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Creativity coach, writing and creative process instructor, speaker, author of Around the Writer's Block: Using Brain Science to Write the Way You Want (Penguin/Tarcher 2012) and Dancing in the Dragon's Den (Red Wheel Weiser), Teaching Artist at the Loft Literary Center.

Keep Writer’s Block at Bay by Keeping Writing Something You Get to Do Part 2


Too busy to do what you most want to do?

Yesterday’s post laid out the problem: If you don’t think of writing as something you have to do, you never find time for it, but if you do make writing something you have to do, it leeches all the joy out of it.

Here’s where a Product Time habit comes to the rescue. The commitment part gives you the permission to say “no” to other obligations and options because you “have to” put in your Product Time – it’s right there on your To Do list.

Product Time serves you when you start believing the hype that you’re so busy you don’t have time for anything that’s not on your To Do list. When you consistently make time for writing, you remember writing is a vital part of your life purpose (an awareness that can be drowned out by the drone of busy-ness).

The variability of what you can do in your Product Time (research, draft, revise, follow a writing prompt, map out strategies for the writing project, play with a speculative project, etc.) keeps the commitment interesting.

The 15-minute upper limit on the commitment means you won’t be tempted to postpone writing for other demands – even at your busiest, you can usually see a way to get 15 minutes of Product Time in the day (especially when you have the momentum of habit behind you).

Keeping Product Time Interesting

You do need to keep Product Time fresh so you avoid the trap of an old married couple who are so used to waking up with each other, there’s none of the spark of new romance. That’s where Targets come in. You’re committed to 15 minutes of Product Time (just like you’re committed to your life partner), but you get to spend an hour or three on your writing depending on how much you can squeeze into your schedule.

Targets change and that keeps them interesting. Targets are not commitments; they’re what you shoot for, what you look forward to. Targets keep writing play, that is, what you are “not obliged to do.”

Targets keep writing something you want to do. A Product Time commitment keeps writing something you “have to” do in the face of competing demands for your time.

Think how handy this will be. You’ll get to say something like “Gee, I wish I could attend another one of Marci’s baby showers – the other four we had for her were so much fun and Marci and I are so close, working in almost related departments and seeing each other at all the quarterly all-staff meetings and all. But I have another commitment. Sorry.”

And that will be the secretly smug “Sorry” that means “I’m not sorry at all, but I am justified and you can’t make me change my mind. I get to go play with my writing.” But let’s be adult about this; keep the “nana nana boo boo” to yourself.

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