The 15-Minute Writing Challenge

Making time to write.

This is difficult. Some days it is impossible.

How do I find time to draft ideas, make outlines, develop characters?

Then I remember: I wrote an entire novel in 15-minute increments. I did it in the car, at the Laundromat, while the kids were in the bath. I am not a drafter. I am not an outliner. I have tried time and again to sit down and PLAN what I am going to write. But I know that the stories are all around me and they come out when I least expect it. I want to scoop them up, I want to see the ideas floating in my everyday life and use those to get better. I’ve stopped working on my novel for a bit so I can focus on smaller pieces, short stories that bring together everything I am trying to do in my giant book. They’re small, manageable slices of the larger ultimate goal.

We talk a lot about the revision process and how it is the part of writing where many people want to throw in the towel. But we also talk about getting yourself out there so people can get to know your voice. Some may love it, others may not. But the idea is to try. To submit. To polish and revise and start making calls and sending emails.

Learn how to write a pitch.

Learn how to effectively write a synopsis of your story.

Put yourself at risk for getting a rejection letter.

I can’t do that with a clunky third draft of a book. I have to start small. If I word this the wrong way it sounds like an excuse to stop working on my book. Maybe it is in a way, maybe it is resistance. I know I do not yet have the tools to write a halfway decent novel. The larger picture for me is to get better. A word after a word after a word.

I have an arsenal of short stories on my laptop. Many of them are ones I wrote for the NYC Midnight Flash Fiction challenge over the past two years. Some of them are from prompts my friend and I gave one another. I even started a story based on the lyrics of Red Dirt Girl by Emmylou Harris. There are more ideas and scenes on this hard drive than I ever thought possible. Inspiration comes at me all the time and it only takes a few minutes of furious writing to get the basics down on paper.

The women who write for this blog have started a new daily writing challenge. I constantly forget that my entire book came out of this same challenge. Sitting down, focusing on words words words for fifteen minutes a day. That is all. This exercise, this time to have laser focus on getting what is in your head out onto paper is essential to a good writing practice. It has the ability to repair bad habits and erase excuses. It trains this muscle again and gives you the high you forgot about.

I’m going to write and revise as many short stories and flash fiction pieces as I can. I’m going to practice character building and development. I am going to start submitting my stories to publications. I am going to throw my hat into the ring. And I am going to get a lot of rejection letters.

Six years ago I bought a laptop because I didn’t want to share a computer with my husband anymore. In a short time I have amassed three drafts of a novel and over 20 short stories. It has been an incredible change and has become an inherent part of who I am and how I think every day. It is really easy to lose focus and blow everything off because I am too busy. Taking the time to set new goals and force myself to sit down and work is a process. Sticking to those goals is an even bigger process.

I have been really, really good at not writing lately. I have been really good at making excuses and then complaining and feeling guilty about complaining. Round and round we go. This isn’t like blowing off cleaning my closets, though. It sticks in me and makes me feel like I’m missing out on something big. Like I’m not using this gift I have and this passion I have found. Like I’m not exercising my writing chops.

I have maybe one or two days a week when I don’t have work and both kids are at school. It’s a four hour chunk of time and I try to use it to write. I drop off my kids and go to my favorite coffee shop and work on stuff for a couple of hours. I see a lot of moms at school drop-off in their Lululemons, ready for their workout once they’re kid-free. My laptop is like their workout clothes. It’s my me-time. It’s where I recharge and grow stronger and I need to remember that.

Set the timer for fifteen minutes and let ‘er rip.

black and white photo of a typewriter surrounded by smoke with a quote from Hunter S Thompson above it

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *