Get A New Story: Why You Don’t Need Big Blocks of Time to Write

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As a coach who mentors, nudges, and inspires writers world-wide to build solid, daily writing habits, the single biggest challenge I see writers struggling with is resistance.

They are full of ideas, enthusiasm, and passion, but when it comes to sitting down and doing the work, there’s often a little too much talking and not enough writing.


I get it. I used to fall into the same trap. Not anymore.


One of the ways to bust through resistance — and its ugly step sister, procrastination — is to challenge the myths you hold about writing, starting with this doozy: “I have to have big blocks of time to write.”


Cousins of this particular writing myth are, “I have to quit my day job before I’ll have enough time to write,” and “I need to make more money before I can spend time writing.” Perhaps “I don’t have enough time to write” is the parent of all of these myths.


Are they true?

Consider this: From the article, “Work Habits of the Pros” by John Buchanan,
professional screenwriter Pamela Gray  says, “It’s more important for me to write for 15 minutes a day, six days a week, than to write for five hours on Monday and not work again until the following Monday.”

Why?


Sure, it’s nice to have longer stretches of time to write, but is it truly necessary?


And when you think about it, if coming up with big blocks of time is virtually impossible for you, and if you insist on believing that you have to have them in order to write, you’ll never do any writing. Ever.


Are you okay with that idea?


In my own experience, I struggled for literally years to carve out big blocks of time to write once a week — or even once a month. And even when I made that schedule a reality by radically overhauling my coaching business, I still found myself stalling and procrastinating when the day actually arrived.


Finally I made a commitment to write on a daily basis, six days a week. I started with writing for just a few minutes at a time, and I was shocked to discover that I was able to write 25 pages of a script in an average of 20 to 25 minutes a day over approximately 25 days. I’ve seen other writers conquer dreaded rewrites in just 15 minute increments as well.


It’s astonishing what can be accomplished with a regular, firm commitment to writing.


What procrastination really says

Procrastination and resistance originate in fear. When you’re procrastinating or just plain old not writing, what you’re really saying is, “I’m afraid.” 


(Don’t believe me? Next time you’re stalling, check in with yourself and see what’s going on deep down. You might be surprised.)


Many people are amazed to realize how much fear can come up around writing, but it can run the gamut from overwhelm (“I’ll never finish, it’s too big”) to self-doubt (“I’ll never be good enough”) to fears of success and failure (“What will people say?”).


Writing a screenplay is an elephant-sized project — it’s no wonder we can lose faith along the way.


How to antidote the fear

Writing in small chunks of time is the way to antidote the fear.


When you commit to writing for even just 15 minutes (less if you’re feeling particularly stuck or blocked), your subconscious mind says, “Okay, I can do that. I can write for 15 minutes even if I don’t know what the hell I’m doing.”


Then do it again the next day.


Or as Seth Godin says, “Set a goal, and in small, consistent steps, work to reach it.”


Bonus #1: More frequent creative thoughts

As a side effect of writing in small, daily increments, the more frequently you write, the more often you’ll have creative insights.


In a study by Robert Boice of academic writers, he found that writers who committed to writing daily were twice as likely to have a creative thought as writers who wrote when they “felt like it.”


How’s that for a nudge toward writing more regularly?


Bonus #2: Cut down on gearing up

Writers who write on a daily basis, even for short spans of time, report how much easier it is to reengage with their work when they sit down to write — cutting out all the “gearing up” we like to think is necessary to the writing process (another writing myth worth challenging).


Bonus #3: Writing daily is the path to professionalism

We’re told in the screenwriting world to learn the craft, but we aren’t told as often to practice the craft.


Screenwriter and novelist Steven Pressfield says, in his book Turning Pro, “When we do the work for itself alone, our pursuit of a career turns into something else, …. It becomes a practice.”


A daily writing habit will move you toward building a library of scripts and completed work faster than waiting around for the right mood and the right time.


And it will also make you a pro.


Stop looking for big blocks of time and just do the writing. You’ll be surprised at what you can accomplish.

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15 thoughts on “Get A New Story: Why You Don’t Need Big Blocks of Time to Write

  1. alex moreno

    Jenna

    Great article. I try to write a little every day – if I cannot even achieve that small task, I at least edit, jot notes down on an upcoming scene I have in mind, or do a little research (like check in with you or Scriptshadow or Talentville for learning tid bits). i totally agree by us keeping engaged in our project each day it keeps things closer to our heart and is easier to pick up and write.
    I also spend a lot of my day (on the loo/in the shower/walking the dog) thinking about my script and will always jot down new ideas or big changes I’d like to explore!

  2. Michael

    I’ve been writing for the past one year and even though i’m a graduate of a film school, precisely mastered in screenwriting and film-directing, the writing aspect has become my main profession now because i enjoy visualizing my characters as my friends, colleagues and family. Devoting time for writing has never been a challenge and as said it makes you more perfect.currently my TV series is airing here in my country… VIASAT 1GH.

  3. Jenna AveryJennaAvery Post author

    Romona, I’m so glad this helped you — a few baby steps a day is amazing way to tackle a big project. Good for you!

    Aaron, Excellent to hear that this connected for you too. I hope you are able to use the smaller chunks idea too to make the progress you are wanting.

  4. Aaron

    Most helpful article I have read in a long time. Fear is what has paralyzed me for years. Maybe if I can commit to these smaller chunks, that will take care of itself. Thank you!

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  7. romona robinson

    Thank you Jenna for this…I needed to read this.

    I’ve been a straight up sucka for the past few weeks, I literally have like 20 pages left to type out in draft and it’s like something has had a hold over me. It’s made me feel both sad and angry at myself. I’m going to finish this draft this weekend.

    With the tips in this article, I’ll approach the rewrite of my other draft with a completely different mindset with tackling the mountain a few baby steps a day until I reach the summit, a completed rewrite.

    Wishing good writing juju for everyone!

  8. romona robinson

    Thank you Jenna for this…I needed to read this.

    I’ve been a straight up sucka for the past few weeks, I literally have like 20 pages left to type out in draft and it’s like something has had a hold over me. It’s made me feel both sad and angry at myself. I’m going to finish this draft this weekend.

    With the tips in this article, I’ll approach the rewrite of my other draft with a completely different mindset with tackling the mountain a few baby steps a day until I reach the summit, a completed rewrite.

    Good writing juju for everyone!

  9. Rob

    Great article, Jenna. Pressfield’s Turning Pro is the follow-up to The War of Art. I’ve read both and would recommend them to any writer. Wonderfully inspirational…kinda like a good kick in the pants 😉

  10. Jenna AveryJennaAvery Post author

    @Michael — Excellent! Please let me know how it goes. I’d love to hear back from you.

    @Martin — I know what you mean about dreaming of 15 minutes to spare. I’ve been through phases like that. What I found is that if I combine doing 15 minutes and doing it first thing in the morning, I barely notice the impact in my day. I’ve now worked up to 60 minutes daily, straight out of bed and I love it. Let me know how tomorrow goes!

    @Adam — I’m thrilled to hear you’ve been writing daily and seeing such great results. Isn’t it amazing what a difference it can make? What a great testament — writing more pages and making more progress in a 129 days of writing versus off-again, on-again writing over 13 years. Yow. Congratulations!

    Thanks so much for commenting, all of you. 🙂

    Jenna

  11. Adam Wozniak

    Great article, Jenna.

    I’ve been writing EVERY day for the past 129 days now, and I’ve made more progress, and written more pages, than I ever did in the previous 13 years of on-again, off-again screenwriting.

    Even in this short time of daily writing, I’ve experienced the same bonuses you mentioned.

    I now come up with more ideas than I ever did before, and it takes me no time to jump right back into my scripts. I can write wherever. At home, in the library, out in public, on a bus with my phone, etc. I often find I can get scene breakthroughs in just 5 – 10 minute writing sessions. Doesn’t seem like a lot of time, but even over a period of 129 days I have written a LOT of script pages.

    It’s amazing how powerful the daily writing habit is.

  12. Martin Coles

    I dream of a spare 15 minutes a day even!
    But I shall certainly try now…well I say “now” but mean (of course) “tomorrow”…
    Thanks for the advice Jenna, I look forward to many more articles now 🙂

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