On the Brink of a New Year: Meditations for the Writer’s Soul

You say grace before meals.
All right.
But I say grace before the concert and the opera,
And grace before the play and pantomime,
And grace before I open a book,
And grace before sketching, painting,
Swimming, fencing, boxing, walking, playing, dancing
And grace before I dip the pen in the ink.
—G. K. CHESTERTON

Let the words of my mouth,
And the meditations of my heart,
Be acceptable in Thy sight,
O Lord, my strength and my redeemer.
—PSALM 19:14

The soul of Man must quicken to creation.
Out of the formless stone, when the artist united himself with stone,
Spring always new forms of life, from the soul of man that is joined to the soul of stone;
Out of the meaningless practical shapes of all that is living or lifeless
Joined with the artist’s eye, new life, new form, new color.
Out of the sea of sound the life of music,
Out of the slimy mud of words, out of the sleet and hail of verbal imprecisions,
Approximate thoughts and feelings, words that have taken the place of thoughts and feelings,
There spring the perfect order of speech, and the beauty of incantation.
—T. S. ELIOT

The Lord was with Samuel as he grew up,
And he let none of his words fall to the ground.
—1 SAMUEL 3:19

Of Man’s first disobedience, and the fruit
Of that forbidden tree whose mortal taste
Brought death into the world and all our woe,
With loss of Eden, till one greater Man
Restore us and regain the blissful seat,
Sing, Heav’nly Muse . . .
—JOHN MILTON, Paradise Lost

In a lifetime we stuff ourselves with sounds, sights, smells, tastes, and textures of people, animals, landscapes, events, large and small. We stuff ourselves with these impressions and experiences and our reaction to them. These are the stuffs, the foods, on which The Muse grows.
—RAY BRADBURY

We thank Thee, Lord, for the glory of the late days and the excellent face of thy sun. We thank Thee for good news received. We thank Thee for the pleasures we have enjoyed and for those we have been able to confer. And now, when the clouds gather and the rain impends over the forest and our house, permit us not to be cast down; let us not lose the savor of past mercies and past pleasures; but, like the voice of a bird singing in the rain, let grateful memory survive in the hour of darkness. If there be in front of us any painful duty, strengthen us with the grace of courage; if any act of mercy, teach us tenderness and patience.
—ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON, “In Time of Rain,” Prayers Written At Vailima

Once Thou didst say to me, “Thomas, thou hast written well of Me. What reward desirest thou?” My reply then is my reply now. “None, save Thyself, Lord.”
—ST. THOMAS AQUINAS

Take a scroll and write on it all the words
That I have spoken to you. . . .
—JEREMIAH 36:2

The Grab 15 Principle

A writer’s worst enemy is procrastination.

You don’t punch a time clock. You have no boss to answer to. If you’re going to get that novel written or meet your daily word quota, you’ve got to be a self starter.

There are many reasons writers procrastinate. For some, it’s self-doubt (“I don’t know if I can do this”). Others are intimidated by the size or complexity of a novel (“I don’t know where to begin”). Still others are plagued by obsessive perfectionism (“I can’t start until everything is just right”).

The cure for procrastination is to box yourself in and leave no escape route. You must give yourself no option but to write your daily quota of words. That’s how you turn the dream of writing full-time into a daily habit.

This article is an excerpt from QUIT YOUR DAY JOB, a sound, strategic plan for building your career as a full-time writer. Author Jim Denney has been a full-time, self-employed writer since 1989.

I’m a full-time writer with over a hundred published books to my credit. Writing is my day job. But if you’re still working at a day job, you may find it hard to carve out a daily writing time. You might be struggling to find the time to write every day. If so, I have good news for you. It’s called The Grab 15 Principle.

I learned The Grab 15 Principle from my friend Bert Decker and his wife Dru Scott Decker. Bert is the founder of Decker Communications, Inc., and the author of You’ve Got to be Believed to be Heard. Dru is a consultant in customer satisfaction and time management, and the author of Finding More Time in Your Life. Dru originated The Grab 15 Principle and it has absolutely revolutionized my life.

The power of this principle is its amazing simplicity. Anyone can do it. Here’s how it works:

Let’s say you have a novel to write, but you’ve been finding it impossible to free up a big chunk of writing time. The solution: Stop waiting for a big chunk of time. Instead, commit yourself to writing that novel in bite-sized chunks of 15 minutes a day. Make a commitment to “Grab 15” minutes of writing time every day.

Your best 15 minutes might be in the morning when you get up, or late at night before you go to bed, or during your lunch hour. But whatever you do, make sure your head doesn’t hit the pillow at night until you have spent at least 15 minutes working on your novel.

Don’t tell me you can’t do it. Everyone has 15 minutes to spare out of a 24 hour day. You can set your alarm earlier, go to bed later, skip Wheel of Fortune, or spend a little less time phoning or tweeting or Facebooking. We all have places in our daily schedule where time slips through the cracks. By practicing The Grab 15 Principle, you’ll stop hemorrhaging time and start making progress toward the goals that really matter to you.

I know this principle works because I have written entire novels in small, daily blocks of time that I carved out around my regular writing schedule. It sounds too easy, but there are several reasons why this principle is so powerful.

First, those 15-minute snippets of time add up. If you Grab 15 every day, you will magically add at least 91.25 hours to your year. That’s the equivalent of more than two 40-hour work weeks that have been added to your life with hardly an ounce of inconvenience.

Second, The Grab 15 Principle boosts your creativity. It keeps your head in the game. Every day, you’ll spend at least 15 minutes concentrating on your novel. You’ll remain focused on your goal day after day. Ideas and insights will come to you even when you are not writing—when you’re driving, in the shower, or drifting off to sleep—so keep a notebook handy. All of that added creativity and focus helps you make the most of your 15-minute writing sessions.

Third, once you get started on a Grab 15 session, it’s hard to stop at 15 minutes. When you’re on a roll, you want to keep going—and that bonus writing time will move you even faster toward your goals.

Fourth, The Grab 15 Principle builds good writing habits. If you’re not a full-time writer but you want to be, this is a good way to acquire a daily discipline—and a good way to prove to yourself that you have what it takes to be a professional writer. The Grab 15 Principle will help you build a daily habit that soon becomes hard to break.

So try The Grab 15 Principle. Test-drive it for a couple weeks or a month. Then drop me a line and let me know how you like it. I’m betting you’ll tell me that this simple tool has revolutionized your writing life.

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Update, December 27, 2012: Thanks to my friend, suspense novelist James Scott Bell, I learned that this column on the Grab 15 Principle was highlighted by journalist Porter Anderson, who writes on leading edge issues in the publishing industry. Read Anderson’s column, “Writing on the Ether.” Porter Anderson is a Fellow with the National Critics Institute. As a journalist, he has worked with the CNN networks, The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and other outlets. He contributes to Digital Book World’s Expert Publishing Blog and to Writer Unboxed. Follow Porter Anderson’s column at JaneAnderson.com.

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The Grab 15 Principle is just one of the many practical ideas

The Grab 15 Principle is just one of the many practical ideas and insights in Jim Denney’s Quit Your Day Job!: How to Sleep Late, Do What You Enjoy, and Make a Ton of Money as a Writer. A Writer’s Digest Book Club Selection, available at Barnes and Noble and at Amazon.com in trade paperback and Kindle ebook editions.