I’ve had several chats with people following my post yesterday and it seems sitting still long enough to get anything solid written is a rather common writerly problem.
If, like me, you have a proper job so therefore your writing of fiction has to happen around the things that pay the bills, time spent actually writing your story is precious and must be used to its fullest. So why then, is it so hard to make this time count?
Even if you’re not prone to physical fidgety-ness, writers generally have fidgety brains. Curiosity is a great thing and, in the words of the great Albert Einstein, “The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing.”
But books don’t write themselves and the greatest idea is nothing if it’s not developed. Developing takes time. There’s no getting away from it: writing a book means sitting still for, in total, months. This idea in itself can be enough to send he or she of the fidgety persuasion into a frenzied tidying out of the airing cupboard, even if they are genetically averse to tidying of any kind. Surely it’s not possible to sit still for that long. It can’t be. And it’s not, so the trick is not to think like that.
A teacher at Uni, Steve May, who has written many plays for UK Radio 4, had a top piece of advice to get around this problem. He too was a fidget, inclined to do absolutely anything other than sit down at his desk, even with a deadline looming. He told us stories of his wildly creative procrastination techniques including, I seem to recall, dog bathing and completely irrelevant research into the Ancient Romans.
His advice was this: you only have to sit down and write for 5 minutes. That’s it. 5 minutes, you say? Well that’s nothing. It really works too. Because writers aren’t just fidgets, they are fickle fidgets. We want to write but we never have the time. Then we have the time and we can’t sit still. We wish for months on end to write but once offered that dream, the reality seems impossible.
So remember next time. You only have to sit there for 5 minutes. Before you know it, your kids will be badgering you for food, the dog will be pawing at the door with its legs crossed (if that’s possible) and you’ll be sitting in complete darkness because you won’t have realised you’ve actually been writing all day long.
And you only sat down for 5 minutes.