As I mentioned in “Harnessing the Unconscious,” Dorothea Brande claimed in her classic book Becoming a Writer that there were two distinct types of writing you must master if you hoped to have a career as an author.
Whether or not both are necessary is up for grabs. However, I do know that both types have been very helpful to my own writing, for different reasons.
Today’s post describes the second April writing challenge you can sign up for.
Last time we talked about early morning writing. This second challenge (“Writing on Schedule”) will entail learning to write at a designated moment in your day.
What Kind of Schedule?
First, this scheduled writing takes no longer than fifteen minutes. And all of you can find fifteen minutes at some point in your busy day. (If you want to write longer, you can. But the challenge is to commit to just fifteen minutes.)
Each morning look at your day’s demands, appointments, and activities. In this particular day, where is a time slot you could set aside for fifteen minutes of writing? We all have slivers of free time, even if it’s taken from our lunch break. Decide for yourself exactly when you will take that time to write today.
Commit at All Costs
Suppose you looked at your schedule and decided that four o’clock was the best time to write today. Then what? According to Dorothea Brande,
“Now this is very important, and can hardly be emphasized too strongly: you have decided to write at four o’clock, and at four o’clock write you must! No excuses can be given.”
Regardless of what you’re doing at four o’clock that day, you stop everything and write for your fifteen minutes. If you’re on the phone, at 3:55 you begin saying good-bye. Wind up what you’re doing and be writing at 4:00 sharp.
Set a timer, either a mechanical kitchen timer or a computer timer. Then write.
You can write anything at all. Here are some things I’ve done during scheduled writing:
- Stream-of-consciousness thoughts and nonsense
- Plans for blog posts
- Fragment of dialogue
- Writing prompts to get started
- Description of someone or something
- Complaints and gripes
- A scene from my work-in-progress
When to Schedule the Writing
Don’t choose the same time each day. Try different times of the morning and afternoon and evening. Try just after a meal, or just before. It’s important to choose a different hour from day to day.
“The important thing,” says Brande, “is that at the moment, on the dot of the moment, you are to be writing, and that you teach yourself that no excuse of any nature can be offered when the moment comes.”
In other words, you don’t hit four o’clock and think, What difference does it make if I finish this chore now and write at four-thirty? No! You make yourself stop, get to your desk on schedule, and write. Or if you think, I had no idea I’d have a headache this morning, just take an aspirin or make some herbal tea, but then get to your writing.
Look Out for Opposition!
This sounds like such an easy exercise as you read about it. And eventually it will become easy. However, says Brande,
“as you begin to put it into practice you will understand. There is a deep inner resistance to writing which is more likely to emerge at this point than in the earlier exercise…the unconscious does not like these rules and regulations…It prefers to choose its own occasions and to emerge as it likes.”
Persevere! Ignore all the little voices that tell you it doesn’t really matter when you write, or won’t matter if you skip it just this once. Push on doggedly. If you do this, Brande says the “unconscious will suddenly give in charmingly, and begin to write gracefully and well.” From experience, I have to agree.
Warming Up for April
Give the scheduled writing a try this week on your own. Try different times. See where your own personal resistance lies.
Then if you want to join this 30-day challenge, I’ll give you how-to instructions on Friday.
What appeals to you about this challenge? Do you think it would benefit you?