Thursday, February 04, 2010

Have you got ten minutes?

If you've got ten minutes, you can write a book. Ten minutes at a time. (You will need lots of ten minuteses, depending on how long a book you are writing.)

Okay, maybe not you, and definitely not me--but it is possible. There are those who are able to write in 10-minute increments. Then there are the people like me.

It takes me a while to get into the story. I need to re-read what I wrote yesterday, so I can remember where I was and what the dominant mood was for this particular scene. I need to have my Coke Zero (preferably Vanilla), and my pen, and the right number of sheets of paper. Then I need to have at least an hour of uninterrupted time to accomplish much in the way of writing.

Some days I can write 2 pages in that time. Some days, I can get 3 or 4. If I have another hour after that, I can get even more done. (My handwritten pages usually translate to 1.5 typed pages--on average.)

Thing is, those ten minute "power bursts" can still help me get the writing done, even if I can't actually write much of anything in ten minutes.

I don't know about you, but lots of us who are working as writers have lots of other, non-writing stuff we have to deal with. It's that other stuff that usually leaves me overwhelmed and stressed out. But I can take a ten-minute break when I've been sitting so long at the writing that my knees are whining at me, and go pull a load of laundry out of the dryer. I can take ten minutes and call my dentist for an appointment, or call the parents and make arrangements to come see them. The dentist's visit will take more than ten minutes (alas), but once the appointment's made, it somehow ceases to hang over my head as Something I Have To Take Care Of.

I can even group all that stuff together and make myself do it in my less-productive writing time (afternoons, I tend to fall asleep over the writing) in order to free up my more productive hours for the Real Work. I got really good at grouping errands when I lived up in the panhandle, and had to drive 60 miles just to go to Target, or the cleaners. Now that I live in lovely Galveston (we have a Wal-Mart AND a Target! On This side of the Causeway!), I group visits downtown to the post office and library, and maybe even have lunch on The Strand. I save trips off the island till I have more than one reason to go. And I try my very best to protect my good writing time.

When I was talking to a friend about taking a leave of absence from the dayjob to finish my book due last fall, she scoffed and said "Do you really think you'll use that time to write?" I told her, "No, but I can use that time to do all the other stuff that eats away at my writing time." My dayjob was only part time, but I spent an awful lot of my best writing time doing things like getting my hair cut and teeth cleaned.

So, even if you know a technique someone recommends won't work for you--see if you can turn it inside out. Maybe it will work another way.

Try a 10-minute burst of work--whether writing, or that other stuff. See which way it might work for you.

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