I’ve considered myself a writer for the past few years now, and yet, with the exception of scattered moments in which I felt I’d combust if I didn’t write, I found myself putting writing off. A lot. If something came up during my “ideal” time of day to write, I’d easily say I would get to it the next day. I might argue I needed to read instead as a means of getting into “the zone.” Or I would justify my non-writing as “plot imagining time.”

My current writing mentor assigns her students a craft book each month. One of those books, Natalie Goldberg’s Wild Mind, was game-changing for me. She refers to the writing practice as essentially sacred, and suggests three rules to honor your practice and set you free: don’t think; allow yourself to write something horrible; and set a timer.

I now follow these guidelines every morning, as soon as I wake up. I set the timer for as little as fifteen minutes and tell myself that I have permission to write something terrible and sappy and that it’s okay that I don’t know what it will be. By the time the timer goes off, I’ve usually filled a page with something surprising, and rarely horrible. I used to spend an hour or two creating that much output, but giving myself the permission to write badly has opened the gates for the water to flow. If I every doubt myself, don’t feel up to writing, I stop thinking, set the timer, and go.

Jessica Garcia

Peer Writing Consultant, Antioch Virtual Writing Center

This piece was originally published in the March 2015 VWC Newsletter