In ‘Yes, You Do Have Time to Write’ I said it was possible to get serious writing done in as little as five minutes a day. I know this to be true because I’ve done it.
I think I now know why it works, and even why it’s an important skill for writers to learn.
At least in my brain, and I suspect in yours too, there’s something that likes predictability. My hunch is liking predictability or sameness developed because when there is there is actual safety in repetition. When we repeat things our brain feels safe because it’s dealing with the known.
When I began to write only five minutes a day the first few days were awful. I resented the whole process and longed to get back to a wide open day of writing. Before the week of this practice was out,however, I realized I was getting comfortable with it. My brain was getting in the ‘groove’ if you will, and figuring out ways to make that short time more productive.
Leaving myself clues
For example it was probably on morning three that I realized if I had quit the day before knowing where I was going with the piece the next day, I would get more writing done than when I had to re-enter it without a clue. I began to leave one and two word clues for myself. If I stopped this essay here, for example, I might signal tomorrows work like this:
That would have been enough to jump start me the next morning.
I could feel that my mind/brain liked finding ways to make this new, predictable way of creating work even better. It also seemed to take some satisfaction in realizing that decent, even good writing could happen in short time frames.
Remember, in my case I’m a full time freelance writer so the five minutes only rule applied not to all my writing but to the book I was starting. I made the first part of my writing day the five minutes I worked on the book. I seem to be at my best when I first sit down to write. I don’t know if that would be true for you. Use what works for you if you decide to try this. In a couple of days my writing output for the five minutes more than doubled.
Now it’s true, I couldn’t get more than a couple of paragraphs done but I was making progress. It annoyed me that it was working until I realized what a valuable tool this can be.
We all have busy lives. Even with the sheltering in place, working at home situations because of the pandemic, we sometimes as writers need to carve out some writing space for ourselves. The fact that it can be as small as five minutes frees us up to pursue a writing dream in spite of our schedule.
Try it and adjust
I rocked along for several weeks before it dawned on me that I could turn that five minutes into 10. I remember how spacious giving myself a whole 10 minutes to write felt.
I kept the practice up for several months.
I suspect developing the skill to get productive writing done in times you thought before were too short is valuable. Experiment. Stretch yourself then adjust as needed.
Write well and often,