Best Writing Tip I’ve Ever Received: ‘Don’t Value Your Time’

writer worrying about time

by Luciana Patri

‘Wanna be successful? Don’t value your time.’ – read the daring title of a video by Teal Swan, one of my favourite contemporary spiritual teachers. It sounded so counterintuitive that I immediately clicked on the play icon and kept my eyes glued to the screen for the following fourteen minutes. 

Up until then, I had found myself going into excitement-disappointment cycles that started with a new attempt at writing a novel and ended up with me hating my life. The more exhilarated I would find myself upon embarking on a new project, the more lost and frustrated I would feel once the initial bustle of ideas had subsided.

How old would I be when I’d finally manage to publish something worth reading – or at least worth mentioning? When would I become a real writer and stop being a failure? That would certainly not be possible once I had kids and a household to look after, apart from my day job, bills to pay, etc. Glancing at a calendar was enough to remind me of the passing of time, and whenever someone asked for my age or date of birth, I couldn’t help shivering in horror.

The funny part? There was absolutely no one pressuring me to write the next bestselling novel. I was the one putting all that pressure on myself. The result? Every piece of advice, even the most loving and sincere, sounded to me like a bitter consolation.

My boyfriend once told me: ‘You’re writing a novel in a language that isn’t your native one, and you consider it a waste of time, but in my opinion, you are incredibly brave for pursuing your dream, and I’m so proud of you.’

‘Am I not wasting my time then?’

‘Not at all. You’re writing. You’re growing. It’s a life experience.’

I smiled and thought: How nice of him to try to cheer me up. I’m sure he’s saying that only because he loves me and not because he believes that.

The thing is, I had spent the last ten years of my life believing in the 10,000-hour myth. To become a writing master, I had to practice as much as possible. And, being a non-native speaker, I always thought that to catch up with my fellow anglophone colleagues, I had to spend most of my waking hours writing, or at least thinking about it —which sometimes felt like a Sisyphean task.

But then, watching Teal Swan’s video made me realise that it is results, rather than time, that one needs to value. In other words, it’s up to me whether a story takes me twenty minutes or twenty hours to write: unless I pour all my creative energies into it, it’s still going to suck, even if I wrote for a year.

So, rather than worrying about wasting time, I’ve learned how to make sure that when Monday comes around, I’m ready to concentrate my efforts on that unfinished chapter, regardless of whether it will take me an hour or an entire afternoon. I’d go as far as adding irrespective of whether I’ll manage to write two hundred or two thousand words. Quality versus quantity. 

As Teal points out, ‘You only care if something takes hours and hours if you absolutely hate doing that thing.’ And, since I love writing, it doesn’t matter if it’s taking me a few extra minutes to proofread this page, because I am enjoying every bit of it.

About the Author

Luciana Patri lives in Brussels and works as a language teacher. She has an incurable obsession for writing and finds being in nature inspiring. She thinks the best stories are those where tragedy and comedy meet in a fluid embrace. 

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