The Best Christmas Gift a Writer Can Receive

This time of year is filled with joy, hope, and eggnog. We gather with loved ones to exchange presents, but the best gift a writer can receive won't be sitting under a tree.

The Best Christmas Gift a Writer Can Receive

For years, I dreamed of becoming a writer, and it seemed the one thing I needed most to make this happen was the thing I had the greatest lack of. 

Time. I needed more hours in the day to work on my book, to write on my blog, and even think about what I would write in the first place. But this is a gift no one can give. 

There is no more time. Time is the one thing we never have and never own. Time has us. It is always moving forward and carrying us along with it. We are beholden to its whims — we are slaves to time.

Time is the one thing we never have and never own. Time has us.

Jeff Goins

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I wish I could tell you to give yourself more time. But I can't. That would be a lie. All I can say is to try to see the time that is already there.

The best gift you can give yourself this year is the gift of appreciating and using the time you have.

Time is like love. Sometimes, we fail to notice it until it's too late. We keep wanting more of it and feel starved by the lack of it. But then something happens — a loved one dies or a friend moves away — and we realized we had more of something than we ever thought we did. 

So, this is my Christmas wish for you: to find more time in the day to do your work. To write just a little more. To work on that side business. To recognize the gift you already have.

Here are a few strategies for finding more time:

1. Do an honest audit of your week

Write down everything you do each day and ask yourself, “Was this necessary?” and, “Did this have to take so long?”

I am often embarrassed by how long I take doing simple tasks, like brushing my teeth or taking a shower. Why is this? Because I let myself get interrupted. I tell myself that texting someone or checking my email three times in five minutes is somehow more productive, when in fact it's getting in the way.

If I would just say “no” temporarily to certain tasks and instead be fully attentive to whatever I'm working on at the time, each thing wouldn't take nearly as long. Intentionally tracking my time has helped reveal the truth about how much time I actually have.

Time is like money. If you don't track it, you'll always run out.

Time is like money. If you don't track it, you'll always run out.

Jeff Goins

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2. Start setting tiny goals

My friend Shaunta taught me this when she told me that she started setting a goal of writing for only ten minutes a day.

“It's such a short amount of time,” she told me, “that it's silly to put it off. I might as well just do it and move on with my day.”

But something interesting happens when she does this: many days, she ends up writing more than ten minutes.

The tiny goal is just a way to trick her brain into starting an activity she might otherwise procrastinate. But on the days when she only writes ten minutes, she celebrates the achievement and moves on.

Even writing for as little as ten minutes a day can lead to a tremendous amount of output. Small amounts of effort add up over time. 

3. Learn to work faster

Some writers say things like, “I am a slow writer,” and I think that's interesting.

Do runners say they are slow runners? Are some people slow eaters? The obvious answer is yes. But anyone can improve their performance in any activity.

So, whether you're winning races or not, you can probably improve the speed of your running. 

Speaking from experience, you can certainly learn to eat faster. When I was a traveling musician and sometimes only had five minutes to scarf down a large meal, my band and I learned the art of quick consumption.

The same is true of writing and all creative work: you can get faster. And the faster you get, the better you will become.

How? By practicing. And as you do this, you just might see the quality of your work increase with the speed.

Appreciate the gift you already have

As my friend Shauna Niequist once wrote in the foreword to one of my books, “What we have is time. And what we do with it is waste it.”

But we don't have to do that. We can learn to appreciate the gift of time we already have and learn how to better use it. We can become stewards of our time, taking better care of this nonrenewable resource we all have access to.

As we do this, we just might be able to better share our gifts with the world.

Do you have “enough” time to write? How can you give yourself the gift of time this year? Share in the comments.