In January, I decided to take on the challenge of writing every day for ten minutes for a month.
My creative schedule for years has been four days a week for two or more hours at a time. I keep this schedule religiously, and it works well for me. So, why did I take on the ten-minute-a-day challenge in January?
Why Ten Minutes a Day?
Last year, I worked intensively on a non-fiction book about how to live a passionate, fulfilling creative life. The process of writing and revising that book has been both thrilling and consuming. (Join my inner sanctum on Patreon to hear more about creating and finding a publisher for that book, and to read sneak previews of it.)
Even though I devoted a little time each week to writing or revising poems and typed up 47 drafts of new poems last year, I didn’t generate many poems that I was excited about. Though other areas of my creative life were flourishing, I felt disconnected from my poetic muse.
So, at the start of this year, I wanted to rekindle that connection. Ten minutes a day for a month felt like the perfect start.
Ten minutes a day is something I frequently suggest to my students who are struggling to make time for their art, feeling stuck, or having resistance to creating.
Start small but regular. Consistency is more important than long stints at infrequent intervals. The muse likes us to show up often and show our commitment. Then, she starts showing up more often too.
Ten minutes is small enough that there really isn’t a good reason why you can’t fit it into your day, no matter what kind of day you have. It’s short enough that resistance is less (though not gone). But it’s long enough to make a little something.
Outwitting Your Resistance
Here’s the thing: Resistance is wily. It would love to persuade you that you need large chunks of time to create. It would love to tell you that you are too busy for ten minutes a day or it doesn’t work for your art form.
But if you are not making time for your art or you’re uninspired, there’s nothing better than starting with ten minutes a day every single day for at least a month.
Make a ten-minute sketch, spend ten minutes playing your instrument, or ten minutes dancing, or ten minutes just playing with clay. You might not be able to throw a pot in that time but you can roll clay around in your fingers and make a little sculpture or a pinch pot.
You’ll be forming a bond of connection to your creativity and lighting up your life in the process.
Throw away the excuses about how you can’t make your magnum opus in ten minutes and just start. You’ll be surprised by all you can get done, and some days you’ll have more time and spend longer.
Keep Track and Reward Yourself
I printed out a blank calendar for the month, put it on my wall, and gave myself a gold star sticker every day that I wrote.
Having the calendar with the stars visible in front of me was motivating and clarifying. I didn’t want to break the pattern of the daily stars. When I did miss a day, I noticed the impact on my motivation.
I found I loved the regularity of the process, the presence of poetic writing in my day every day, though some days I only remembered in the evening and had to grab ten minutes to do it.
In my first week, I missed two days as I was learning to make this a daily habit, especially on weekends, when I don’t normally write. I missed three more near the end of the month when I didn’t make time early enough in the day and ran out of steam.
Letting your art be the last priority on your to-do list does not work well. The muse does not appreciate it.
There was never a good reason that I missed a day. I didn’t make it enough of a priority or didn’t push through the resistance. It’s that simple.
Create a Space of Permission
The other thing I did to entice my poetic muse was I committed to not judging what I made. This kind of permission is vital to rekindling creativity.
I stopped worrying about my voice, style, and subject matter—things that had persistently concerned me in 2022. I stopped worrying about what was getting published these days or whether I’d said it all before.
My agreement was to show up and write for ten minutes a day and spend five minutes beforehand kindling connection through meditation and/or reading inspiring poems by others.
Starting out, I had one good poem drop in and then many days when nothing interesting was happening. But I kept going. Most of the time the writing didn’t feel like it was hitting a groove, and I wondered when it would. But I reminded myself to trust the process and suspend judgment. It took almost the whole month before things started really sparking.
Getting in the Mood
I needed prompts. Something to write about or some spur to my imagination. I don’t have a project or compelling subject night now. So, I needed inspiration. This takes some trial and error to find what’s inspiring me now.
I also found that my muse needs more than five minutes of preamble time to get into the creative state. I could do just five or ten minutes of breathing meditation and reading poems when I was short on time, but the results in my writing were often less satisfying.
If I spent at least fifteen or twenty minutes priming the pump, my muse tended to wake up more.
Nonetheless, I didn’t use this as an excuse to skip a day. If ten minutes or fifteen minutes is what I had, that’s what I would use.
I discovered that I can sit down and write a poem (or something that will become a poem through revising) in a short amount of time.
I was surprised to discover that it feels better and creates a very different energy when I write every day.
It’s Your Turn
I encourage you to try it for a month and see what it brings to your life.
Keep it light, keep it simple, and don’t judge the work. Just ten minutes with a little warmup time beforehand to connect with your body, heart, and spirit. Step outside for five minutes or do a little meditation or listen to some music or stretch your body.
Give yourself the gift of a little creative time every day.