For the past year, I've had a daily goal of writing for 15 minutes. On the surface, it doesn't seem like very much. I spend far more than 15 minutes a day on Twitter, and far more than 15 minutes a day just getting recalibrated after a workout. The idea originally came to me when I was in college. I was working as a research assistant and the professor I worked for wrote something every day for 15 minutes. It wasn't always the research papers he was working on, nor was it anything in particular, but he made sure he wrote every day. I tried to do the same thing back then, but I wasn't really successful as I always had an excuse for why I shouldn't write. I've tried the same experiment in the years past, but it was always short-lived.
Since last year around this time, I made the commitment to write for 15 minutes a day and to my surprise, I've actually been successful at doing so. The few days I missed were ones where I was off the grid and didn't have a good device to work on, or if I was so ill that writing didn't work. I reflected on a year of doing this recently and this blog post is just some of the things I learned.
Writing is fun
When I first started this exercise, I thought I would grow to resent writing. Forcing myself to do something that takes so much effort wasn't going to be a good or lasting practice, but I found the exact opposite. It's always a fun process to decide what to write. Should I tackle the blog on the editorial calendar, work on the book, write in my journal? These are all acceptable uses, but which one will be the most fun? I've written tons of stuff that I'll never publish and stuff that I've deleted but none of it feels like a waste of time.
I never write for 15 minutes
Every time I write, I write for far longer than my minimum of 15 minutes. 15 minutes will seem painfully long, especially if you have nothing planned to write. What I've found is early in the week, I'll write what I call a regurgitation. It's an outline coupled with a fury of thoughts on paper. Later in the week, I'll use my 15 minutes to go back and refine these ideas. Each of these exercises averages ~24 minutes a day. I find myself finishing my 15 minutes and then opening the same documents later in the day to do more editing.
I've become a better writer
I'm not a good writer by any stretch, but I do enjoy writing and sharing my expertise and my feelings. Coherently and concisely expressing myself is harder than I thought, but over the years I've learned how to trim down what I'm writing and explain concepts more powerfully and concisely. This in 100% due to repetition and having the time to edit.