I recently sent an essay to a close friend, Chris, to read. He’s an army journalist now, but back in the day we were undergrads together on the school newspaper. We wrote and talked of writing and attended every open mic and I can neither confirm nor deny any excesses we may or may not have participated in, if those excesses indeed existed and if they did, I would not be at liberty to talk about them. We formed a close bond over literature and its creation.
After reading the essay I sent him he gave me some feedback and mentioned he had to (and I paraphrase) get off his dead ass and write more. (Okay not so much of a paraphrase, but a reinterpreting of what he said). I said, and I quote:
“The two minute rule my friend. You got two minutes, write or revise something. Say, I got two minutes and of course it’ll expand on its own accord. Not tomorrow, now, two minutes, go.”
This became my rule and mantra in grad school. I have no time for writer’s block as when I have an assignment due or a deadline looming, there is no way in hell I’m going to miss it. (See my post “Throat-Chopping the Muse“). Chris told me he sat down for the two minutes and it turned into an hour and a half.
“Good, that’s what I hoped, but remember only two minutes a day is what you set yourself up for and sometimes you’ll find you stop at two minutes, but if you never start, you’ll never get those beautiful long sessions of ‘I didn’t plan that writing.'”
He also asked: “Do you ever write stuff in character for your fiction that never makes it anywhere, but instead informs your writing the character later?”
“Yes. I’ve written things that failed, but informed other characters and situations later. I’ve had minor characters develop and take over a story. For three hundred pages of a novel we [my grad level novel writing workshop led by Kim Barnes] have discovered that a writer can expect to generate 1500 pages altogether in different ways whether character sketches, free writing, trashed drafts, and revisions of stuff that will make it in the end, but different. Some people hear that and ask ‘1500 pages, how am I going to write 1500 pages?’ Simple I say, ‘Two minutes at a time.’
Seriously, they don’t write themselves and if you can do it like that you’ll be able to produce.”
Happy Freaking New Year People! Think of not huge blocks of time to write, but two minutes a day. That’s it. Two minutes to the New Year. Now go forth and do something you can neither confirm nor deny.