think we need more? Maybe removing these demands of more—more time, more space, more productivity—is what makes so much possible in those eight minute warm ups.

I think there might also be some magic to the words, warm up. When writers feel freed from the expectation of writing brilliantly, or even well… when they feel allowed to stretch and play around and make mistakes, then suddenly the words flow much freer, the writing comes more quickly. A whole page gets magically filled… And then, we’re in. We’re engaged again…

I invite you to try the same this month. Take away the expectations. Make writing a treat. Write as quickly as you can, and as ‘badly,’ for only eight minutes. See how quickly a world is created.

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