Just 15 Minutes

I went to a workshop recently and the writer/historian/researcher said that the only way to get any writing accomplished is to be engaged with your work. To carve out the time in your day, sit down, turn off all modes of distraction, and work.

Maybe that particular writer needs to be sitting in her workspace in order to write. But I don’t think that’s the only way for everyone. Especially for those of us who aren’t writing full-time or who are still waiting for that one big break.

Writers who have jobs, kids, housework, friends, responsibilities, LIFE–finding time to write is another job in itself. For many of us, writing isn’t something we can do whenever we want, nor for however long we want. Our writing time gets interrupted, pushed aside, buried.

If you’re finding your time to write is inconsistent, irregular, impossible, then my suggestion is to train your creative self to come out during mindless jobs.

“The best time for planning a book is while you’re doing the dishes.” 

Agatha Christie

Even though I may not have pen in hand while I’m gardening, or washing dishes, or vacuuming, or even taking a shower, my mind is usually spinning all around the townspeople of Whalebrow Village and Deerloch (fictional towns in my completed novel, and WIP, respectively).

I believe that when you’re not forcing yourself to come up with ideas is the time your mind, your creative energy, your voice, unleashes. It might be just the right word. It might be the answer to how to get rid of the body your killer just strangled. It might even be why your protagonist chooses to drive to work instead of walking on the nicest day in April. It could even be just a story idea. Those precious few minutes of unharnessed thinking are as valuable as the set-aside blocks of time you’re more than fortunate to have. You’d be surprised at what you can uncover in just fifteen minutes.

I keep notebooks, sticky pads, pens all over my house, my purse, and in the car. When my creative self trots off to fictional worlds, I jot down a brief reminder of what I discover. I don’t write word-for-word; that’s too limiting for me. Rather, I scribble three-word phrases to help me remember what I imagined. Then, when I’m able to get back to my story on my laptop, I incorporate my new ideas into the story. I use fresh language spinning from the three-word phrases I had jotted down.

My opinion is that you need to be open to writing as often as possible, and this includes writing in your mind. This method might take some practice, especially if you’re someone who has always written in a contained space. If you get into the habit of letting your creative self do some exploring, you will certainly find some interesting, valuable tidbits along the way.

Writing is not just a physical act. Writing is also an act of imagination. You probably get more writing done than you realize.

About these ads

31 thoughts on “Just 15 Minutes

  1. I love this and it really spoke to me. I can relate to having to be creative on the fly. And I agree, often the best ideas come out of nowhere when doing the most menial of tasks and not hunched over the keyboard with beads of sweat dripping from our foreheads.
    This sort of spontaneous creativity is exactly what I love and I found it so refreshing to read about here, as I get sick to death of being told to plan, plan, plan and sit at my computer whether I like it or not until some words come out! Aaarrrrggghhh!
    I especially loved “writing in your mind” – I usually write a blog post or an editorial completely in my head, so by the time I sit down, it just all comes flowing out. I thought I was just weird! LOL
    Thank you so much. You have made my day :)

    • Hey there Fandina,

      Well, if you’re weird then you are in good company! ;)

      I think we tend to forget that our stories aren’t only a result of our fingers striking the keyboard. Stories start from inside. I know that I have had plenty of story ideas strike me at the oddest times (like cleaning the cat litter box!). The tricky part then is to get those unplanned ideas from your head to the laptop or notebook so that you can continue writing.

      Bless the person who came up with sticky notes lol

      Thanks for saying I made your day. Knowing that makes my day!

      Take care!

  2. I’m always writing in my mind. Which is sometimes annoying. ;) But, you’re absolutely correct in how writing gets pushed to the side. Even when I wake early to try and get some time in, something invariably disturbs me. It’s hard, but I continue to pursue.

    • Hi Kathils,

      Haha, yes, I know what you mean. Writing in my mind can get annoying, too!

      It is difficult to find the perfect block of time to write when you can’t be disturbed. With two children I am forced to work with distractions. I am lucky to have found two hours that are generally all mine, but there are days that even that time is stolen right out from under me.

      And you said it well, “it’s hard, but I continue to pursue.” That’s the most we can hope for sometimes.

      Thanks for commenting!

  3. I agree with your statements. I have a 45 minute commute to and from work. I often practice dialogue out loud for my characters and use a recording function on my cell phone to save it. Once that idea is trapped in a recording, I feel free to move on to another idea and don’t worry about forgetting where my train of thought was at that moment.

    • Hi Jane,

      Oh yes, talking out loud while I’m in the car is one of my oft-used methods of writing. I’ve used my cell phone to record my thoughts and ideas, also. Much safer to speak into a phone than scribbling something down on paper when I’m driving!

      Thanks for chiming in!

    • Hi Len,

      You’re welcome. Yes, get loads of them and place them strategically around your house, car, workplace–even friends’ houses if you visit someone often!

      Keep me “posted” about how it works for you! :)

  4. I agree that you need to be open to creativity and ideas al of the time. I have some method of making notes and recording ideas with me at all times (often multiple ways) but I do agree that you need to put in the time. It doesn’t have to be all day, it can just be those 15 minutes, an hour, and I’m not convinced that it has to be every day for the truly busy (like those with kids), but it has to be something, because the book doesn’t write and edit itself. To do that, sometimes it means you have to decide that your writing, your ambition to be published one day, is more important than something else.

    We’re all busy with other commitments, definitely, but that means that we have to choose what we spend our very limited free time on carefully. I know the things I had to put aside or quit entirely in order to get further on my writing. It’s already worth it, as I continue through the process of editing my latest draft, but if I hadn’t made that choice, hadn’t decided to stop doing those things that were taking my time but not pushing me forward in my life on any front, I wouldn’t have gotten to the end of even a single draft.

    Sometimes, we need to really think about our priorities and how our time is being allocated against that list. Some things, we don’t have a choice in. I have to go to the day job in order to pay the bills. But I decided that I need to write, and so I’m making my choices with regard to my time based around that as best I can (stupid housework that doesn’t do itself).

    • Hey Julie,

      Exactly. You do have to simply make the decision to write. Don’t be half-assed about it, don’t use words like “maybe” or “someday” or “think”. Once you commit to it in your head, then it’s a piece of cake to follow through.

      I definitely get annoyed out of my gourd when I’m trying to write and the darn phone rings. I have to remind myself that life is still going on around me even though I might be swimming in the lake in my novel. I have to take a deep breath (or more) and tell myself everything will be fine. The writing will still go on, the novel will be completed, no matter how many interruptions I get, because I said so!

      Thanks for chiming in!

  5. I completely agree with you, Kate. Some of my best ideas have come to me while I’m trying to fall asleep at night. I keep a pen and notepad on the nightstand to jot my thoughts down for the following day’s writing. Great post!

    • Hi Al,

      Yes, another great time to think up story ideas or to develop your characters. All it takes is a couple of minutes to let your mind wander and see where it takes you.

      Thanks for chiming in!

  6. In my experience, inspiration is not something that shows up and gets me to start writing. I get to writing, I keep drawing story out, and during the writing sessions, once i’m warmed up, that is the time I most notice inspiration striking. I do like Jane’s idea of recording the writing as you speak it, for transcription later. Generally, you can’t wait for inspiration, because it is waiting for you. Though you can formulate writing in your head, it’s not actually writing until someone else can read it.

    • Hello Suhail,

      Very true. Inspiration comes in different forms to different people. Some of us are inspired by seeing a sunset; others are inspired by painting that sunset. The act of writing can definitely spur inspiration, more and more ideas will come once you put pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard.

      I actually consider the writing in my head to be a form of warming up. Because once I’ve got those ideas in my head, I want to run straight to my laptop and type away. Our ideas of “writing” might differ, but they come from the same place–our imaginations.

      Absolutely, inspiration is readily available. I think it can be in the form of unlimited thinking, because it always motivates me to hurry up with the chores just so I can scribble down all my ideas. The problem is that not everyone recognizes inspiration when they see it.

      Thanks for a great comment.

  7. I’ve just been reading about Agatha Christie’s writing workbooks, and how she jotted down ideas so quickly, her hand barely able to keep up with her thoughts. I think we all have our own ways of finding ideas for writing. Dreams have been a good source for me. I think the trick is, no matter when, no matter where, just keep on writing.

    • Hi tree,

      Oh yes, dreams are a wonderful place to get ideas for your writing. Of course, we all have our own special ways of finding ideas and it’s important to be tuned in to your environment (inner as well as outer) to make the most of what’s around you.

      Thanks for commenting.

  8. You sound like I used to be. I was always jotting down ideas, even dialogue as the day went on. After WolfPointe was published, I “gave it a rest”. Unfortunately, I try to make time to write, but I do need to Take The Time. Creativity sometimes just jumps up I need to take advantage again and write when it comes… I enjoy your blogs as they are getting me more aware and wanting to re-start…..

    • Hi Rick,

      I love the difference you note about “make time” vs “take time”. I think they are indeed separate entities. We can always make the time, but if we don’t use that time for writing than our effort has flown out the window.

      Taking the time is all about taking advantage of your inspired creativity, and jotting your ideas down–wherever you might be in that moment. Don’t let the fact you are in the car, or grocery shopping stop you. If you get in the habit of sticky notes or a recordable device, then you can get your ideas from your imagination to paper/tape. That might make it seem more real to you, and perhaps you’ll feel more of an obligation to follow through and start building a scene or a character.

      I’m thrilled that my blogs are motivating to you. Actually, they motivate me, as well. There are definitely “non-writing” days in my life, and sometimes I’ll read my blog and think, “Oh yeah. I’m supposed to be writing about now!”

      Thanks for commenting.

  9. Great post and excellent quote – for me, the best ideas and the solutions to problems almost always arise when I’m not at the computer. During NaNoWriMo, the majority of problems were solved while I was doing the dishes. Water and coffee breaks help. This works for any kind of problem solving. In the past sometimes the best solutions for work popped in my head while driving (I called it motorbike meditation) or walking to the store.

    • Hi buddhaful,

      Yes, I love that quote, too. I also love knowing that wonderful authors don’t just sit down and start writing a book from start to finish. They need quirky habits to inspire them. Such knowledge reassures me that I can do this!!

      You’re so right–the majority of problem solving (for me) is done when I’m not actively trying to solve the problem! Very strange.

      Great nickname: Motorbike Meditation. That really says it all!

      Thanks for chiming in!

  10. Great post. I find my writing goes in cycles. Times when I’m actually writing, times when I’m in revision mode, times when I’m simply thinking about the story and giving it time to bloom in my head. Those are the times I’m not ready to write. The story has to take shape first, and when I feel I have enough, I’ll begin to write.

    And then there are times when I let my brain wander and don’t think about writing at all. Like squeezing out a sponge that’s been working hard and needs to fill up again.

    • Hey there, Nancy!

      Cyclic writing is indeed very common. I, too, find it difficult to write, revise, think all at the same time. I’m always impressed by writers who can work on more than one writing project. For me, once I’m entrenched in a world of characters and problems, I can’t switch gears well enough to write about a different world of characters or problems.

      I think that might be why blogging is such a nice complement to writing. They tap into two different areas of creativity in my brain.

      Great analogy with the sponge. Soaking up, then draining–excellent image!

      Thanks for chiming in.

  11. I agree with 4am, Agatha, and the writer/historian/researcher. All of those ideas play a part in writing, in my similac stricken opinion. There are times that I definitely need undisturbed time. Gotta wait till everyone is sleeping. Staying open to writing, goes without saying. If you are a writer and ideas just don’t pop into your head from time to time, well, I guess I’ll keep the rest of that opinion to myself. I have ideas smacking my cranium when I’m writing other stories.

  12. Hey there, BK–

    Yes, when everyone is sleeping, run straight to your WIP and get working! There are times I have had to adjust my 4am wake-up routine to 2 or even 1 am if a child wakes up sick. After I tend to the child, I usually am wide awake so I just go into my study and write. Needless to say, the rest of my day is shot once noon hits, but you do what you gotta do.

    That’s happened to me, too–other story ideas slip in while you’re trying to write on whatever project I’m working on. I’ve learned to be prepared for that. I keep a separate Word doc file just for story ideas, so I’ll open that up, jot down my new idea, and that will usually take care of the problem. Generally once I’ve given the new idea due attention, it will fade out and I can get back to my WIP.

    Thanks for chiming in!

  13. Great post . . . and I completely agree. It’s very difficult to set a writing schedule in stone. I’m a published author but work a “day job” to pay the bills. I also have a wife and young son, which means I write when my family duties allow! Like you, I keep notebooks handy to jot stuff down and hope it’s still fresh when I get time at the computer.

    Hemingway was a big proponent of letting your subconscious dwell on writing when not at your writing desk. The trick, he said, is to let your mind tackle your literary problems without mentally forcing the issue. My problem is that when I’m working on a manuscript, it dominates 90 percent of my thoughts . . . much to my poor wife’s chagrin!

    Happy writing!

    • Hi Simon,

      I’m glad to get to know another writer who also has to figure out how to juggle writing and family!

      I love learning that piece about Hemingway. It is a trick, most certainly, to not force writing or story ideas. I honestly think it takes practice and lots of false starts until we can train ourselves to not interfere with our imaginations.

      Haha, I can definitely relate to the dilemma you face with your manuscript dominating your thoughts. I often find my thoughts drifting to my WIP when I’m doing other things, like listening to my husband talk about his day. Eek.

      Happy writing to you as well!

  14. I haven’t had any random bursts of inspiration for a while now, it’s really saddening. The fun bits of dialogue, the scenes. I need to unclutter my mind and get them back!

    Maybe daydreaming in classes this semester will bring them back. ;3

    • Hi there Ottabelle!

      It is frustrating and saddening to not get bursts of inspiration. And when there are other things on your mind it is extra difficult for your creative self to roam freely. Daydreaming in classes was a big source of story ideas for me when I was in school, so I bet you’ll think up some good ideas in no time. ;)

      No matter what, don’t stop writing. Before you know it, you’ll get a great idea, and then another one, and then another one. You’ll be writing madly just to keep up with your imagination!

      Good luck!

  15. Pingback: 7 X 7 Award « 4amWriter

  16. I like it best then, when the ideas are rolling and you feel like you can’t catch up! Unfortunately it doesn’t last…hehehe.
    I find when it isn’t going that you’re right, I need to declutter. Calm myself. I clean up the house a bit, so I have a sense of accomplishment, then I get my iced tea and napkin and sit down to work.
    I’ve thought of stuff while working, and can write it down and often work with it when I sit down to write. Nice post!

    • Hey Neeks,

      I love the word you use, “declutter.” That really says it all in terms of draining out all those ideas that can get tangled up if we don’t tend to them accordingly.

      It’s one of the best feelings to get ideas when you’re not even trying. When that happens to me, I almost feel like a pro, thinking, “Yeah, that’s right, I got this down, no prob!” :)

      Thanks for your comment!

Comments are closed.