Saturday, January 3, 2015

Productive Writing in Minutes

photo from
Like most creative types, I prefer having an uninterrupted block of several hours to work on my books.

But life doesn't always cooperate.

Family, errands, chores around the house, and other interests all place demands on your time; not to mention your “real job” if you’re not a full time writer.

And just when you think you've got a free evening or afternoon, something always happens.

What if I told you a writer (ahem, that means you, by the way) can be productive in just a few minutes?

I can hear the skeptics already; folks saying “I can’t write a novel in just minutes at a time! I can’t write anything in less than a few hours.”

In a way, they’re right. If all you give your novel is an occasional few minutes, it will never get finished. And if by some magic it does, it will probably take decades to edit.

Writing is a job, and if it’s an important job to you, you need to make time for it.

Notice I said make time not find it. 

image and quote by Patricia K. Baxter

How do you make that happen?

Use your current down periods:

  • Doctor’s office waiting rooms
  • Waiting in line at drive throughs or grocery checkout lanes
  • While the coffee brews
  • Coffee breaks at work
  • Actually take your lunch break rather than working through it
  • While dinner cooks
  • Write during commercials (better yet, give up one TV show a week)
  • Get up 10 minutes earlier or use the last 10 minutes before bed
  • Use your commute (If you drive alone, please don't write; use a voice recorder app instead and write it later.)
Ok. Great. So now you’ve made a few minute. There’s still that problem of not being able to write anything in that length of time.

Have you tried?

My writing buddy challenged me to a 10 minute writing exercise. It was fun! In fact, I liked it so much I wrote a post about 10-minute prompts using pictures. (Check it out here) It may not be directly related to your work in progress, but an exercise like that can get the creative juices flowing, and it could give you an idea for a new book.

What else can you do?

  • People watch and jot notes about clothing and mannerisms to use for a character later.
  • Make a note of that idea that just popped into your head.
  • Outline your next book.
  • Write a character description or personal history.
  • Research the location or a piece of information you need.
  • Describe a scene.
  • Play what if with your plot: what if X happened, what would change about your story or how would your character react?
  • Change perspective: think about how an event in your story would appear from a different character's point of view. You may learn something about that character you didn't know.
  • Free write - it could end up being a part of another story or surprise gem for this one.

Your turn! What other ways can you make time in your day? What other writer tasks can you think of to do in those few minutes?


  1. Spent 2 hours doing laundry today - yes, I am a man that does laundry - and took my notebook.

    Not only did I outline 6 chapters of book 2 in a series, I also noted characters for a future romance.

    Yes it was 2 hours and not ten minutes, but there is always a chance to jot down an idea or observe insane humans

    1. So true, Mario! Great use of your time! And I look forward to not only the series, but also the new romance.

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