I did it! I headed to the post office, got the right postage and sent my book proposal to an agent I worked with years before. (I will tell you later what it was my book proposal was about. I like to let creative projects incubate until they are ready.) What’s amazing that even though I’ve been working on this project for seven years, I hadn’t done anything to move it forward. I’ve done more to move this project in the last six months than I have in six years combined.
The secret? The power of five minutes. Turtle power.
I’ve had almost everything you might need to work on my writing. I have a computer at home. I also have a laptop and I am even member of a quiet space to work called the Writers Room.
However, I would get to the Writers Room after a long day at school and be overwhelmed by the day that I just had and the enormity of “WRITING.” Then I would proceed to read the New York Times, take naps, grade homework, study Japanese, and then later on check my Facebook page.
I Khatzumoto put it best how often what we really need to do is just start:
I’m with HONDA Naoyuki on this one — most of us don’t need to prioritize our work, we just need to get started on it. Many times. That’s what’s killing us…paucity of starts. And all the tidying and soda breaks and relaxation exercises in the world cannot will not ever change this. Let’s be brutally honest: your life simply is not that complicated — most of the time, you already know what your top priority direction is. The only question is: are you headed in it?
As I’ve discussed ad nauseum on this blog, I started to do All Japanese All the Time and later the paid Japanese immersion coaching service called Silverspoon. Part of what I learned to do with AJATT is to use my vibrating watch to take little bites of everything I want to accomplish and move forward, whether it’s learning Japanese, writing, or doing more mundane things like cleaning up my classroom.
Having time limits can turn everything into a game. How many words and ideas can I fit into five minutes before the time runs out? What’s next? It turns big tasks into digestible bite sized git ‘er done bits.
I also changed my routine. One of the things Japanese writers on learning discuss is finding your “golden time.” What is the time of day when you can move your mind, tune into creativity, and let things flow? For me, I realized it was in the morning. I had to break my routine of going to my favorite coffee shop, which opens at 7 a.m. Instead, I made sure that I was at carrel at the Writer’s Room. (With a cheaper and less tasty cup of coffee at hand.)
A lot happens in the hour before I have to go to work now. I do my Japanese “sprints” (little Japanese “study” suggestions from Silverspoon). I work on my traditional writing. I work on the blog. But I work at a turtle’s pace, going slow and a little bit at a time. But it turns out that maybe that is the best way for me to work. It means that I always have my tools out (laptop, notebooks, reference books, headphones, etc) and move a little bit on them everyday, not thinking about rushing to the end.
So I continued to work on a book proposal for a project that I started seven years ago. (Seven years!) It felt like a big mess, but I took daily stabs at it—organizing ideas on paper, looking at a proposal writing reference guide. I would set the timer for five minutes and take one little piece. Sometimes, I “cheated” and worked a little bit more. One day, I looked at my book proposal and realized that I had come to the end. I realized it needed a lot of proofreading and took the turtle approach. Again, I was surprised that I had come to the end.
The book proposal may not lead to a contract, but I feel like I have moved a mountain. I’m ready to write again, five minutes at a time. What’s your dream? What are you willing to give five minutes a day? Mutant Samurai Turtles activate!