My daughter is bent on becoming a connoisseur of musical instruments. She started in sixth grade with the flute—a dainty little instrument and a favorite among girls (probably for its size and sound). I was so proud of the fact that at their first band concert she not only had a duet but also a beautiful solo. We videoed and took pictures; we were beaming proud parents, cousin and grandma. She was on her way to becoming quite a flutist. She enjoyed the idea and liked being a part of the group.
The band director suggested at least an hour a day for practice—gets you acclimated to the instrument and you only become a better player. One hour. It doesn’t seem like much until you have to do it every day—everyday. Then she met the trombone. Perhaps what she didn’t quite get with the flute is that practice is a fundamental task with any instrument—long after the concert is over and no one is asking so how do you like band? And no one is saying, Oh, neat, you play flute. Trombone? Awesome!
It was a commitment–one hour a day including the days her favorite show was running some ridiculous marathon, days when she couldn’t have cared less about a flute because she had a ton of math, days when she realized that lugging that trombone around was no joke.
That’s the thing about being repetitive with any task there are some days that you just don’t want to—including writing. I suppose if I only wrote when I felt like it, I’d be an old woman determined to finish that second chapter. But contrary to what you might believe habit not only creates momentum but it also creates a rhythm of sorts. Everything in life has a rhythm, a cycle, a cadence. Some are established and cannot be changed like the Earth revolving around the sun or the changing of the seasons. But others we can both establish and change, like a 40-hour work week, or a part-time job. Both mentally and physically our bodies and minds adapt to the change and suddenly the kid who crammed for physic exams on the weekend and worked part-time all through college is propelled into the real world and is working 40 hours every week without fail.
For those who say that they don’t have any time to write I say writing is not important to you right now. But if you feel that it is remember it’s not the quantity of time, it is just making time. Period. If it is 15 minutes in the morning before you go to work, commit to it—everyday. If it is 20 minutes after the kids are put to bed do it. Once you establish a time you will suddenly look forward to it. And by looking forward I don’t mean you’ll always be ecstatic about it, but your body and mind will know it’s coming and suddenly you will become focused if only for 15 or 20 minutes.
When I started to write my novel it wasn’t time but pages I used as my focus—five days a week, three to four pages per day. I found that over time I could do no more and no less. But over time, within a year I had written a book. The rhythm of a thing propels it forward and keeps it moving. Established habits keep your story moving and even when it feels like you are stuck you will sit and be able to write something. It may not be stellar or perfect and it may require a rewrite, but your body and soul will know that this time is for writing. Over time you may be surprised at what you achieve.