Rule #5

Start on time and finish on time. If you start late, still finish on time.

Think of your writing moment like you would any other scheduled event, like a class. Here at CBS classes begin and end at all sorts of weird times because they are scheduled in 45 minute blocks with ten minute breaks. The first block starts at 8:00, the second 8:55, the third at 9:50, etc. While teachers sometimes lose track of time, no one thinks to “round off” the start time or finish time because that would cause all kinds of chaos for students trying to get from one class to another. The beginning and end of class is determined by the schedule.

If the teacher shows up late for class, she doesn’t ask the students to stay correspondingly late. She just makes do with the time she has left. Students, of course, would never demand that the class wait for them before it begins, or that it run late because they couldn’t be there on time. When coordinating groups of people, its natural to be a bit arbitrary about the time issue.

Now, it could be argued that writing is a not a group activity and therefore requires no coordination. Rule #5 is intended as a prohibition against this argument. Of course it is possible to shirk your writing time. No one will know. Except…

There is the part of your that writes, the part of you that wants to get the writing done, and wants to become a better writer. That part of you is feeling disappointed and disoriented by your lack of discipline. You would apologize to your students for showing up late. And you wouldn’t keep them later as a punishment for your tardiness. Treat the part of you that writes with the same respect. Try to keep your appointment; but if you don’t begin on time, at least keep your promise to stop when you said you would. Remember that this is also a promise to the various parts of you that have other things to do.

Many people who fail to get their writing done at the time they had hoped (first thing in the morning, for example) carry the task around with them for the rest of the day, hoping they will get it done when an opportunity presents itself. Don’t do that. It will just make everything else you do less enjoyable, always burdened by this thing you’ve left undone. In fact, even the most planned activity comes to feel like an interruption, an obstruction to your writing. This means that what you are supposed to be doing doesn’t get the attention it deserves. And your writing, of course, is still not getting done.

So, when the time you had allotted to your writing passes, scratch it from your list of things to do today, whether or not you finished the paragraph or even managed to begin. Why worry today about what you have put off until tomorrow?

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