I’m borrowing shamelessly from a pro-cycling term here: ‘From bed to shed’ is the phrase used to describe the most difficult part of any exercise session, namely finding the energy and motivation to get out of bed and retrieve your bike from the shed. The thinking is, once you’re on your bike it’s easier to keep going – starting is the hardest part.
Of course, writing is exactly the same. ‘From [insert any procrastination task here] to computer’ doesn’t have the same ring as ‘from bed to shed’ though, so I’m going to stick with the metaphor and trust you get what I mean. Starting is the important thing – getting your bum sat down in front of the screen, fingers on the keys, mind and body willing (and able) to continue for a while …
Cycling coaches use another useful approach to combat any training reluctance or procrastination: the commitment to do at least 20 minutes. 20 minutes is not long, it’s enough to squeeze in between more pressing engagements, it’s not too daunting or overwhelming. (We’re back to writing now, not cycling. Keep up!) But the idea is that if you can get yourself started, maybe by promising to do at least 20 minutes before giving up, you will often find yourself in the flow, more than happy to carry on writing for a lot longer than the planned 20 minutes. But even if you don’t, 20 minutes a day has to be better than nothing at all – and this does apply to writing and exercising!
Last night I watched a short video that really made me think. Basically the thrust of this health video is to encourage people to walk for 30 minutes a day. (You should watch it, it is really motivational – find the YouTube clip below.) What was incredibly powerful was the message at the end: Do you think you can manage to keep your sitting and sleeping to only 23 and a half hours a day?
Think about that, then apply it to writing. If you really want to be a successful writer (and success can mean whatever you want it to mean), do you think you can manage to keep your non-writing activities to only 23 and a half hours a day? Or if you decide you’d like to write for an hour every day, to only 23 hours?
Can you afford not to?
I’ve had a week where I’ve got very little done, and hardly any writing at all. Okay, none. I’ll admit it. My daughter had a sickness bug, she’s been off school, but that’s not really an excuse. There were evenings, there were the periods when she slept in the day. I’m not giving myself a hard time here, so don’t feel the need to jump to my defense – what I’m doing is merely recognising that I lack motivation at the moment, and I know this because there have been other periods of family illness and busyness that I have written all the way through without missing a target session. I’m focused – when I’m focused. I’m lazy when I’m not.
So, here is my motivation plan moving forward:
- Think about the journey from bed to shed. What will get me sitting in front of my computer, fingers on keyboard, ready to write? (Not ready to answer emails or look on Facebook, bad Jo!)
- Commit to 20 minutes only, aim for an hour if possible. If the first 20 minutes really do feel like pulling teeth, stop and start again later or the next day. If the muse grabs hold, carry on for at least an hour.
- Make sure that hour a day is available and unlikely to be interrupted. Ask yourself: Can you keep your non-writing activities to just 23 hours a day? And answer: Hell, yes! If I can’t do that, I can’t really call myself a writer, can I?
- Write first. Prioritise what matters most to your grand plan. Emails etc can wait until I’ve done my writing for the day. If they don’t like it, tough!
So, over to you – what tactics do you use to get from bed to shed?
23 1/2 Hours Video