The future, the present and the past walked into a bar. Things got a little tense.
I’ve been thinking a lot of about time. Time passing. Time management. Finding time. Finding the time to write might be the most common problem that writers have. For me, the key to finding time was to break everything into small chunks. At the Port Townsend Writer’s Conference last week, I was reminded at what can happen in 20 minutes.
I took a wonderful short essay workshop from Sayantani Dasgupta, author of Fire Girl. One of the best writing workshops ever. Everyday in class she gave us at least one complex prompt and 20 minutes to write. At the end of one week, I had the start of ten short essays. I was reminded that I have always done my best work when there was a time limit. By the way, Dasgupta is a gifted teacher with some kind of magic brain that works so fast and so brilliantly, that after the first day, the whole class was writing at a very high level. It was one of a handful of excellent workshops I’ve taken. I’ve taken a lot of workshops. A lot.
Setting time limits or goals got me through the hard business of writing my memoir, The Accusation. Because the subject matter was so deeply personal and dredged up pain, part of me wanted to avoid it. Another part knew I had to tell my story, get it out, explore it more fully, to be done with it. I found that having very short goals for daily writing really help. So I took my kitchen timer into my writing area and set it for twenty minutes. My only purpose was to write something about the story of my having been falsely accused of child abuse. Anything, and no matter how boring or troubling it was, I just had to keep typing for 20 minutes.
Some days that is all that I wrote. Some days I did that several times. Bit by bit, I got it all on paper and could begin the process of adding craft and humor, and transforming it into a piece of art instead of a boring journal-y entry. I encourage anyone to try this approach to writing, especially when you are doing the sloppy, dirty work of exploring the dark side of life.