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I call the voice in my mind that resists writing Selma Bouvier. She says my writing is shit. I change the channel.

SO YOU SET your alarm. The paper was there, and, for a moment, so was your mind. You had a thought, and then it was gone. You forced yourself to write anyway, and it was crap.

You’re not the first. There’s a mean, negative Nancy-type aunt in our brain that resists new habits. Think of Selma Bouvier, Marg Homer’s sister, sitting on the sofa, puffing away. With that growly smoker’s voice she mumbles, “This is garbage.” “Go back to bed.” “Why are you wasting your time?” “The baby’s probably going to wake up any minute. You might as well not even bother.” “Do it later.”

If you want to try Dorothea Brande’s Rise and Write program but you have a busy minds, or a busy ‘aunt,’ sometimes it helps to have a writing task to focus on to help drown out those calls to give up. After a while, once she sees you’re not going to give in, she’ll zip it and might even pitch in to your story.

In the meantime, here’s a great early morning writing prompt thought up by Theo Pauline Nestor, author of How to Sleep Alone in a King Size Bed (a great memoir, by the way). On her blog Writing is My Drink, you’ll find her exercise entitled 26 Minutes.

The Long and short of it is you:

“1. Get yourself set up to write. (before you go to sleep)

2. (wake up and) Set a timer for 26 minutes.

3. Start writing with the idea in mind that you are creating a self-portrait.

4. Stop writing when the timer goes off.”

Nestor says the idea came to her in a dream. She woke up and wrote for the instructed 26 minutes and “…the result was a raw and compelling piece of writing that had my voice in it, more so than pieces I’d edited and sculpted.”

She also invites 26 Minute memoirists to submit their pieces to her blog.

So tell Aunt Selma to shove it, and write. Just for 26 minutes. Just about you.

How did you find the 26 Minute exercise?