What Is Your Toothbrush Level of Writing? by Daphne Gray-Grant

When I was 11 years old, I went to the dentist and learned I had 21 cavities. The news shocked my parents and devastated me. Why did I have such a bad checkup? It was a combination of things — including genetics (I have “soft” teeth) and poor dental care.

Following that day, I became a zealous tooth brusher. Now, I would no more go to bed without brushing and flossing than I’d go to sleep while wearing my coat and shoes. My sterling example even turned my husband into a nightly flosser, something he did only irregularly before. (Our hygienist is grateful!)

As a result of my lamentable dental history, I was interested when a friend told me about a blog post she saw recently, titled What is Your Toothbrush Level of Exercise? Something about the word “toothbrush” grabbed my attention immediately.

The author, Dr. Yoni Freedhoff, was not writing about tooth brushing, however. Actually, his topic was exercise.

“I’ve met many folks who reportedly can’t stand exercise,” he wrote. “And I can’t help but wonder if they’re simply trying to brush their teeth for hours. What I mean to say is that if you’ve got it in your head that unless you do “x” minutes per day of exercise it’s not worth doing, that’d be akin to thinking that unless you brush your teeth 30 minutes at a shot it’s not worth brushing.”

Ah, I thought. Dr. Freedhoff could also be talking about writing.

If you read my newsletter, I’m going to assume you have a basic interest in writing. And I’m expecting you already understand that the more you do it, the better you’ll get. But, if you’re like many other writers, you probably have a hard time fitting it into your day.

So I’m going to ask you to take a few minutes and figure out your “toothbrush level” of writing.

Regardless of how uncomfortable this question may make you, what amount of writing do you THINK you could actually accomplish every day? Five minutes? 10 minutes? Perhaps, even 15?

And then, as with tooth brushing, WHEN could you actually do it?

Maybe you can wake up five minutes earlier and write before you make breakfast? Perhaps you can take 10 minutes off your lunch break and devote it to writing? Possibly you can even devote 15 minutes before you brush your teeth every night?! Whatever you decide, be sure to schedule exactly WHEN you’re going to do it, because otherwise your commitment is a phony as an aging starlet’s wrinkle-free forehead.

Finally, set up a reminder system for yourself. Do you have a day-timer? Schedule your writing time in there. Or send yourself a reminder via outlook. Or even consider a text messaging service like the one Dr. Freedhoff recommends, Oh Don’t Forget. As he puts it: “How many times do you think your parents reminded you to brush your teeth before you simply started doing it automatically?”

While more is always better, every writing minute counts. And when you become accustomed to your commitment and as the quality of your writing improves, perhaps your toothbrush level will grow too.

Now, to quote Dr. Freedhoff, go brush your teeth!

Daphne Gray-Grant is a writing and editing coach and the author of the popular book 8½ Steps to Writing Faster, Better.  She offers a brief and free weekly newsletter on her website. Subscribe by going to the Publication Coach.

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