Notes For Creators

creative soul surfing

The five-minute rule: How to start anything

When I was working at Lehman Brothers on Wall Street, working often 80 to 100-hour weeks
 never less than 60-hour weeks  I was also writing a book. While pursuing a robust romantic life.

I finished that book, in the most time-scarce period of my life.

How? With my five-minute rule.

The rule is simple. I had to write five minutes a day, no matter what. If I arrived home well after midnight, sloppy and beyond exhaustion, I had to fire up the computer and sit there for at least five minutes before I could call it quits.

Sometimes I fell asleep on the keyboard, waking up to this:
qarudfea iaejdALllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllll

Sometimes I sat there in a brain-numb fog, synapses misfiring, for five minutes of nothing, logged off, and then fell from my chair onto the couch because I couldn’t muster the energy to get to bed. Thank God the chair rolled that far.

Sometimes I idly edited what I’d written before.

Sometimes ideas came to me and I pursued them, like a weary mongrel roused by sighting a squirrel.

Sometimes I wrote for half an hour, an hour.

Sometimes I wrote for hours!

That’s how it happened. All because I created this idea that I couldn’t call myself a writer unless I’d written the day before . . . for at least five minutes.

I lived in Manhattan at the time, an island brimming with individuals who called themselves something creative
 be it actor or artist or writer or dancer or singer or musician or puppet maker or doctoral dissertationist
 yet many (most) didn’t actually routinely do the thing they claimed was the passion of their life.

By goading myself with the five-minute rule, so that a day could not pass in which I wasn’t involved in my soul work somehow, I inadvertently created a system for starting and continuing any creative endeavor.

Since then I’ve used it to launch other projects and to embark on new life commitments. I keep to that same simple rule today for writing. And for meditation. And a couple of other private things.

I’ve learned that if you skip a day of what you say is important, it’s easy to skip two. Then you wake up months, years later still a proofreader or a waitress. Or you wake up an executive in the side job you put more energy into than your soul work. 

Or you’re still not a meditator, or still not healthy, or still not more accomplished in that area you wished to be . . . .

Once you commit to the five-minute rule you show the Universe you want it and you mean it. 

Momentum accrues.

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