Monday, October 13, 2014

15 Minutes a Day

How do we find time in our busy lives to write? Work, family, appointments all weigh us down. Our free time is precious but fleeting. Sometimes the need for sleep is another factor in our not burning the midnight oil to finish a poem.

It makes sense to have a plan. One method that has worked for me is to set aside fifteen minutes a day for writing. Mornings work best for me. When my children were little, I waited for the school bus to whisk them away before I sat down at the kitchen table with a cup of coffee and a blank piece of paper. Now I am more likely to plant myself in front of a computer screen but the idea is the same.

Married poets, Jane Kenyon and Donald Hall, often spent their mornings working on individual poems and then shared their efforts. To me, this seems ideal. Since I am busy with two part-time jobs, I don't have the luxury to write for hours. I find if I set aside fifteen minutes, the writing starts to flow and I work for longer periods of time.

Natalie Goldberg, author of Writing Down the Bones and Wild Mind, is a proponent of timed writing sessions. She recommends setting a stove timer ("...go for ten minutes, fifteen, a half hour"). Her ideas for writing: "...once you begin writing, you might be surprised where your mind takes the topic. That's good. You are not trying to control your writing. You are stepping out of the way. Keep your hand moving."

I often get my creative juices flowing by reading a poem or two by a favorite author. Somehow, the rhythm and beauty of the lines inspire me. Sometimes I need to do some free writing to loosen my writing muscles. A chance image will leap out at me and serve as the beginning of a poem. If I'm working on a revision, I sit quietly with the poem for several minutes before I begin changing words and lines. I don't want to rush the poetic process.

My dream is to have time for all my creative pursuits, but writing comes first. Set aside fifteen minutes a day and see what happens. As Laurie Halse Anderson (author of the YA novel Speak) puts it:
Fifteen minutes spent writing today could change your life.
scribble… scribble… scribble…