“How do you find the time to write?”
I replied, “I don’t find the time, I make the time.”
She looked a little dejected as perhaps she was hoping for a simpler answer although my answer, in my opinion, is both the good news and the bad news. It’s both the silver bullet, the easy way, something that’s under your control while at the same time it’s something as large as the elephant in the room, in fact, it is the elephant in the room.
Procrastination is a disease that spreads like wildfire. In fact, just like fire it spreads so simply and easily and can begin with something as small as a match. Just like wildfire, something that begins with the spark can turn into a raging forest fire that can decimate the grandest of ideas, the most important stories, and at the same time your confidence, belief, and passion.
We spoke together for only maybe five minutes, while I was in the middle of going through decades of junk in my attic. She just stopped by to hand off something to my mom and had no idea I was going to drag her down into the depths of passionate persistence to rise up and leap out of the water and give her the answer to her dreams: small wins.
My second answer as to how I did it, or how I do it, is to write every single day. I made the decision on November 1, 2012, to write every day and I have never wavered from that decision. If you only think about the words, “write every day,” they sound so simple, so innocent, yet they have been possibly three of the most powerful words, when put together in that order, that I have ever encountered.
To give her a bit of relief I reminded her that she doesn’t need to write 5,000 words or spend four hours writing every day but rather to begin small, wake up just 15 minutes earlier and, no, you can’t check your Facebook, pay that bill, or fix your son’s lunch. This time is exclusively and deliciously for you and for you only.
It is your safe haven, it is your heaven, it is your place and time on this earth to do what you want to do, perhaps what you are meant to do, or at the very least what you are meant to do for these next 15 minutes.
One of the side effects of writing every day and making the decision to do so are the unexpected benefits you accrue over time. Accrue meaning that they build up, that your muscles get stronger, that you get better at the work, that you make the 15 minutes more easily, that the 15 minutes turns into 20 minutes and that turns into 30 minutes, and eventually it might turn into a whopping hour of pleasure, of joy, of you living your passion. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. For her, it’s going to start with just 15 minutes per morning. Getting up before the kids, not letting anything, no, really, anything, get in her way, focus, sit and write.
If that sounds brutal that’s because to your ears it might be brutal. To my ears it’s the joy of the peace of every morning. She asked me if I could mentor her every day and give her a little pep talk to help her write even just a small bit every day and build her confidence. Knowing that she knows that I don’t even live in this country and that meeting with her every day is not really an option on the table, she then said, “Maybe I should just write it on my arm. Maybe I should write it in permanent ink.”
Without saying anything, and benefiting from the environment where we are, moving decades of junk out of my parents’ house, there just happened to be permanent markers everywhere.
I got up without saying a word, grabbed a bright red permanent marker, handed it to her and said in my best friendly yet still with a twinge of Mafia as best I could, “I challenge you.”
As a meta-note to this story, her small win is also my small win. I have conquered the beast of procrastination, I have slain the dragon of writer’s block. I have transitioned, transformed, morphed into a different human being than who I was when I wasn’t writing.
This is the gift I want to share.
This small win, these few precious moments on a Wednesday afternoon in the sweltering heat of Southern California, surrounded by boxes of my past, we drove a stake into the ground and declared that from this moment on, this is the future, this is her future, this is my future, this is our future and we’re in this together.
She then tattooed it on her arm.
What do you need to make it happen for you?