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Creativity coach, writing and creative process instructor, speaker, author of Around the Writer's Block: Using Brain Science to Write the Way You Want (Penguin/Tarcher 2012) and Dancing in the Dragon's Den (Red Wheel Weiser), Teaching Artist at the Loft Literary Center.

15 Magic Minutes


3d puppet with a penIn my last post, I talked about how you can move your writing forward by expanding your perception of ‘writing time’ to Product Time, which includes not only drafting, revising and editing, but all the other things a writer needs to do to complete a writing project.

The very best part of Product Time is that you commit for just 15 minutes a day. Or if 15 minutes seems like too big a commitment, commit for 10 minutes or even 5 minutes. You commit to an amount of time that seems small enough that you can do it and will do it no matter what else has gone on that day.

Remember, what you do in those 15 minutes is wide open as long as you’re doing something to advance your writing. There have been days when I had a heavy teaching and coaching schedule, completed a project by a deadline, had to clean up after a sick dog, go out to a social event and felt wiped out by 11:00 pm when I realized I hadn’t done my Product Time yet. Those are the days when I’ve done internet research – it’s amazing what you can learn about mules or distilleries (both of which appear in my novel) in 15 minutes – or daydreamed plot possibilities.

If I had to write for more than 15 minutes on those days, I’d like to think I’d do it, but I know it’s more likely I’d just give up and promise myself I’d get to my novel ‘soon.’ Before I discovered the magic of a 15 minute commitment, I’d tell myself I couldn’t write when I was so busy, that I would do it tomorrow when I had more time. But I never seemed to have any more time the next day. Sound familiar?

But since I started committing to just 15 minutes, I can do it. Day after day, week after week, year after year. I commit to 15 minutes of Product Time five days a week and I recommend students and clients commit to Product Time somewhere between three and six times a week.

The 15 minutes are magic because they aren’t intimidating. It’s not a big deal. And because it’s not a big deal, you can do it. Just 15 minutes, heck that’s not even worth triggering the RAS and the limbic system about. Before you know it, you’re so used to this 15 minute thing, you’re often slipping your writing in under the resistance radar. That’s why 15 minutes make such a huge difference.

Showing up for just 15 minutes a day gives you momentum. Your writing is in your mind and even when you’re not consciously thinking about it, your unconscious is working on it. It’s easier to start writing each day because it’s fresh. The longer you stay away from your writing, the harder it is to come back.

You get into a habit of showing up for your writing and habits hang on long after ‘self-discipline’ and ‘willpower’ have faded. You’ll get so much more writing done in 15 minutes a day, three to six times a week than you ever will waiting for the day when you have “all the time you need” because that day will never come.

Remember, the key is that the time commitment is so small, you can do it no matter what. If 15 minutes is a big deal, make it 10. If 10 minutes is still a little scary, make it 5. Eventually, you’ll want to stretch those 5 minutes into 10, maybe 15. But you never commit to more than 15 minutes.

If you want to keep writing after the 15 minutes, go for it. But the commitment is never more than 15 Magic Minutes.

Let me know how the magic works for you.

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53 Comments on “15 Magic Minutes”

  1. Theresa June 29, 2015 at 10:12 am #

    Sorry for the problem, but Chrome balked when I tried to send a reply a few minutes ago. I know you moderate to keep out the spam, but I can’t seem to find my reply anywhere, so am not sure what happened – did it go through?

    Thanks
    Theresa

    Like

  2. Theresa October 25, 2014 at 12:33 pm #

    Hi Roseanne 🙂

    I’m going through your archives; I’ve been dealing with strong resistance again, and it always helps to review/find ideas here.

    I love the 15 minute Product Time, but I disagree with you slightly. I feel the Product Time should be spent with pen on paper, or fingers on keyboard, not research, planning, etc.

    That’s where I am now. I shifted my schedule, started work on revising/writing one of my many old stories that I do want to finish – and viola! – I’ve found that I’m spending the time planning/outlining instead of writing.

    So, in my opinion, that 15 minutes should be writing only – not giving in to resistance by doing other things that are writing related.

    Maybe you should consider calling the 15 minutes of actual writing time Product Time, and the other 15 minute amounts of time Process Time?

    This has bugged me ever since I found your website and blog several years ago.

    Like

    • rosannebane October 27, 2014 at 10:59 am #

      Hi Theresa, Thanks for letting me know what’s bugged you and please allow me to explain. I include exploring the questions, research, planning, incubating, etc. as Product Time because all of those activities are essential to completing a writing project.
      There are 6 stages in the Creative Process and only in the 5th stage do we actually have our fingers on the keyboard or pen on the page drafting or revising the writing. You can’t get to Stage 5 without working through Stages 1 to 4. Product Time looks very different depending on what stage you’re in. If you’re in Stage 5, then circling back to get lost in research might be resistance. But because the stages are iterative, what you’re drafting might make you aware of new questions and the need for new information and you might genuinely need to circle back. (You’ll find more about the 6 stages at https://baneofyourresistance.com/2011/08/24/word-counts-work-in-1-out-of-6-stages/ and in Chapter 4 of my book Around the Writer’s Block).
      Perhaps you’re experiencing resistance because you’re not giving yourself time to work through the first 4 stages and not giving yourself credit for all the work you need to do in those stages.
      Process is something completely different: it is play for the sake of play without being invested in the outcome. Product Time is focused on an outcome and includes all the activities you need to do to achieve that outcome.
      Please let me know if you have other questions or observations — I think there may be a new post topic here and I thank you for it.

      Like

      • Theresa June 29, 2015 at 1:44 pm #

        Hello Rosanne.

        I’ve tried three times to leave a decent reply today, and either Chrome or my computer crashed before I could hit enter, so am going small and slow now.

        I tried something with my email, it didn’t work, and so I am redoing some filters. I have a link to this post set in one of my calendar reminders. Thought I had replied to this long ago, but I hadn’t. Sorry.

        I had forgotten about the other steps. You’re partially right about needing to go through them possibly being an answer to my resistance.

        Read the article you linked to, have forgotten if I’d read it before. I have been blessed with a brain that loves to give me the whole picture/story/series at once – like it incubates on it’s own, and then tosses it out.

        Unfortunately, it usually does so when I can’t do anything besides jot a few notes if I’m lucky – at work, or when I’m prepping or teaching my Sunday School class of kindergartners, for example. I knew I should have gone on to shorthand in college!

        By the time I get to where I can write, I often can’t get it down fast enough and lock up, or it seems awful, or what I want is on the tip of my tongue but seemingly not where I can access it.

        Like

        • Theresa June 29, 2015 at 2:02 pm #

          Realize some that shouldn’t be bothering me (write an entire book in one sitting? Really, brain? Even over Labor Day, the Three Day Novelist competition is three days, not one.).

          Also unfortunately, I can’t compose at the computer. Has to be with a pen and paper and then typed. Have tried to make the switch, and it’s never worked.

          So I need to spend less time in stages 3 & 4 and more time elsewhere.

          Thanks.

          Theresa

          Like

          • Theresa June 29, 2015 at 2:06 pm #

            By the way, I write fiction, so the research stages often aren’t as useful. If there’s something I don’t know, I use *’s or underlining or bolding or margin notes or anything else to make the place stand out, so I know it needs more research, etc.

            Thanks,
            Theresa

            Like

  3. Evelyne October 23, 2014 at 7:07 pm #

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    Like

  4. Brigitte Z. Ellsbury September 20, 2014 at 6:14 pm #

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  5. http://Www.Youtube.com/watch?v=XHVM5jy_m0g September 20, 2014 at 2:45 pm #

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  6. suppresses appetite naturally September 1, 2014 at 2:29 am #

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    • rosannebane September 2, 2014 at 10:39 am #

      I don’t know how to do that on my end. I suspect there may be an Unsubscribe Comments option on your end. Sorry for the inconvenience.

      Like

  7. Edwardo August 20, 2014 at 5:24 am #

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    Like

    • rosannebane August 21, 2014 at 9:26 am #

      Edwardo, what specific questions do you have? Please reply or I’ll have to assume your comment is spam and delete it.

      Like

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  9. ZenWei August 18, 2014 at 7:21 am #

    I was recommended this website by my cousin. I am not sure whether this post is written by him as nobody else know such
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  11. valeriaolivetti July 19, 2010 at 8:54 am #

    Hello, Rosanne!

    I’m a 38 years old Brazilian writer, and I have a blog called “Dicas de Roteiro” (‘Screenwriting Tips’) where I write my own posts and translate interest ones written in English, since many Brazilian students can’t read in English. I’m here to say that your blog changed my life! Your posts about fighting our inner resistance are the best! I discovered that this 15 Magic Minutes work for everything, not only writing! For exercising, cleaning up the mess of my desk, studying and even wash the dishes at night when I’m too tired! It destroys all my resistance. It’s really magical! =D

    Thank you so much for your generosity, for sharing your knowledge with the rest of the world. God bless you and pay you double!
    Valéria Olivetti

    Like

    • rosannebane July 20, 2010 at 10:29 pm #

      Thank you, Valéria. Yes, it’s the simple ideas like 15 Magic Minutes that can transform our thinking, but really you’re the one who’s changing your life. Good for you!
      I’m just tickled to hear that my blog has made it to Brazil. Thanks for translating my blog for your students.

      Like

  12. Erick Reinikka May 20, 2009 at 2:46 am #

    I just commit to 5 minutes a day. I guess 15 sounded like too much for me. But it’s very easy to see 5 minutes extend to 15 and 15 extend to 30 and beyond. It just keeps me moving forward and from feeling guilty.

    Like

    • rosannebane May 20, 2009 at 4:56 pm #

      Hi Erick,
      If 5 minutes is the magic number for you, fantastic! The power is in selecting a number that seems easy. When 5 minutes gets you started, you can keep going for as long as you want. But to clarify: the commitment should never be more than 15 minutes.

      I’m glad to hear Product Time is still working for you!

      Like

  13. Halitova February 23, 2013 at 6:01 am #

    In my opinion (as a fmeorr technical writer in the high-tech industry) writing nonfiction is easier than writing fiction. If you love to do research, you’ll be in hog heaven as a nonfiction writer. Also, if you put together a small proposal and send it around, you’ll soon find out if anybody is interested in your topic. If not, you don’t have to spend time writing the article/book. With fiction, your potential editor/agent wants finished work.

    Like

  14. rosannebane January 5, 2017 at 5:06 pm #

    Thanks C.L. for mentioning me in your blog post. I left a comment for you there.

    Like

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