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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.

Focus and Fifteen Magic Minutes

Sometimes you need to go deep with your writing

I’ve often proclaimed the power of short, regular writing sessions (see previous posts on 15 Magic Minutes, 10 Reasons to Show Up,or Initial Inertia).

A small commitment eliminates anxiety and is therefore easier to honor. You’ll probably find, as so many of my students and coaching clients do, that showing up for 15 minutes gets you into the flow (an intriguing state of being so focused on your writing that everything else fades away) and you want to keep going.

Even if you don’t, you’ll get more done if five 15-minute sessions a week than you ever will waiting for the day when you have hours and hours of open time – because those days so rarely occur.

You don’t need big blocks of time to write – one of the most effective cures for writer’s block and other forms of resistance is abandoning the erroneous belief that you have to have big blocks of time to write. But there are times when you need to go deeper and focus longer, times when you need to get lost in your writing. And let’s admit it – when you get lost in the writing is when the fun really starts.

Both Short AND Long

Does this trump all I’ve said about the benefits of short, regular writing commitments? No! This is a both-and polarity, not an either-or forced choice.

You still keep your writing commitment small, no more than 15 minutes a day, four or five days a week. AND you reserve an hour or more a couple of times a week as target times.

Targets are not commitments; they are opportunities. If you show up and put in your 15 minutes and feel done for the day, you stop with no guilt, regret or recrimination. The days when you get into the flow and want to keep going, you can because you’ve reserved the time. As a delightful little bonus, the more regularly you show up for your 15 minute commitment, the more often you get into the rhythm and want to keep going.

You may not meet every target, you probably won’t meet every target – these are stretch goals after all. But you create the time and space you need to focus your attention, think deeper and write more complex material.

Reserve several target blocks of time so you’ll keep thinking of your targets as opportunities. If you only have one or two targets blocked on your calendar and you miss one, you could start to think “I’ve GOT to meet my next target” and what was a target turns into an obligation. And not just any old obligation, but an anxiety-inducing, huge obligation.

Keep your commitments small (for all the reasons I’ve mentioned before). Keep your targets optional. You’ll have the time to go deep, focus and get lost in the way only writers get lost.

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8 Comments on “Focus and Fifteen Magic Minutes”

  1. Fay November 22, 2011 at 4:42 pm #

    I really like this tip. I just substitute the words art work for writing. I will let you know how I do. Happy Thanksgiving.


    • rosannebane November 27, 2011 at 11:15 pm #

      Happy Thanksgiving to you, too, Fay! Glad this one struck a chord and translates to other artistic pursuits.


  2. kellybarnhill November 22, 2011 at 1:40 pm #

    You know, this may be exactly what I need to do. I’ve been MAD BLOCKED ever since this summer. I’ve been able to edit, but almost entirely blocked from producing new work. I like the idea of doing fifteen minute chunks…



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