Do you look forward to finally having time to write only to get itchy after an eight-minute stretch? Suddenly, you’re thirsty. Your ring-finger toe (is this a thing?) has a cramp. You wonder if anybody new has liked your social-media post since you last checked fifteen minutes ago.
It’s normal to feel as though you have no writing stamina.
There’s nothing wrong with you, and you’re not lazy. It doesn’t mean that you’re not cut out to be a writer.
It just means you need to build up your writing stamina.
When well-known authors are asked to describe their typical working day, it’s common for them to say they spend hours with their butts in their chairs. They show up to write in the same way they’d show up for a job that required them to work set hours.
A sample schedule: Every weekday, from nine to twelve, they write new material. They break for lunch and a walk. Then, from one to three, they work on revisions and rewrites.
That’s five hours of concentrated writing time, five days a week. Twenty-five hours of weekly writing.
How can they write for twenty-five hours a week when one hour maxes you out? There are two specific reasons:
1. They treat their writing as their business—which it most definitely is. (I’ll dive into this notion in another blog post.)
2. They have built their writing stamina over time.
Good news for you, you can do the same.
Be Realistic with Your Expectations
Know how much time you can realistically devote to writing without sacrificing sleep and self-care. Once you’ve gotten clear about your time bank, set a writing goal for the day (or the week). Read the “Time to Write” article for suggestions on how to figure out how much writing time you actually have.
Know Yourself as a Writer
To maximize your writing time, figure out when you’re most inspired. Learn where you’re most inspired. Explore what most inspires you. Then write at the time of day, in that place, surround by your writing fuel.
Building writing stamina isn’t much different than building physical stamina. Deconstruct a program like Couch to 5K that helps non-runners complete a 5K. Then use the model to create your own writing program. Or keep it simple, and add time to your writing bank every week.
When I was an elementary school teacher, my students would sometimes write for an hour a day and still have more to say. But you wouldn’t have believed that possible if you’d seen them in the first few weeks of school when the idea of writing for a ten-minute stretch sent a few of them straight into a tantrum. I was a great teacher, but I wasn’t a magician. I didn’t magick up a potion to turn them all into prolific writers. What I did do was have them write every single day, slowly increasing the time they had to write every day until it became another part of their routine, the same as lining up for lunch.
You Can Build Your Writing Stamina
You are worthy of exploring the need you have to write. Even on a day when imposter syndrome looms large (learn how to shut that beast up), or you can think of a kajillion responsibilities that need your attention, allow yourself to write. Whether it’s for seven minutes or seventy. Offer yourself grace. Practice. And one day you, too, will be able to write for hours at a time.