Monday, 4 February 2013

Turn Those Spare Minutes into Gems

"Improve your spare moments and they will become the brightest gems in your life." Ralph Waldo Emerson
Image courtesy of MR LIGHTMAN /
The most common complaint amongst writers seems to be that there just aren't enough hours in the day. But, what about all those spare moments that we waste? 5 minutes here, 10 minutes there. We all have moments like these throughout our days and if we put them to use they will add up to a sizeable amount of time over the course of the day/week.

What can you do in 5 minutes?

  • Brainstorm the next scene or blog post you need to work on.
  • A timed writing exercise.
  • Read a few paragraphs or a chapter of a book to keep you inspired.
  • Catch up with Twitter so that you can use your designated writing time just for writing.
  • Write a list
    • character names/traits/mannerisms
    • possible titles
    • fears
    • settings
    • goals
    • scene list
  • Write/edit a paragraph or two of your WIP, it all moves you further forward.

Where can you find these spare minutes?

  • Daily commute - if you go to work on public transport, make the most of it and do some people watching, see if you can find some new characters, or eavesdrop and see if anything inspires you.
  • Waiting - whether waiting for your kids to come out of school or an after-school activity or club, waiting in-line at the checkout, or just waiting for the kettle to boil, use the time to jot down a few notes. If you don't have a notebook with you, most mobiles now have a note taking application built-in.
  • Walking - most people will be walking somewhere at some point during the day, whether it's a long walk with the dogs or to the end of the road to post a letter. Use the time to think through what you want to accomplish in your next writing session or to mull over a problem you may be having with a particularly hard scene.
  • Cooking tea/washing up/cleaning/exercising - these are other activities, like walking, that you probably do without needing to think about them too much, leaving your mind free to work on your story. I find it helpful to have a notepad in the kitchen with me to quickly jot down any thoughts that might pop up. There are usually a few more minutes to spare while something is cooking so you can get something written down.
  • When the kids are pre-occupied - I'm a stay at home mom and have become an expert at making the most of the short snippets of time when my son is pre-occupied with something. Sometimes he will amuse himself for as long as thirty minutes, other times it could be two, but every spare minute really helps. I actually brainstormed this post while I was parking cars with him (his favourite pastime) and then wrote the first draft while he was eating a treat after tea.
  • During the adverts - Obviously, if you want longer stretches of writing time, cutting out TV is the best place to start, but even if there is a program you just have to watch you can make use of the adverts. In every hour long show there are usually 3-5 adverts totalling a good 15-20 minutes. You could write in each advert break or record the show, write for 20 minutes and then watch the show and forward through the adverts, you will still have only used one hour.
How about you? Can you think of any other ways to use your spare minutes and turn them into gems? Let us know in the comments.

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