Sunday, March 5, 2017

What do you think about writing in 10-minute increments?

Thinking about writing*

2. What do you think about writing in ten -minute increments? Do you think you can accomplish it? What do you think of the little bit that you've written so far?

I know it can be done, because I have done it. These little exercises are proof-positive of that fact. The challenge however will be the integration of all of these small pieces into the structure of a larger cohesive story, with all of the necessary beats, character arcs and foreshadowing.

Another challenge is that the 10 minutes are never actually empty. We rarely see 10 minute moments in which we sit idly staring at the walls. There is always more to do than there is time to do it. Someone, somewhere in the house, is doing something that they are fully engaged in, and that time and space inevitably overlaps with yours. That is the challenge. It is really a question of priorities.

Most of us have no free time, just otherwise occupied time. We have filled out time with working moments, relaxing moments, together with loved one moments, leisure moments. Sleeping and eating and bathing moments. There are no empty moments. You can do anything for 10 minutes, but can you find in your day 10 consecutive, uninterrupted or unallocated minutes? Where is this 10 minutes supposed to come from? It is a question of inclusion, rather than exclusion. Bring the chaos of other people in, let them know what you are doing and how it is part of you. Then watch how they fall over each other to give you the time.

The problem might be one of location, not duration.

Can you find a place where you can both spend 10 isolated minutes and have your writing tools nearby? The romance of writing long hand might works for some, but my writing is horrendous, and more importantly, slow. The real beauty of typing is not only legibility, but speed. I can plug my ideas faster, surer and cleaner with finger to keyboard. To that end, I have picked up an Alphasmart Dana, a keyboard/writing tool that is portable and distraction free.

So time, check. Space, check! Content? This bring us full circle. If the goal was merely writing, then any old content would do. But it isn't, really. It isn't writing for 10 minutes. It is writing something for 10 minutes. Your novel, short story, article or blog post must have a form, a structure upon which hang all of the little 10 minute bits.

Those 10 minutes bits are like the individual shards of coloured glass that come together to make a stained glass window. They are the threads that are woven, one by one, into a garment. It is the framework that takes a small red triangle of glass and transforms it into the hem of the garment that the woman touched and was miraculously healed. The garment, the glass, the 10 minute bit of text are really nothing on their own. It is the person, the frame, the structure on which they hang that gives them power, that gives them meaning. And those fragments, in turn, give meaning to the greater structure, the finished image, the human face of deity.

And the same holds true for the 10 minutes moments. They aren't intended to break the pattern of our lives, nor to shatter our routines by introducing unwelcome wedges into an already overloaded day. The flow of our activities, the planned chaos that is our daily round, is not interrupted by our writing. Rather, the bursts of creativity, concentrated and focused through these small lenses of text, shine an intense light on our other daily activities, on the other facets of our existence. And they are, in their own turn, framed and protected by the activities that give our lives meaning, purpose, direction.

And as for the framework of the story, well, that is writing too. And it is another blog post.


* From the Introduction


  1. Applauding your efforts, Michel! Love the imagery of the shattered glass. This is one of the nicest homages I've ever received.

    Humbly and gratefully yours,

    1. Thank YOU for creating such a great community!