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The 15 Minute Challenge

Last month I was inspired by a post I read on Keetha's new blog for writers You are Talented and Original. (By the way, I just love that title.) But back to the subject at hand...on Keetha's new blog she'd linked to an article about a writer who challenged herself to write just 15 minutes each day for a month and at the end to record what happened.

After I read the article I left a comment on Keetha's post that I'd been so inspired that I wanted to try the same challenge. In my case I wanted to use the challenge as a means to jumpstart my journal again, which had like everything else in my life, fallen to the wayside with the move and unpacking that seemed to begin in December and roll into the end of February.

On the first day of Lent, instead of giving something up (I'd already given up smoking in February, I figured that was enough) I decided to pick something up, in my case, a pen. As we now move into Easter week and the final days of Lent I want to report on my progress, what I've discovered, and how I will use this technique going forward.

While it seems a simple thing to write every day for ONLY 15 minutes, the actual commitment is much more difficult. I experimented with writing in the morning, in the evening, carrying my journal around with me in my purse, or putting it on my nightstand. What I found is that once I picked up the pen completing the fifteen minutes of writing wasn't difficult, but picking up the pen was. In other words, even though my journal shouldn't be the least bit intimidating because I'm the only one who will ever read those words, more often than not I made excuses not to begin writing. I would reason that I had nothing to say, or too much to say and not enough time. In the end, days would sometimes go by without writing a word. Over the course of the forty days of Lent I averaged a journal entry every three days, although there were a couple times when I went a week without writing at all.

Although the original impetus of this challenge was to get back to journalling, my larger goal was, in a roundabout way, to find the means to begin my next project: editing A Map of Heaven, a book that has been 'resting' for several years.  I'd hoped to apply the fifteen minute challenge to the editing process. I did dig out two of the numerous drafts of MAP and found one draft on my hard drive that oddly seems to be completely different than the two earlier printed drafts.

What I've learned from the 15 minute challenge is that I want to continue it. Even though I was successful in writing every day, this experience did reawaken how much I enjoy journalling and want make it part of my daily life, as well as the internal stumbling stones that keep me from achieving that goal. I've also discovered that I want to use this experience to learn about the limits of my self-discipline when it comes to novel writing and how I can improve upon my consistency. Specifically, I want to apply consistency to editing my novel and realize that much can be accomplished in just fifteen minutes a day if applied every day.

Best of all, this 15 minute challenge could be applied in a myriad of ways. For instance, since quitting smoking I've gained ten pounds on top of an already chunky monkey frame. What if I decided to go for a brisk walk each day for 15 minutes? Or how about those great books that we all pledge to read? Fifteen minutes a day would eventually knock down even Charles Dickens' Great Expectations or Tolstoy's War and Peace.

So I want to challenge you: what can you accomplish in just 15 minutes a day, every day? Try it for a month and let me know how it goes. I'd love to compare results.


WOW! I love this post and I think I will take the 15 minute challenage too! I use to write a few years ago and was 1/2 done with my book but with school and my youngest being born, that too got pushed aside to the bottom of the pile. I really like how you used Lent to help you stay on track. VERY INSPIRING! =o)
Keetha said…
I love reading about your results and insight. That is super! I'm interested, too, in what you mention about self discipline - that's an excellent point.

When I wrote that post, I was doing the morning pages. Then...I stopped. It took me a while to make the connection but since I stopped doing that, the interior monologue in my head has grown exponentially! There was all this chatter chatter chatter.

Earlier this week I began writing three pages, longhand, every day. Ah. Makes a difference, it truly does.
JCK said…
I've been lazy this year, and haven't done a concrete task for lent - neither giving up or adding to...

The morning pages idea can be incredibly helpful. I've read Julia Cameron's books and worked the workbook. It can bring out some wonderful things.

I love that you are relooking at a book put aside.

15 minutes a day...meditation, reading...
I absolutely love this idea, and a big congratulations to you for quitting smoking too! That is also on my to-do list. I am already a part of three writing challenges this month, but definitely would like to try this during the month of May. I think it would be a great way to get things down on paper, and once in the routine, I hope it will get a little easier. :)
Cheryl Reif said…
This is a fantastic idea, but what really makes this post terrific is that you DID it. Maybe not perfectly (ha! If you were perfect, that would just be depressing for the rest of us!) but you stuck with the task. I love hearing both why it was challenging and the benefits it gave. Thanks for sharing! Very inspiring.
Philip Gonzales said…
Thanks for the post! Perhaps you should consider setting a new goal of writing for five minutes a day. The more achievable the goal, the more likely it is that you will accomplish it and--in so doing--acquire that important boost to your own sense of self-efficacy. Gradually, you can progress to ten minutes daily, and then fifteen, the same way a little one progresses from baby steps to walking to running around all over the house.
PW.Creighton said…
Very worthy challenge. In one instance, it can force you through writer's block and in another it can spur your creativity and yet in another it can push you into routine. Very good.

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