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.