15 Minutes a Day

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.

43 Responses to 15 Minutes a Day
  1. Rita
    January 31, 2011 | 1:29 AM

    I love the idea…it just made me realize that when I write like that I write some of my best stuff.

    • j
      January 31, 2011 | 11:42 AM

      Me too. I don’t know why I have to keep learning that over and over.

  2. Love IS in the air | Zebra Sounds
    January 31, 2011 | 2:14 AM

    […] Writers, I’m conducting an experiment during the month of February. You should join me. Read about it here. […]

  3. Boonies Chick
    Twitter: fearofwriting
    January 31, 2011 | 10:31 AM

    I do think this will be fun, j. 15 minutes sounds perfect! I’m going to make a cup of coffee and start right now. Can’t wait to see what I write about. I’m going to use one of my beautiful journals – that I’m allowed to make messes in even though it’s too good for me – and for a title I’ll use the private hashtag I’ve started putting at the top of every entry: #wildchild2011.

    • Boonies Chick
      Twitter: fearofwriting
      January 31, 2011 | 10:45 AM

      Ha. Stupid WordPress left out the wink that I put after “even though it’s too good for me” cuz it thought I was writing HTML. Let’s try that again.

      • j
        January 31, 2011 | 11:59 AM

        The winky face was implied! I suspect that 15 minutes each day is going to become one of the things I look forward to most.

        • Saahil
          June 3, 2011 | 12:41 AM

          Hie…. I hv recently joined…. u r so beautiful…

  4. DaVida Chanel
    January 31, 2011 | 12:26 PM

    I think I can do this! I NEED to do this! I want to do this! I am going to do this πŸ™‚

    • j
      January 31, 2011 | 4:15 PM

      Ha! This comment made me grin! Yay!

      • Saahil
        June 3, 2011 | 12:41 AM


  5. Tricia
    Twitter: Tricia_Sutton
    January 31, 2011 | 12:40 PM

    I got a head start and wrote an entire novel in that manner. Perhaps February will be the month to make it make sense. Please, someone make me do it.

    • j
      January 31, 2011 | 4:16 PM

      I will send you an email daily. It will say, Dear Tricia. Ass in chair. Love, j

      What do you think?

      • Tricia
        Twitter: Tricia_Sutton
        January 31, 2011 | 7:40 PM

        I like it, except you must be more specific in that my ass will be in the chair social networking, emails, anything other than what I set out to do.

        Perhaps say: ass in chair, revise with flair.

      • Saahil
        June 3, 2011 | 12:42 AM


  6. Juliana
    January 31, 2011 | 1:00 PM

    I’m going to join in on this with my songwriting. I want to work exclusively on songwriting every day this month – 15 mins at a time.

    • j
      January 31, 2011 | 4:17 PM

      You guys are getting me much more excited about my idea. In my head we’re making the world more vibrant in 15-minute increments. πŸ˜‰

  7. Estrella Azul
    January 31, 2011 | 3:34 PM

    This writing experiment sounds great, I’ll definitely try it out! Not sure what the shortest amount of time I wrote a flash in was, I think around 25 minutes, but some of my poetry took less than 10 minutes and they’re the ones I love most!
    I myself usually write with a specific idea in mind, so just typing up whatever comes to mind will be a great 15 minutes play break – and I might just have a nice piece of writing by the end of it πŸ™‚

    • j
      January 31, 2011 | 4:18 PM

      Actually,I do think that it’s when you stop thinking about a specific project or end result that the best things happen. (And often you find your way to your project anyway.)

      You’ve got me pretty excited to launch tomorrow.

  8. Sara H
    January 31, 2011 | 9:25 PM

    You are on.

    • j
      February 1, 2011 | 11:24 AM

      Sweet! One day – on 15-minute writing session down.

  9. Ms. Marsha
    February 1, 2011 | 11:25 AM

    This is such a great idea. I just received a directive from a book I am reading to write, each day, a stream of consciousness thing just to clear everything out of your head before your day starts. There wasn’t a 15 minute directive on it but I think that is a great thing to do. Thanks!

    • j
      February 1, 2011 | 5:55 PM

      You’re welcome. It’s hard not to be able to justify 15 minutes, no matter how busy you are!

  10. Michael Lockhart
    February 1, 2011 | 12:10 PM

    I’m there. Awesome concept, j.

    • j
      February 1, 2011 | 5:55 PM

      Partners in crime again. πŸ™‚

  11. Jenn M
    February 1, 2011 | 12:40 PM

    I’m in! πŸ™‚

    • j
      February 1, 2011 | 5:55 PM


  12. KjM
    February 1, 2011 | 2:09 PM

    “… to just write wild and see what happens…”

    If for no other reason than the above, this is a good idea.

    Oddly, I find myself hesitating on committing to this – which is sill. Fifteen minutes is easy to find in a day and yet…and yet…

    So, yes. Fifteen minutes it is. Though there may well be war stories…

    • KjM
      February 1, 2011 | 2:13 PM

      {sigh} – of course that should read “…which is silly”

      Making more typos of late than usual…seems I’m distr… Oh, look at that! πŸ˜€

      • j
        February 1, 2011 | 5:57 PM

        I know, me too. I tell myself when I do a lot of typos it’s because my mind is busy with other really important matters. Self-talk, baby, it’s what gets me through the day! I’m looking forward to swapping war stories.

  13. Toyah
    February 1, 2011 | 5:11 PM

    Fabulous idea – I think I will also pick one of those Only For Best notebooks and commit to 15 minutes a day. Best get started, there’s not much of Feb 1st left here! πŸ™‚

    • j
      February 1, 2011 | 5:58 PM

      I’m off to google “Only For Best” notebooks. (But in the meantime, yay! Thank you for joining me!)

      • Toyah
        February 2, 2011 | 5:59 AM

        You know I was kidding…right? πŸ˜‰

  14. 15 Minutes a Day | Miguel Fernando's Blog
    February 2, 2011 | 11:32 AM

    […] by this post http://www.10kdayforwriters.com/2011/01/minutes-day by Judy Clement Wall I thought I would give this idea a try. I know I will ultimately not stick to […]

  15. […] minutes & a doodle πŸ™‚ This Monday, J started an experiment for writers that I’m excited to be a part of. It’s basically about sitting down and writing for […]

  16. Kate Arms-Roberts
    February 2, 2011 | 2:16 PM

    Great idea! I’m a day late, but I could use a kick start. I got off to a great beginning in January, but life exploded and my habits got broken.

    • j
      February 2, 2011 | 2:37 PM

      15 minutes is the perfect amount of time for working around life explosions. πŸ˜‰

  17. Lois
    February 3, 2011 | 10:55 AM

    I’m a bit late in joining this (been babysitting, dealing with nasty weather and sickness, but I’m finally recovering), but you can count me in. I can’t promise to stick to only 15 minutes, though. πŸ˜‰

    • j
      February 3, 2011 | 11:57 AM

      Ha! One thing about doing my 15-minutes first thing in the morning… I HAVE to stop to get The Boy off to school. Tomorrow, I’m trying the end of the day… just in case inspiration takes hold and I want to rattle on. πŸ˜‰

  18. Lois
    February 3, 2011 | 12:06 PM

    LOL! I hear you. πŸ˜‰ Actually, I meant that I was late joining the 15 minutes per day by starting on the 3rd (as opposed to the 1st). I fought the bad weather on Tuesday (mostly mentally, blasted cloudiness!), then I was sick yesterday. I expect to have to babysit tomorrow, plus a few days next week, but I still plan to get my 15 minutes in every day.

    In fact, I just finished my 15 minutes for today. It wasn’t freewriting, exactly, as I wanted to jot down ideas that were coming to me about a series I’ve been working on. I’m making major changes to it, and I wanted to play around with some ideas I’ve had rattling around in my head for the past two or three days.

    I’d call today’s session a success! πŸ˜€ Can’t wait for tomorrow. πŸ˜‰

  19. 1/96th of a day | Zebra Sounds
    February 9, 2011 | 2:13 AM

    […] in February, I’ve also committed to writing 15 minutes every day. You can read all about it here, but the impetus behind my deciding to do it was this: I can spare 15 minutes a day. We all can. […]

  20. ben Jayston
    April 17, 2011 | 5:03 PM

    have done this for a year – have two 182 page books…it is the most visceral, brave and wonderful thing you can do. Don’t stop. Wait until you do 15 minutes four or five times in a day. You’ll sleep well that night…brava!

  21. Verna Lynn
    February 19, 2012 | 10:36 PM

    I’m looking forward to swapping war stories. (But in the meantime, yay! It’s hard not to be able to justify 15 minutes, no matter how busy you are!

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