Someday you're going to write. Someday? Which day? When you're suddenly faced with a few free hours on a weekend, when the work levels off on your job, when you get promoted and have less pressure, when you go on vacation, when you retire? How much free time do you need before you start? How long should you wait? Will you know when the time is right, and will you know what to do when it comes? Well, I can tell you, do not wait until your life opens up and you're faced with starting cold with no discipline or writing skills. The longer you wait, the harder it's going to be to start, and the less chance you'll have of succeeding if you do start.
So, you should (and can) start now. The promise of this course is that I can show you how to write a novel, screenplay, or stage play without disrupting your lifestyle or sacrificing your sanity—and that it will be possible and relatively painless.
In this chapter the techniques are tailored to helping you overcome the particular difficulties you face in making writing a part of your daily life. If you're serious about writing, you can (and should) start now. If you do, when your life opens up (if it ever does), you'll be ready and able. But what if it never opens up? Well, you don't need to wait around for such an opportunity. This system makes it possible for you to do it now.
You have a full-time job, a wife, kids, extended-family obligations, and maybe lots more. Where are you going to find the time? Even if your life isn't that loaded down, even if you do have the time, but you're not getting anything done, how do you manage your time (and yourself) and make something happen? Where do you start?
Well, first, I don't believe you have no (zero) time. With this method, you have to find a tiny bit of time. How tiny? How about 5 minutes—5 minutes a day? Think you can find that much? You can always sneak away to the washroom and lock yourself in a stall to steal 5 minutes. OK, let's say that you're willing to try it —the 5-minute method. It's not much time. Most of us, no matter how busy we are, can take time out for 5 minutes once a day.
What can happen in 5 minutes? Well, has anything of great importance ever happened to you in that amount of time? Ever make a discovery or have an inspiration? How long did it take? Einstein said that all of his great ideas just came to him. He was a genius, so your ideas may not be as great as his, but the process that gets you there is the same. Great ideas often occur in a flash. A 5-minute inspiration would be very, very long—and rare. What can happen in 5 minutes? Plenty—if you know how to use them. And you will, because that's what this technique is all about.
It's not just the 5 minutes themselves that are important. The effects of these sessions reach beyond the actual time you put in. So, in a sense, the 5 minutes add up to more than 5 minutes, especially when you consider the results. Also, it's the first step in preparing yourself to write a novel when the time comes, which is sooner than you think, as you'll see when we get to the rest of the technique.
But remember you can't afford to be casual about these 5 little minutes a day. Just because the time is only 5 minutes doesn't mean it's not crucial. It's the key to making everything work—your first important step forward.
Of all the methods I've devised to get people started and keep them going, this 5-minute method has been the most successful. It's a daily fix that keeps you connected to your writing. OK, but what are you going to do in those 5 minutes? Not much, at first. The first thing is to simply get the feel of taking these 5 minutes out, get used to the routine, get comfortable in this little piece of time away from everything else you do each day. So, you don't do anything more than tell yourself, "OK, this is the time I'm going to use to work on my writing once I get used to being here on a regular basis."
It's a relaxed, meditative state of mind that you're getting into. For our purposes, this meditative state is just awareness of yourself and where you're at, awareness of being here in this place for this time. That's all.
So, at first, you go there and do nothing—you put in your time, and that's it. No matter how foolish or ineffective it seems or makes you feel, do it.
This meditative state is the place where everything begins. And later, once you're into using this time to get something done, whenever you feel too pressured or strained or under the gun to do, to accomplish, anything, you return to this state, you fall back to doing nothing, to regain your balance.
Now, some people have trouble relaxing, doing nothing, wasting time, not going anywhere. I know because I'm one of those people. As soon as my foot hits the floor in the morning, the pressure is on to move, to do, to accomplish, to get something done, to make something important happen, etc. I've learned to let up, but it's something I have to look out for. And that kind of pressure is a major obstacle to doing anything creative, since there are so much mess and waste that are a natural and good part of the creative process.
If you're the type that pressures yourself in this way, it helps to first realize that maybe this old puritanical ethic (an idle mind is the devil's workshop, etc.) is excessive or even nutty. It certainly is in my case. I once sat down to try meditating for 5 minutes and nearly jumped out of my skin because, in my world, you were never supposed to be doing nothing, and if you caught yourself doing nothing, you damned well better not be enjoying it. (This is all very Western. The Eastern cultures have a tradition of meditation, of letting go of the mind, of letting it settle down, to achieve an inner state of emptiness and relaxation that brings on insight and enlightenment. Now, I'm not talking about religion or spirituality, but simply a way to reach a deeper level of your mind.) So, if the Puritan is in you, it usually helps to be aware of it and consciously tell yourself it's OK to just sit.
Also, relaxing your body in a conscious way is a good way of relaxing your mind. (The mind, if left alone, will relax and clear itself. That's not only meditation, but part of what's called the relaxation response, which is well documented in Western science.) I want to leave no stone unturned in all of this, so I'm even going to give you a method for relaxing your body.
Start by taking a deep breath. As you let it out, let your body go. Keep your breathing relaxed. As you go on, concentrate on what you're relaxing, get a sensation of it, and then let go of it. Now, relax your face. Your scalp. (Sounds wacky, I know. Do it anyway.) Your ears. Relax your eyes and all the muscles around and behind your eyes. Then one at a time, relax your mouth, tongue, neck, shoulders, arms, hands, fingers, chest, stomach, back, pelvis, legs, feet, toes. Take another deep breath and exhale, letting everything go all at once. This helps a lot to get me started, and I'm a pretty tense guy. Once you've done it a few times, you can do the whole thing in thirty seconds.
This whole relaxing, letting go, do nothing approach should assure that you will do your five minutes, that you will put in your time, because you can never use the excuse that you're not up to doing it, that you don't feel you can accomplish anything, that you're not in the mood, or that you can't handle it today, etc., since the only thing you have to accomplish when you don't feel up to it is to do nothing, and you can't claim that you're incapable of doing nothing, can you? Well, even if you can, don't let yourself get away with it. The important thing is that you go there, put in your time, do your five minutes, each and every day—no matter what. No excuses, no time off.
Now, there are exceptions to all of this. Some people find that trying to relax in this way only makes them more tense. If you're that kind of person, don't do it. Also, some people like to work from tension. There's good stress as well as bad stress. And you don't have to do it the same way every time. One time, you might feel the need to settle yourself down and relax first. Another time, you might be charged up and ready to go as soon as you sit down.
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