Creative Genius, and the WFMAD (Write Fifteen Minutes a Day) Challenge

I’m still taken by surprise at how simply making a decision to commit, that intention to be, can garner such quick results.

Yesterday I did some blog hopping, and found a lot of writer blogs, people working on their novels, finding the time to write every day – and I came away so inspired. Inspired, and with a renewed commitment to my own writing practice, which has been sadly out of tune for the past few months.

So this morning, I download my email, and the first thing I see is an email from a writing friend, with a link to Elizabeth Gilbert’s TED talk on creativity and genius.

Now, I’d watched this video last year. I’d enjoyed it, but at the time, it had just been a fun and entertaining talk. This morning, I seem to be in a different space altogether, and everything Gilbert talked about just clicked with me.

I want to access that creative genius she talks about.

Then I logged onto Facebook, and found this post at Write Anything talking about Laurie Halse Anderson’s Write Fifteen Minutes a Day (WFMAD) challenge.

Perfect timing. Just when I decide to commit to my writing practice, along comes a writing challenge that is a good fit with what I already know. Last year I committed to a writing goal of 20 minutes a day, and the result was the first draft of my WIP, NANTUCKET.

As Laurie puts it:

The rules are simple. In fact, they aren’t even rules. They’re more like guidelines, the Pirate Code of Writing.

1. Commit to write for 15 minutes a day for the entire month of August.

2. Just do it.

Here’s what I discovered last year about committing to 20 minutes of writing a day (which works just as well with 15 minutes a day):

  1. None of my excuses for not writing have any power against the 20-minutes-a-day idea. 20 minutes is nothing. I know that. All my writing obstacles know that. I can surely, absolutely, carve 20 minutes out of any day, even the most hectic, deadline-driven day.
  2. It may not seem like a lot of time, but the key is this: you don’t have to stop after the 20 minutes are up. I can’t tell you how many times I’d end up writing for at least an hour, all because I sat down to write for just 20 minutes.
  3. I can accomplish a lot in 20 minutes. On the days I stuck to the 20 or so minutes, I usually ended up with between 700 to 1200 words. Not too shabby for only 20 minutes, right?

These same things apply to a 15 minute a day goal. In fact, number one is strengthened by making it only 15 minutes.

I already know this works. Twenty minutes a day lead me to the completion of the first draft of a WIP. First time ever. It was a huge milestone in my life. Fifteen minutes will lead to similar wonderful writing results. I know it.

I’m ready for a repeat.

What about you? Want to join me and commit to the WFMAD challenge?

35 thoughts on “Creative Genius, and the WFMAD (Write Fifteen Minutes a Day) Challenge

  1. Yvonne Osborne

    Hi Belle,
    Actually, when I’m writing I lose track of time. The only thing that can stop me is the necessity to “go to work” at my other job. I do tend to write a lot more in the wintertime when I don’t have all these garden activities but still, here I am, doing what I love best, writing and connecting with other writers. Thanks for visiting me. Write on!!

    1. Belle

      I find the most challenging thing for me is to actually sit down and start writing. When I can get myself to do that, I get lost in the writing, too, and it’s wonderful. My problem is that writing has always been fun for me – I used to write as my playtime when I was a kid – and when I became an adult, something clicked in and told me I had to put “fun” way down at the bottom of the priority list!

      It’s the only reason I can think of, why it’s so hard for me to sit down and write. Because once I do sit myself down, I’m good to go. I know that, but it’s still difficult to get myself in that writing chair!

  2. Marisa Birns

    In just 20 minutes a day you had your first draft of WIP? That definitely is inspiring! Well, yes, yes I am so ready and needing a change because what I’m doing (or not doing is better description) stopped working some time ago.

    15 minutes a day? I will commit to that!
    .-= Marisa Birns´s last blog ..Memento Mori =-.

    1. Belle

      This will be fun! And yes, when I did 20 minutes a day last year, I started with a 30,000 word draft from a previous NaNoWriMo, and turned it into a 120,000 word first draft :) Bit by bit definitely does add up!

  3. Molly

    Oh Belle — you are an inspiration!

    Still afraid of committing :) — but I really do want to try.

    My biggest hang-up is that what I want to really write about – personal memories and previous trips and how to use the past to provide hope for the future – is really a waste of time. No one will want to read it, and doing it just for me is “frivolous” I need to just get over myself!
    .-= Molly´s last blog ..TSS- The First of August =-.

    1. Belle

      I don’t agree that what you want to write about would be a waste of time, Molly – I mean, I love reading your “this is my life” posts even more than I enjoy your “books I’m reading” posts!

      But how about this: do you remember how NANTUCKET was my practice novel? Just to show myself I could do finish a first draft? Why don’t you make what you want to write into your “practice” project, too? If the whole point is to get into writerly practice and be a writer who writes, your inner nagging voice won’t be able to say it’s all a waste of time. You can just keep telling it, hey, this is practice. I’m honing my skills and developing a good discipline.

      And you know, at the end, you might very well have something that’s very publishable – and uplifting! I can definitely see that happening.

      1. Molly

        I just finished watching the Elizabeth Gilbert video — WOW! I will definitely rewatch it several more times. Thanks so much for sharing the link.

        YOU ARE RIGHT……I need to shift my paradigm. I believe in the power of practice. Therefore, any writing I do can be chalked up to practice.

        I plan to begin the 15 minutes of writing today – and while my goal is to continue doing this for one month, my hope is that this is the start of a new lifetime routine. OLE :)
        .-= Molly´s last blog ..TSS- The First of August =-.

  4. patti

    Belle, am in over my head–and loving the feel of water soothing every artist’s ache in my body!

    With edits, a WIP, and a new idea hatching, however, it’s 20…times at least ten…

    I do come up for air at meal time, hubby and son night chat time, and blog time. The latter? Rewards for staying glued to the seat most of the a.m.

    Blessings, dear one.

  5. Kimberly Franklin

    This challenge sounds like a fantastic idea! 15 to 20 minutes is nothing, you’re so right about that. And I completely agree that the act of actually getting my BIC (butt in chair) is the hardest part. So twenty minutes? I think I can handle that. I’m going to start today!!

    Thanks for sharing!

  6. Talli Roland

    Yay for committing! One thing that really worked for me was creating a schedule and sticking to it – then writing becomes a habit and you just do it. If you wait around for inspiration, well…

    Good luck! Keep us posted!
    .-= Talli Roland´s last blog ..Phantasmic Fingers =-.

    1. Belle

      You’re so right, Talli. I’m really learning that waiting for inspiration is really just procrastination – when I stick to my writing goal, inspiration is 200 times more likely to strike.

  7. Dorte H

    I think it is a great idea but I don´t want any commitments after the new semester begins (on Wednesday). I have been so engaged in writing this summer though, so I hope my surge of imagination and optimism will carry me through the autumn when things begin to get harder.

    Good luck to you; it is so important to find these ways to get something down on ´paper´.

  8. Janel

    Good luck with the challenge! I can see this as a possibility for myself, sometime other than the summer. I know, that’s just an excuse, but I’m sticking to it. :) My challenge for this summer has been to not beat myself up over not writing and enjoy myself.
    .-= Janel´s last blog ..Editing Through Summer =-.

  9. Theresa Milstein

    I think 20 minutes is manageable. And you make a good point, you don’t have to stop if you’re on a roll. Heather Sellers makes a similar point in her book Page After Page. I wish you the best of luck!
    .-= Theresa Milstein´s last blog ..Rock That Body =-.

  10. Lua

    It’s amazing, isn’t it? Where serious commitment and a little sacrifice from your daily life can get you! I don’t set time limits but I wrote my first novel by setting word limits and I wrote everyday, for 5 months. It was the best thing I’ve ever done :)

  11. Jackee

    15-20 minutes is a great set-up because it’s acheivable! I think I’ll commit to working 15-20 on revision and then I can see it through. Thanks for the motivation–I’m always in need of more. :o)

    And I love Elizabeth Gildbert’s talk on creativity too!

  12. Belle

    Thank you everyone, for your encouragement – and for those of you doing this with me, let’s have a blast!

  13. Cat Woods

    Good luck. You’ll do wonderfully. Does it have to be fiction writing or can it be a hodgepodge of…never mind. I’ll just wait until the next time around!

  14. Walter Knight

    There is never enough time in the day to do write as much as you should. I am happy if I just have time to proof read and find one sentence or word to change. Just looking at a manuscript keeps is fresh in my mind. I hate it when I forgot what I have written.


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