Writing Tip Wednesday: 15 minutes

By David E. Booker

So, how much time to do you have a day to write? How much time a day do you spend?

I read about a noted short story writer who started out writing 15 minutes a day, between 11:45 PM and midnight. As a single mom of several kids, working very hard just to hold her family together, that was the only time she had after all her kids were in bed and before she went to bed.

I wish I could remember her name, but the point is not so much her name or even that she won awards for her short stories. It is that she wrote regularly, even if all she had was 15 minutes.

Fifteen (15) minutes.

If there is one piece of advice that I have heard over and over and over again, it is to develop a routine and stick to it. Show up for your writing just like you would for your job that you work to hold body and soul together so you can write. If all you have is 15 minutes a day, use it wisely and use it well. If you can spare more, or if you operate better by setting yourself a word quota, then do it that way.

The writer James Scott Bell doesn’t have a daily quota, but a weekly one, which he then breaks down into daily installments. He says having a weekly quota works better for him because it misses a day or doesn’t write the full amount one day, he can work to make it up on the other days and still hit his weekly quota.

Certainly, if having a daily quota, then set one. I believe the writer Graham Greene had a daily quota of 500 words a day. He would write 500 words and then stop.

The writer Harry Crews often rose at 4 AM to write before going to work as a professor. One of his students, the New York Times bestselling crime novelist Michael Connelly said recently of Crews, “The singular lesson I took from him was his simple adage that if you are going to be a writer then you must write every day, even if only for 15 minutes. The last part about the 15 minutes has served me well. I’m going on 30-plus years of writing every day, even sometimes for only 15 minutes.”

So, where are your 15 minutes?

[Editor’s note: Connelly quote taken from LA Times obituary article on Harry Crews, who died earlier this year. He was known to write from 4 AM to 9 AM and to begin each session with the same plea: “God, I’m not greedy. Just give me the next 500 words.”]

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