Becoming a Writer in Ten Minutes a Day
Becoming a Writer in Ten Minutes a Day
By Anne Postic
Fall is the perfect time to start a new habit. The kids are heading back to school (well, maybe), the pace of life is picking up, and most of us are conditioned by years of school attendance to get organized when the weather gets cooler. (As an aside, we all know there’s no chill in the air coming in the south any time soon, but at the very least, we usually start wearing darker colors. And maybe carrying a sweater just in case. But I digress.) Now is as good a time as any to start a good habit.
How about writing? Whether you aspire to the life of a freelance writer (a very glamorous life, if being broke and working on deadlines in your pajamas is your idea of glamor), have a particular project in mind, or just want to jumpstart your brain a little, you’ll be well served by a daily writing habit. No matter what your field, you need to know how to communicate effectively in writing. Improving your skills on the page is like improving your skills in the kitchen, at work, or on the golf course: The more you practice, the better you get. And you’re perfectly capable of becoming a darn fine writer.
Step One: Just do it! Well, okay, you were probably hoping for more specific advice. Carve out ten minutes a day and find a place to write. You can write any way you like, by hand or on your computer, or maybe even on a tablet while you wait for an appointment to start. Set a timer and go for it. Commit to ten minutes a day and don’t worry if you aren’t finished when the time is up. This writing is an exploration, not an assignment.
If you aren’t sure what to write about, search for writing prompts online or just ruminate on the first thing you see. After a couple of weeks, your patterns emerge. Unlike yoga class, writing doesn’t require clearing your mind. Just the opposite: Write about whatever pops into your head. Let’s say the first thing you see when you sit down is a pen, which reminds you of the cup your favorite aunt kept on her desk, full of pens in different sizes and colors. Maybe you end up writing about the time your aunt bought you a copy of “Silas Marner” when you were ten, and fascinated you with the story of how George Eliot wrote under a man’s name because she wanted Victorian readers to take her work seriously, without considering her gender.
When you notice patterns in your writing, you’ll know what you like putting on the page. For me, it’s food. Show me a horse and I’ll end up writing about how much I looked forward to the food at camp, particularly the homemade bread with honey, especially after a full day of activities like horseback riding. The important thing about 10-minute writing is to release yourself from any obligation to cover a particular topic or even to spell anything correctly.
Once you’ve gotten used to writing for ten minutes at a time, you may find yourself going for longer stretches, or you may not. And that’s just fine! When you go back and look at your snippets, you may want to develop some of your ideas into longer essays. Maybe you’ll want to fictionalize some of them and turn them into chapters, maybe even a novel. You never know where your ramblings will take you, but the road is always interesting. Just a note: Don’t look back for at least a couple of weeks. Much like a photograph, your words look better with a little distance.
You may not stick with ten-minute writing forever, but it’s a good tool. Even seasoned writers like yours truly hit walls. And we can break through those walls in just ten minutes, the perfect amount of time to remember how much fun writing can be! So many of us have been alone with our thoughts for extended periods for the first time in, well, forever. Writing for a few minutes a day is a great way to process those thoughts and get to know yourself a little better.