“Write first” has been the admonition of many a writing maven, and it still holds water. Pop out of bed, get coffee and cereal, do the minimum of readying for the day and then you’re at it. The writing is in the middle of your desk, top priority, first thing out of the box.
That works when it works, but what about when it doesn’t?
What is it that calls to you and works as a major distraction to your writing first? Oh, sure, we all know the danger of checking email. But what else gets in your way?
A client recently told me how tough it is for her to ignore the morning paper and go straight to writing. In order to get in an hour’s writing before she goes to the office, she had given priority to her writing.
And she is writing—that’s a big win.
But by not reading the newspaper and going directly to her writing task each morning, she felt something was missing, even wrong.
As we talked about what she found compelling about the paper, she said that reading the paper first had been a long-time habit.
The main reason that the change wasn’t sitting well seemed to be that reading the newspaper first had honored her top strengths.
Her top strengths (Values in Action; www.authentichappiness.com) are
1) Curiosity and interest in the world and
2) Love of learning.
Writing first conflicted with her values, or at least it felt that way to her.
To take a step back and consider other choices, my client planned a newspaper trial—that is, on one morning this week, she’ll get up earlier to read the newspaper first and then watch for any effects on her writing process.
This morning, in a little parallel trial, I gave myself first to 30 minutes with the paper. I didn’t rush to write first, to prepare for my first clients of the morning, or even to scan my email.
I had almost forgotten how reading the newspaper helps me to focus. It slowed me down, and that’s a good thing.
The language of the paper, the feel of the newsprint, gave rise to ideas for writing. Before long, I was looking around for my legal pad and smear-proof ballpoint. My morning writing and I were launched! If you’re interested in more tips about using your strengths, I offer a sign-up at my website for a free newsletter.
Are you using your top strengths? I look forward to hearing from you.