By Judy Clement Wall
I’m conducting an experiment. During the month of February, for 15 minutes every day, I will write whatever comes out. Stream of consciousness. No editing, no stopping to read, no target market, no specific project in mind. Just writing… spilling the contents of my head onto the page (or screen as the case may be) for 15 minutes.
About a year ago, I wrote a story in 15 minutes. It was just before Valentine’s day and I was thinking what a ridiculous and cruel holiday it is. I apologize to those of you who love Valentine’s day, but I had a dear friend with a broken heart who was dreading the day and, to make matters worse, he managed a chocolate shop. I felt terrible for him. I felt angry. I thought this: people in love shouldn’t need Hallmark to remind them to act like it. And this: people out of love – people who’ve been left, or spurned, or are too shy or wounded to reach out – they don’t need Hallmark to remind them how lonely they are.
Thinking about loneliness, led me to write “Invisible,” a very short story that poured out of me in about 15 minutes. It took me much longer to edit and prepare it for submission, but still, it is the only story I’ve ever written so quickly and proof of something I constantly forget… good things happen when I lose my inner editor and simply write.
I read a book by Martha Beck called Finding Your Own North Star. In it, she tells the story of how she finished, finally, her dissertation. The enormity of the task had stopped her cold; her education had simply stalled there, just before the finish line. After months of inaction, she decided to break it down into manageable pieces; she vowed to write for six hours every day. It was less than she thought she should be doing, but she could tell right away that it was still too much. Her body and brain were resisting.
She cut it in half – 3 hours a day – but she could still feel it, the emphatic inner NO. Even at half an hour a day, she felt the resistance. It wasn’t until she got down to 15 minutes a day that she felt herself relax. It felt doable and, as it turned out, it was. It took her a year, but she did finish “the damn thing,” writing 15 minutes a day.
Honestly, I write more than 15 minutes a day now, but it’s usually for specific writing projects. I’ve been frustrated that I haven’t had more time to play, to just write wild and see what happens. With all that I have going on, writing like that never feels like an effective use of my time. Until now. I’m calling it an experiment (to encourage the kind of writing that term implies) and I’m committing here, to you, that I will make it happen for 15 minutes every day in February.
I think you should do it with me. C’mon… you know you want to. We’ll compare war stories at the end of the month. It’ll be fun.
JUDY CLEMENT WALL (j) is a Course Presenter for the Fear of Writing Online Course and co-manages the FoW blog with Milli. j is putting the final touches on her novel, Beautiful Lives, and she blogs about the perils of life, love, writing and cheesecake at Zebra Sounds.