Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Fifteen Minutes

In order to become a successful writer, horror scribe Stephen King recommends spending four to six hours a day with your nose in others' books. Dean Koontz, a fixture on the bestseller lists, works from sunrise to sunset polishing pristine pages that need no later reworking. Virginia Woolf famously said that what a woman needed to succeed in the literary arts was her own room and income. There you have it, ladies and gentlemen: All this writing thing boils down to is having ample free time, space, energy and cash.

Such counsel is cold comfort, of course, because few possess an abundance of any of these things. But rather than allowing the accomplishments of professionals to blunt our enthusiasm, let me suggest another path, something economists call thinking on the margin. To put it in everyday language, thinking on margin means considering how much value you can add with your next increment of effort. Don’t worry about burning the midnight oil. Rather, what can you achieve in a fifteen minute period?

More than you imagine, I’ll wager, especially if you prepare yourself for it. Armed with a pen and pad -- might I suggest
Moleskine? -- you might begin to relish being stuck in traffic or at the doctor’s office or on a pointless conference call. A quarter hour thus spent can net you a paragraph, a poem -- even a blog post.

(Picture: CC 2005 by
Roger Smith)

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