Why do I write for 15 minutes a day? Because it works for me.
You do you, fair reader.
What Came Before Was Terrible
Here’s my reasoning: I’ve spent countless days not writing a single word.
All those days when I wrote exactly ZERO words, I thought would be offset by days when I “finally have some reasonable time to sit down and focus on writing.” It turns out, that approach doesn’t work for me. I mean, I make some progress. I wrote around 3000 words of fiction over the course of the first five months of this year. Not super impressive, right? Well, it’s in part because I only found a couple of occasions to sit down for “at least an hour or two.”
When I did finally sit down to write for an extended time, I noticed two things right away:
- I couldn’t remember much about what I had been writing, and it took considerable time and effort to get back up to speed.
- Rusty doesn’t begin to describe the state of my writing when gaps of weeks or months come between sessions.
Where Did This Silly Idea Originate?
Which brings me to the inspiration for my idea to write 15 minutes a day. It is multifold.
I’m a programmer, a code monkey, or perhaps most applicable, a software craftsman by training. I don’t write a ton of code day to day anymore since I now manage several teams of folks doing it instead. As part of my experience and training as a software craftsman, I learned the tactic of practicing coding through the use of code katas. I don’t want to bore the non-technical folk, so suffice to say that katas are a something you spend maybe 15-30 minutes a day practicing to keep the old coding muscles in shape (or learn new things).
I took that approach and started applying it to learning Spanish (using the excellent phone app Duolingo). Hola, amigos. Yo hablo español un poco. No, no nececita hablo bueno, pero me hablo.
Anyway, it was going pretty well, and I thought, self– this Spanish thing isn’t eating up too much of my day. I mean, I’ve read/heard plenty of writing advice saying you have to write every day. I wondered how practical it would be to write for just 15 minutes a day. Probably not very, but at least I could get some of these ideas I’ve been hoarding over the past year or so out on paper.
Idea Meets Action
So I went to my notes and my voice memos. I wrote some fiction about several ideas I’ve been sitting on. Nothing earth-shattering, I assure you. But I did write. Next thing I knew, it was going so well, I decided I would move on to some former WIPs. I had Rue From Ruin in an unfinished state. Maybe I could finish it. At this point, I’d already put more words down in about two weeks than I had in the entire 5 months previous.
What did I have to lose?
So I applied the same discipline to Rue: sit down at the computer, start a 15-minute timer, and write like my life depended on it until the timer ran out. If you follow me on social media, you already know how it turned out. I finished Rue From Ruin in a few days. Note, it does need revising before I get it up on the blog. For any who are waiting, it’s coming.
Then, I felt like I was ready for something a little bigger. So I went on to one of the ideas I had written a bit about. I’ve been calling it GIAO.
I’ve been writing every day for at least 15 minutes for nearly two months now (**). What do I have to show for it? Confidence that I can finish my writing projects. Over 20,000 words (a quarter of the planned length) on a new book I’m really excited about. A bunch of great starters for other stories/books. A couple of new writing projects from external sources. How is this a bad thing? You let me know if you discover it.
The Method (For You TL;DR Folks)
For the sake of clarity and to put it in a friendly format, here’s what I’ve been doing:
- Sit down at a computer with my favorite editor (Scrivener in my case) open to the thing I want to write.
- Start a 15-minute timer.
- Write like my life depended on it until the timer ends.
- Perform steps 1-3 one or more times daily.
I hope it helps someone else the way it’s helped me.
** I wrote the majority of this article on 8/3/2017 and I’m leaving the word counts, dates, etc. from that time. Since this time, I’ve picked up some additional projects and seen them through the creation, writing, and revision process. I write almost every day, but not always on the same piece.