The Power of 10 Minutes

Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within by Natalie Goldberg is my current favorite writing book.  Her guide to ten minute writing sessions has been extremely helpful to me in developing a daily writing habit (although I always do a minimum of 15-20 minutes).  However, I discovered my friend, Dena Clayton, from Love Revealed Stories had already written the perfect tribute to the ten minute timed writing model.  Why invent the wheel when Dena can tell you all about it?

Ten-Minute Writings: Inspiring, Connecting, Jump Starting

by DENA on APRIL 11, 2013

Writing helped me through the first months and years after my husband died. Early on, it was a sort of informal journal of dumping onto a page whatever was swirling in my head. Along the way, the writing took on various eclectic forms. I captured the essence of dreams. I wrote Seussical nonsense rhymes. I jotted ideas, shopping lists, and must-accomplish tasks. I expressed deep gratitude in letters to family and friends for the ways they helped me. I poured my heart into letters to my departed husband. I wrote comfort notes to the parts inside me that felt broken. I even followed an assignment from a bereavement class: I wrote as if the date was five years later and I was telling a friend about my current life.

Several months into the new territory called widowhood, something unexpected and wonderful happened. Sheila, the leader of a women’s spiritual community in which I had participated for many years, offered a new focus on creativity for the next year’s work together. A dozen women or so signed on with gusto.

We painted, collaged, and danced. We wrote poetry, sang, drew, and made music. We did a lot of writing. We paired modalities, such as dancing a painting, collaging a poem. We witnessed one another’s courage in sharing our creations. All of these activities felt freeing and life affirming to me. My absolute favorite new endeavor was being introduced to ten-minute writings. Natalie Goldberg tells of the usefulness of these brief exercises in her book, Writing Down the Bones. She describes it in terms of a writer’s tool. I discovered it has much broader applications.

The following are my translations. These are ways I have engaged the exercises over the past decade. Below, you will find the how-to as well as possible benefits, and approaches to using this exercise on your own and with others.

10-Minute Writings, by yourself:

* Choose any idea or question that comes to mind or is pertinent to your purpose
* Set a timer for 10 minutes.
* Begin with a word or phrase about your topic (i.e., “I like 10-minute writings because . . . “).
* Write or type without stopping – and without caring about grammar, punctuation, capital letters, anything. If you get stuck for something to write, either write the opening phrase over and over again or write blah-blah-blah-blah (my favorite) until something shakes loose. When we write without stopping, the inner editor/inner critic is by-passed.

~ ~ Benefits ~ Some benefits I have experienced:

* shifting to a brighter mood;
* feeling more creative;
* discovering possible solutions to cares or dilemmas;
and, wonder of wonders,
* melting away of procrastination.

I want to say a bit more regarding procrastination. When there is a large or small project I notice I have been putting off, sitting down to do 10 straight minutes of writing has worked wonders. It takes the pressure off. All I do is remind myself I am simply jump starting by writing anything at all about it – even spitting out my frustration or other feelings about it – during a 10-minute period of time. When the timer goes off, if I am in a groove and feel like continuing, I do.

10-Minute Writings, 2 or more people:

The directions are the same as for doing the exercise on your own; see the 4 steps in the list above.

* One difference is to decide together on the topic. At times, you might choose for all participants to follow their own topic selections.
* One person sets a timer or volunteers to be the timekeeper.
* Once the writing has stopped – even mid-sentence – all are invited to read aloud what they drafted.Very important ~ The duty of listeners is to witness in silence and to refrain from offering feedback in any way (no praise nor criticism); safety for folks to share their raw ramblings aloud is created by the neutral acceptance of silence. Sometimes I find I am pressing my lips together to keep from exclaiming, “That was fantastic!” Some of what gets written is very funny, and we are allowed to laugh – and laugh and laugh and . . .

~ ~ Benefits ~ Some benefits I have experienced or observed:

* all the ones listed above;
* fun;
* deepening of friendships.

One of my favorite activities with friends is to gather at a coffee shop or in one of our
homes and do a few 10-minute writings together. Some of us used to get together in this way once or twice a month at a local Panera’s Bakery. Looking back, we realized those evenings were seeds for what became the Hilltop Writers circle, a monthly writing group hosted by my dear friend, Susan. Several of the Hilltoppers have essays in one or more of the three Love Revealed books.

Additional Applications

I have used 10-minute writings:

* as part of individual sessions with clients and students;
* in bereavement support groups; and,
* in retreats on meditation, inner process exploration, and sock-puppets-of-the-mind.

How about you – have you ever used 10-minute writings or similar approaches?

In terms of procrastination, how do you get yourself back on track?

What ideas are stimulated by something you read in today’s topic?

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4 thoughts on “The Power of 10 Minutes

  1. Great ideas! I invite my students to free write, usually giving them a prompt. I use the technique mostly in Comp and creative writing classes, but I think it is useful in many other aspects of life as well, as this posts says!

  2. Thank you for sharing this article, Kayla. This was very helpful. I find myself at a loss to write creatively because I am used to business style writing, mainly using bullet points. I will try to write freely starting today and see where it takes me. I love the idea of not editing while writing.

  3. I haven’t done this since school, but I could sure use some of those benefits. I also LOVE the mental picture of her dancing and painting with her friends. What a beautiful chapter in her life’s story. I wonder if my friends would be willing to go on an adventure like that with me one day. 🙂

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