15 minutes to write a novel

Photograph of an alarm clock
Inspired by Ira’s comforting words on writing and disappointment, I have been writing more regularly over the last week (virtually every day).

No matter how often I write though, I never seem to make it past 15 minutes.

This is still good news, of course. It’s amazing how much writing you can get done in a quarter of an hour.

It reminds me of when I wanted to reduce the amount of sugar I added to my tea. Rather than go cold turkey, I took the stealth approach. I gradually reduced the amount by a few grains each week; enough to make progress but not so much that my brain noticed and had a tantrum.

Little by little, week by week, I edged my way down from 2 teaspoons of sugar to 1 teaspoon. And finally, after several months, I reached the holy grail; ZERO sugar and ZERO tantrums.

I seem to be adopting the same approach with my writing – in 15 minute-increments, I am slowly but surely edging my way through my manuscript.

Other writers have adopted a similar ‘stealth’ approach:

John Grisham began his writing career by getting early every morning and writing one page before going to work.

Graham Greene used to write 300 words a day and stop, even if he was in mid-sentence!

Elizabeth Gilbert, who wrote Eat Pray Love, says aim to write regularly, but self-forgiveness is key:

“Your writing will always disappoint you. Your laziness will always disappoint you. You will make vows: “I’m going to write for an hour every day,” and then you won’t do it. You will think: “I suck, I’m such a failure. I’m washed-up.” Continuing to write after that heartache of disappointment doesn’t take only discipline, but also self-forgiveness (which comes from a place of kind and encouraging and motherly love).”

2 thoughts on “15 minutes to write a novel”

  1. I would think that it would also be an idea to keep a pen and notepad on you when you are out and about. It is amazing how much time is spent waiting for transport, or the dentist or friends etc and its a stress free opportunity to jot a few thoughts down.


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