17 Minutes a Day

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It seems like ancient history now, but the first draft of The Tattooed Heart (ultimately, there were 4) was done in 17 minutes a day over a period of 10 months.

At the time I had a young child and was working 80-100 hours a week writing corporate speeches and stage shows.  There was never going to be a moment when I could clear the decks and commune with my novel-writing self—so on the advice of the late novelist and teacher Heather Lewis, to whom The Tattooed Heart is dedicated, I started setting a kitchen timer at 9PM every night and pouring myself onto the page for as much time as I had.  It turns out that the amount of focus I could sustain four to five days a week was 17 minutes.  That was the time I had, so that was the framework for getting a draft done.

(Was it Norman Mailer who said that writing is easy, you just sit down at a typewriter and open a vein?)

While this was happening, I was taking Heather’s class at The Writer’s Voice at New York’s West Side Y.  I was the only person in the class who followed her advice, and the only one who got a first draft done between the fall and the spring.

That wasn’t a coincidence.  I recommend this approach, outlined in Jerry Mundis’s book Break Writer’s Block Now or his audiocourse to any writer who wants to just get over it and get their work done.

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