Tiny Writing Calendar by Sarah Smith

"Shouldn't you be writing right now?"

"Ugh. Yeah. So what?"

If you're anything like me, you have this delightful conversation with yourself dozens of times a day. 

And it sucks.

The only thing that feels worse than not writing is feeling bad about not writing.

When I ask people what writing problems they need solved, the overwhelming answer is

1) Not Enough Time, followed by
2) Can't Focus
3) Can't Stop Scrolling
4) WTF Is Wrong With Me, and most recently
5) I Can't Stop Refreshing the Johns Hopkins Covid Tracker

And if that isn't bad enough, along comes your screentime notification to chastise you for spending 58 more minutes a day looking at your phone when god knows you could have been baking bread or learning Farsi or, well, something more #stayhome alluring.

Or maybe your attention is swallowed up entirely by the endless tide of racist violence and you've fallen headlong into reading the news far past the point that you're capable of processing what's happening.

And if all of that hasn't reduced you to a dry-eyed bundle of savaged nerves, you may stumble across that friend or acquaintance, the one who's just inked a sweet development deal with A24, the one whose book is somehow getting a Twitter shoutout from Eileen Myles in the midst of a global crisis, the one who is #soblessed to have a poem coming out in Poetry this month. And yes, that person is nice and deserves their joy, etc. etc. etc., they are totally not the problem, well maybe a little tiny tiny bit you suspect that they're getting a boost because they're so damned attractive, but really they aren't the problem except that their writing is out there, they're doing the thing, and for one hot, gut-melting moment, you can't ignore the fact that you want what they have.

So ... shouldn't you be writing right now?"

The cruelly rational voice in your head says, well, maybe all of those things would be happening for you, too, if you could put your phone down for a damn minute.

Ouch.

But instead of motivating you, the negative self-talk makes you feel like crud, and nobody likes to feel like crud ...

and nobody has to feel like crud, not when there's an endlessly fluxing portal of distractions, validations, and entertainments in our pockets.

So maybe you'll check real quick to see if your favorite vegan chef has posted a new recipe, which is important, because nutrition, etc. etc., and oh look at these saffron sheets on sale, and yikes, that baby is a bit toothy looking, and ...

... then it's two hours later, the sun has gone down, and you can't quite remember what's happened.

And that's how the cycle repeats. 

The reality is, we are all way too hard on ourselves.

If we want to use our precious time and attention to focus on creative projects, we have to fight a number of powerful corporations like Facebook and Google ...

... and it isn't really a fair fight because those corporations have made a science out of hooking our brains on the intermittent reward of likes and notifications. 

Think about it: Does Facebook make any money from you when you're up to your elbows in a novel that you've always dreamed of writing?

Nope.

Does Instagram net any ad revenue when your mind is in the dark, glimmering place between words, finding the final perfect image for a poem?

Naw.

Does Jeff Bezos get another buck from you when your creative practice has opened such a space of adventure and fulfillment in your life that you don't really have any interest in finding the perfect microderm roller or geometric aloe planter or what the fuck ever we buy to distract ourselves?

Nuh uh.

Do the people who design social media algorithms have any interest whatsoever in empowering you to use your time doing things you love?

L
O
L

NO.

Feel better yet? I hope you do! Your attention is even more valuable than your time, and our minds have been hijacked by people who figured out how to monetize it. And, as a final insult, they've managed to insinuate that our lack of time and focus, our distractedness, our flightiness is somehow a character flaw rather than a condition they engineered and profit from.

I have to watch that I don't climb up on a soapbox here--because I find this shame-y bait-and-switch infuriating.

The thing is, it's so unbearably hard to make changes when your premise is "I'm a piece of shit." It's a lot easier to make changes when your premise is "I'm going to accept the realities, start where I am, and take it day by day." 

That's why I made the Tiny Writing Calendar

Instead of trying to change everything about your life--get organized, read more novels, stop scrolling Instagram, heal childhood traumas, and also start a real writing practice--just change one thing.

Do a tiny bit of writing

every
single
day.

It's that simple. 

Do more by doing less more often.

You can steal your attention back by using the same nudges that tie you to your phone in the first place.

Tiny Writing Calendar is super simple: It's a one-sentence writing prompt every day, delivered through your calendar app's notifications. 

The prompts are minimalist, but hardly simplistic.

Each one is designed, koan-like, to distract your rational mind with an impossible riddle so your creative unconscious can leap to the surface.

Even if you go right back to work after writing a tiny sentence, you go back with a mind enlivened by the creative process.

How did I write my novel? By doing a little bit of writing every day.

Sometimes I can't believe how I got here. I get to write full-time, travel, and speak at events like the Texas Book Festival (pictured here with the brilliant Stephanie Jimenez).

Rewind to five years ago:

I desperately wanted to write a novel, but I had such high expectations of myself that I couldn't write a single sentence without deleting it immediately.

But then the rest of the day I would torture myself with the question: "Shouldn't you be writing right now?" 

And then try again, delete again.

The only way I could move forward was by making a deal with myself: I would write every day, not looking back at anything I had written until at least a few months had gone by.

I wrote every single day, even on holidays, when I had the flu, after driving for 13 hours to get home for the holidays.

And it worked.

I put together a first draft, then another. 

I moved across the country and got a full-time job. I kept writing every day, usually from 9-11pm.

Other things happened along the way: I quit smoking. I bought a house. I lost my mind. I went on psych meds. I found true love. I cried about the state of the world.

And also, each day, I wrote something. Even if it was just a sentence.

And now my book is out there, in the hands and hearts of strangers.

Of course, there's a little more to it than one sentence a day.

But here's the truth: You can't write any other sentences without the first one.

And you might not put down a lot of words every single day.

But there's no getting around the fact that you have to start somewhere.

And if you commit to starting, every single day, it's only a matter of time until you get where you want to go.


The Tiny Writing Calendar is just that: a place to start every day.

You can use the prompts alone, or you can use them in tandem with whatever you would write anyway. That's the beauty of a minimalist prompt: it can become part of something larger, or stand on its own. 

  • 365 unique prompts
  • formatted for instant upload to iCal or Google Calendar
  • PDF printable versions in standard planner sizes (A4, A5, and A6)
  • bonus mindset guide for defeating writers' block
  • bonus guide to using tiny writes as the basis of bigger projects

Tiny Writing Calendar

What's included?

File Icon 4 files Text Icon 5 text files

Contents

What is tiny writing? Start here!
Tiny Writing: Do more by doing less more often
Tiny Writing Calendar .ics file
Setting up Tiny Writing Calendar
tinywritingcalendar.ics
175 KB
Tiny Writing Calendar Printable Planner
Using the hands-on Tiny Writing Calendar
tiny writing calendar a4.pdf
5.46 MB
tiny writing calendar a5.pdf
4.01 MB
tiny writing calendar a6.pdf
4.03 MB
If you should get stuck: mindset hacks
11 Ways To Get Back in the Saddle
Expanding your practice
10 ways to use tiny writes in other creative projects

FAQs

But ... isn't it already midway through the year? Is there a 2021 version?

Each prompt in Tiny Writing Calendar is set to recur annually, so you're set for life! 

Likewise, with the printable PDF planner, the dates are evergreen.

Why just a sentence?

If you ask me, a sentence is never really just a sentence. 

Because the hardest part is beginning. 

A tiny amount of writing can turn into a paragraph, a page, a poem. A tiny amount of writing can reset your mind from fear to wonder. Once you start, you'll probably keep going, at least some days. 

There is magic in the humility of showing up every day. I'm not exactly sure how or why, but when I write every day, a momentum begins to build, and before I know it, I'm 50 pages into a new draft.

Trust me: A sentence is never just a sentence.

What if I miss a day?

I won't tell anyone!

Just start again the next day. You don't have to think about how wrong and bad you are for skipping a day, and you don't have to punish yourself by writing 2,000 extra words, and you don't have to feel rotten about it. 

Yeah, but what if I miss a whole week?

Same thing: You don't have to repent. You don't have to torture yourself. It's just a few sentences, after all.

That's the beauty of lowering the bar a little bit: It gets much, much easier to get up when you fall.

Our egos hate this kind of thinking, though, because the ego wants to be special, exceptional, and different. The ego would rather be a colossal disappointment than a humble, day-in-day-out worker.