150 minutes a day

by AA on 10 March 2012

In November 2010, after years of trying and failing to finish my first novel, my writing had come to a standstill. Perfectionism, outsized expectations, lack of discipline — there was plenty of blame to go around.

So I started over. I decided that finishing an awful novel would be far better than never finishing anything at all, and I devised a system to re-motivate my writing. Based on a combination of Dorothea Brande’s advice (“Write every day, no matter what”) and the Malcolm Gladwell maxim (“It takes 10,000 hours to achieve mastery”), I set a quota of 150 minutes of writing per day. At 150 minutes a day, it would take me roughly 10 years to reach the 10,000-hour mark. In the intervening ten years, I figured, I might produce a lot of truly execrable work, but, according to Gladwell, by the ten year mark I was guaranteed to be a Pulitzer Prize-worthy novelist. That was heartening.

Almost exactly one year later, in late October 2011, I wrote the final word of the final draft of Realms Unreel. The 150-minutes-a-day system might not work for everyone, but it was just the thing I needed to keep me focused. Two and a half hours of writing a day definitely requires sacrifices, but it was an achievable goal. Lowering my expectations to the point that any writing was acceptable, so long as it was 150 minutes of writing, also helped a lot.

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