I hate the idea of limiting my writing time to five minutes, just hate it. And yet…
I was complaining to my mentor and confident that I simply didn't have time to work on a writing project of mine. I was handling a couple of book ghostwriting projects at the time as well as keeping up with my usual blogging for myself and one client. I’ve been working on a family story for ages and was feeling I just couldn't find the writing time for it.
“Try writing it five minutes at a time,” she said to me.
But I need more time…
I was furious. I talked for a good five or six minutes about how important it was to me to be able to get deep into a project, yada yada yada, all true, and all beside the point.
It didn't help that she knew someone who had completed a whole symphony written five minutes at a time. I have no idea if writing a symphony compares to writing a book, but I was impressed.
“Okay,” I said in an almost menacing tone. “I’ll try it.”
So I tried it
And I did. I tried it because I trust this person immensely and because I hoped to prove her wrong. For the next six days I set a timer for 5 minutes and plunged in. Here were my results:
It took me two five minute sessions to get oriented again to the project. I indeed found a place to start, and for the next four days wrote for only five minutes each day.
It was both exhilarating and agony. Each day I actually got more or less 100 words of so written. I made progress. That was exciting. Call it a total of 400 for the four days I wrote, maybe closer to 500 because most days I was over 100 words. If I wrote 500 words a week for 50 weeks would be something like 25,000 words. Not quite book length, but getting there. Or enough for several articles, lots of blog posts — you get the idea.
And each day when five minutes had passed I stopped. That was agony because I always had more to say.
What I learned
It’s entirely possible to get a passable amount of writing done in five minutes. Obviously stringing enough of those five minutes together could equal a book, or several articles, or... In other words it may be worth doing.
When I quit knowing where and how I’m going to start the next writing session, it all comes much more quickly.
I still didn't like this process much, so I started extending the five minute sessions to first ten, then 15 and finally to almost an hour. It turned out I had more available time than I had recognized.
Each of those is a valuable lesson. Each is also a variant of if you want to be a writer, you've simply got to write.
Should you try it? I don’t know. If you do, let me know what happens please.
Write well and often,