You dream of long, uninterrupted stretches of time in which you can unfurl your creativity and let your muse be your guide. You assume that in order to accomplish your Big Writing Dreams you must have Big Blocks of Writing Time. You’re partly right.
Yes – writing takes time and big projects take a lot of time. Writing a book is not a quest for the faint hearted. However (though I still long for full days of writing) I have been discovering the value of “micro” writing sessions. These mini, 10-minute sessions may not be moving me forward on any long-form projects, but they are helping me tackle other writing goals like increasing the frequency of my fiction writing practice, stretching my creative muscles, and learning to let myself play in my writing.
Even on a really busy day, I can usually find ten minutes to write. Knowing that I only have to write for ten minutes and – just as importantly – that what I’m writing doesn’t need to serve any specific purpose really helps to take the pressure off.
Here are a few examples of my 10-minute writing practice:
I wrote this one on the Werdsmith app on my phone while sitting at the town wharf watching the moon rise. I had been putting the trash out (just before running to the market) when the rising moon caught my eye. I left the trash at the curb, walked two minutes down to the edge of the river, and tapped this out on my phone:
The moon had always felt like an invitation to her, a bright, intoxicating promise of something mysterious and possibly magical. The way it hung there in the evening sky, balanced and luminescent, with the reflected light of the day caught on its cold surface.
The night, too, seemed to beckon. The shadows softening and deepening the contours of the world. An owl hooted low like a lover calling her back to bed, sweet with a touch of sharpness.
And there, dancing through the back rooms of her mind, a memory. The spell of moon and dark and the owl’s sultry call converged to draw out some ancient inner story that had always been there, but which she’d never dared to call her own.
This was what was happening to Jordan the night she disappeared, but no one else would know that for a very, very long time. No one would have any explanation for the way she vanished, seemingly like a ghost, right out from under the watchful eyes of a half dozen nosy neighbors.
This one I wrote while sitting in my car, waiting for my daughter to put her lesson pony to bed for the night. I scribbled it into a Moleskine notebook while still wearing my gloves. (It was chilly.)
It seemed like a perfectly ordinary Thursday, but as it turned out, it would be the day that changed everything. Of course, Arnold didn’t realize this at the time. He just pulled on his trench coat against the London drizzle and descended into the steaming underground to catch the 8:05 uptown to the offices of Shane, Mack & Oliver.
Arnold wasn’t looking forward to the meeting. He knew it wasn’t going to go well. Shane, Mack & Oliver had a reputation for ruthless behavior. Arnold’s company didn’t even have a very good case against the agency they were representing. He had resigned himself to a morning of abuse and cruel punishment. He hadn’t even put on his good suit.
Arnold emerged into the damp sunlight a long, city block from the shining offices where he expected to have his hat handed to him. He shuffled along the sidewalk, his steps recalcitrant and slow. He barely raised his eyes, even to cross the street. That was why he didn’t see the ghost until he’d walked right through it.
The ghost didn’t seem surprised. Exasperated, maybe, but not surprised. He harumphed indignantly and gave his head a superior little toss that ended with an eye roll for punctuation. Arnold might not have even stopped except for the fact that walking through the ghost had been something like walking through several sheets of ice – a succession of sharp shivers that ran through his body like a rapid fire spray of machine-gun fire, causing him to convulse somewhat violently.
Arnold stopped and leant over to catch his breath. He clutched at his heart, thinking maybe this was what a heart attack felt like. But then he saw the transparent visage of Mr. Edward Hottentot, Esq. and knew his current state of frigid incapacity was not due to any failure of his heart.
This one I wrote in bed on Werdsmith at 6AM in the morning … with a cat sleeping on my chest.
The weight of the cat on her chest was reassuring. It was like a small, warm anchor that tethered her physically and spiritually to the world. It’s purr was an ancient mantra that soothed and protected her, keeping the bad dreams and anxiety at bay.
But, as the sun crept higher and the sounds of traffic increased, the cat realized it was hungry. It leapt lightly from its perch on her sternum, leaving her at risk of floating away. The cat was not concerned. It sat in a far corner of the small room, grooming its face assiduously, not even bothering to see if the girl was still safely tucked in under the covers and not drifting down the hall.
As for the girl, she came to terms with the cat’s sudden abandonment slowly. She held herself still and breathed as quietly and evenly as she could. Nothing happened. After a few minutes she dared to turn and look out the window. The world was still there, more or less as she’d left it the night before. The girl let out a breath she hadn’t realized she’d been holding and began to plan her day. The first order of business would be finding out her name.
See? It’s some silly play and some free-form meandering. You don’t have to outline anything. You don’t have to worry about achieving any particular goal. You just find ten minutes, and you start writing. As a die-hard planner (vs. pantster), I’m really enjoying being completely random and just seeing what happens. In each of these cases, I had NO idea what I was going to write (or even that I was going to write at all!), and I just kind of started with a sentence and then waited to see where it would take me.
Do you do any kind of free-writing practice? What do you like best about it? What works well for you in terms o f process, frequency, length, etc? Care to share the fruits of your labors?
Jamie Lee Wallace Hi. I’m Jamie. I am a content marketer and branding consultant, columnist, sometime feature writer, prolific blogger, and aspiring fiction writer. I’m a mom, a student of equestrian and aerial arts (not at the same time), and a nature lover. I believe in small kindnesses, daily chocolate, and happy endings. Join me each Saturday for the Weekend Edition (a fun post and great community of commenters on the writing life, random musings, writing tips, and good reads), or introduce yourself on Facebook, twitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. I don’t bite … usually.