If you look online for writing classes, you’ll find that most classes are about the craft of writing– how to write fiction, how to create memorable characters, how to write your memoir. What you’ll rarely see is a class about how you get the writing to craft. In other words, if you’ve always wanted to write (or you just can’t seem to get yourself to moving), how do you start writing in the first place? How do you write it wrong so you can get to the point where you can write it right?
The obvious but oft-overlooked fact about writing is that in order to get better, you have to practice, and that involves showing up. Seriously. The difference between a would-be writer and a real writer is that real writers don’t just THINK about it. Real writers write. I honestly believe that 99% of writing is just getting your butt in the seat and remaining there until you’ve gotten something down on paper. This is easier said than done. (Trust me on this.)
So how do you get yourself to even show up? You form a habit.
Scientists now believe that it takes 66 days of repetition for a new behavior to become automatic. If you really want to develop a writing habit, you’re going to need to show up for practice every day for two months.
Sound impossible? It’s not.
In the classes I teach, we focus on one thing: setting aside 10 minutes a day to write. Ten minutes! I provide writing prompt each day and my students find a place to write, set a timer, and force their hands to keep moving until that timer goes off. They don’t read the news or answer e-mail or check their Facebook accounts. They write. And here’s what they find.
Ten minutes is easy. You can do anything for that amount of time.
Sometimes, that ten minutes is just a jumping-off point, and the writing flows. Hours go by. Sometimes, that ten minutes is agony. But what eventually happens is that if they DON’T write one day, something feels off. Writing has become a habit, and they’ve established a practice. If writing is your practice, the only way to fail is not to show up.
So start with 10 minutes. Put your butt in the seat. Keep your fingers moving, and you’ll already have succeeded. It’s that simple.
Sharon Knapp is an instructor at Writers & Books.
Read her whole bio here.