The 15-Minute Experiment [follow-up]

I’m on the 15 minute clock right now, so let’s see how it goes…


With a digital countdown hovering, I really did accomplish more than on other days.

For starters, I felt I needed to honor every minute of my three reading sessions. I actually finished articles and chapters, including one on Twitter use for reluctant writers [or is it writers who are reluctant to use Twitter…I’ll get back to you on that.]. Without the experiment, I would have skimmed the article and drifted away after five minutes. [I am, after all, a classic victim Nicholas Carr describes in The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brain.

One hitch in my schedule: I had forgotten that I had signed up for a publishing webinar. Still the experiment attuned me to making efficient use of my work time, so I made sure to nail down two ‘to-do’ list items and exerbiked while watching and taking sweaty notes on the webinar. Not a pretty thing, this drive for productivity.

I also felt compelled to dedicate 15 late-night minutes to a list item I hadn’t addressed during normal hours.

Interesting, however, is my much lower productivity level today, at least in terms of writing and publishing. [Of course, grinding through the formatting of my file for my ebook does leave me with a less-than-accomplished feeling. But grind away, I did.]

On the upside, I have written and mailed five personal notes, completely decluttered my kitchen counter, and dove into my closet to donate over a dozen pieces of clothing for  the local St. Vincent de Paul store. I’m hoping that will score higher at the pearly gates [yes, it is quite the assumption.] than publishing my Kindle book.

All in all, it won’t happen every day, but I liked the way I ratcheted up my focus and the effort is easy to replicate. I’ll be back at it next week and will integrate it with my one focused hour. I also intend to reduce my checklist to ‘Most Important Tasks’.

Curation Station:

The Power of Less by Leo Babauta

How to Be More with Less with Courtney Carver  Feb. 14 Unmistakable Creative Podcast

The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains

The 15-Minute Experiment…

“I just know an interruption is around that corner…”


So here’s the deal…I have self-diagnosed my problem: Scattered brain.

I’ll stop at self-diagnosis.

Self-medication could get really ugly and involve empty bags of kettle corn strewn throughout the house.

Today, I’m going with 15-minute work segments.

I opened a new tab in Google Chrome and in the web address box [called the Omnibox, by the way…please bear with my occasional geekness.]

I typed ‘set timer to 15 minutes’ and sure enough a clock started counting down. [Been using that for months, but wanted to share that with you.]

So this blog post is my first work segment.

What other ones have I planned for?

  1. Explore a self-publishing resource I signed up for.
  2. Mindmap to flesh out new book ideas.
  3. Type!! I have tons of content in my notebooks and I feel the need to digitize them. I believe in a previous post I shared a photo of a pile of notebooks that have collected dust over the last year. In there lies a trove [not ready to call it a treasure trove] of ideas that need revisiting.
  4. Publish my Writing Warmups book to Kindle.
  5. Stand over the slow bathroom sink drain and ponder what could go wrong if I dive into that project myself.

Challenges to my experiment?

— My pup who is coming off emergency surgery and needs my vigilant eye to ensure he doesn’t undo the post-op stitchery. He is currently in deep REM state and whimper-barking at some dream-state rodent interloper.

— Need for a nap. Been sleeping on the couch for the last ten days to continue the dog-watch…and tending to his 1:00 AM, 3:00 AM, 5:00 AM backyard visits. [Medications mess up his usual sleep through the night routine.]

— The infernal need to check email.

Update: I have two minutes left in this blog post…You can only hope I’ll pare this down, right?

Back to the to-do list…

  1. Most likely revisit the above items for additional quarter-hour stints.
  2. Morning pages.
  3. Reading from Show Your Work, Making Ideas Happen, Unthink, The Report Card, and Using WordPress.
  4. Check in with
  5. Add a blog post to .

Okay, the timer went off and I did some polishing of this. Time to publish and move on to morning pages. Though, of course, there’s the dog…

Will let my thousands [dozens?] [pair?] of readers know how this worked out.

An epiphany…

Character Lightbulbs Represents Power Source And Concepts 3d Ren


I’m 15 minutes past the 15-minute goal. I’ll take this as a good sign…that I can extend my attention span a little further when I need to. [image from

For the time being, I prefer to not interpret it as inserting distraction into my workday. ;-]


Procrastination (some perspectives)


  1. Steven Pressfield’s top 12 tips on overcoming procrastination. [Thank you, Write to Done.]
  2. From Austin Kleon’s Steal Like an Artist: via Jessica Hische – “The work you do while you procrastinate is probably the work you should be doing for the rest of your life.”
  3. Todd Henry on coping with procrastination


Rabbit Holes and Procrastination

Sat down to write my morning pages.
A good sign: It was actually morning.

Read an article on procrastination and, armed with a number of coping strategies, promptly procrastinated for 40 minutes.
[And really, was reading the article itself an act of procrastination? It’s ugly out there in the land of put-offs. So many unresolved issues…]


Follow me on my tumble down the rabbit hole:

Email from my nephew led to…
∼ Tongue-in-cheek video about the dreariness of the month of February led to…
∼ Tongue-in-cheek video about graffiti in the St. Louis area led to…
∼ Video interview featuring the wife of a slain St. Louis area police officer [I really need to turn off the YouTube ads/related videos** led to…
∼ News footage immediately after his shooting led to…
∼ News article about the shooting suspect’s distraught father

I shook myself away from that heartbreaking thread and ventured back to my email, which led to…
∼ Khan Academy update on Pixar’s quality exploration of storytelling, which led to…
∼ One segment’s inspiration to use our own storytelling superpower: our personal perspective, which led to…
∼ a lesson from Pixar artists on shading [I shared that with my wife, an art teacher.]

Was it a productive 40 minutes?
Well, I’m at least writing about my procrastination. (Classic rationalization, but it works for me…)
Still, as I confessed on my previous word cloud post

** I use to clean up a YouTube screen for me, though it requires a few steps.]

Whoa, was I off base…

So, cut to: Guide to Literary Agents blog.

I’m entering the 30th Free “Dear Lucky Agent” Contest [URL is also below].

Requirements: A first page of an unpublished middle grade fiction manuscript.

I pulled up a favorite piece and fully expected the first 300 words to need a mere light polishing.

Uhhhh, no. Major delusion.

Pen in hand, I started reading and winced at bloated phrasing, forced metaphors, and unnecessary details. Ugly, very ugly.

Luckily, I tightened things up and let it rest for a day.

Good thing.

Once again, the piece needed more clarification and a shifting of the sequence.

My conclusion: I’ve either improved the piece or I’ve locked into version two of my delusion.

Either way, I’m submitting it today.

Will it win? Shrug.

But did I win?

Absolutely. I picked up a heartless reminder to revise and revise some more. And, by putting my work in the hands of those who judge for a living, I’ve–at least for today–thumbed my nose at resistance.

Here’s the contest URL: Come join me.

Today’s mini-lesson from Accidental Genius…

This book’s subtitle is: Revolutionize Your Thinking Through Private Writing

I’ve been using the book to boost my ‘morning pages’ routine.

Mark Levy calls this Secret # 4: Write the Way You Think.

In other words, don’t edit for any audience other than yourself. In fact, don’t even edit for yourself. Just let’er rip, working from the assumption that you can and will, even years later, understand what you’re saying to yourself, no matter how many disconnected thoughts carom across your paper or screen.

He dissected a five-year-old sample of his own private writing to illustrate ‘writing the way we think’. He decided it was a good example to share because:

  1. He used kitchen language’, a term he borrowed from Ken Macrorie [  Link #1    Link #2  ]. Levy defines it as ‘your own slang’.
  2. He ‘kept quiet about things that needed no explanation’. In other words, he skipped clarifications because he was only writing for himself.
  3. He bounced from one topic to another, with no concern about logical connection between thoughts because he knows how he thinks.

My favorite line from this section:



My own excerpt:   Okay, morning pages, continued, doing the Accidental Genius Write the Way you think exercise. I’m not doing that yet as it still feels like I’m letting someone peek over my shoulder, but I’m getting there. I needed to turn the timer around as it was distracting…and so every day I need to choose myself and I should print out nuggest [the most convincing ones and post them up on the corkboard. Okay, that was good. I love this pen. I need fast moving pen tips that glide across the page…

From the Department of Neither Here Nor There:

Show me a TV ad for the SPCA, and you’ll get tears. Actually, I take that back. I wouldn’t stay in the room long enough for that to happen.

A ‘digest’ of previous posts…

Item 1:

Meeting my work head-on…

I’ve listened to and followed Srini Rao for about six months now. I always glean plenty from his insightful Unmistakable Creative podcast–a productive collaboration between himself and his guests– and from his weekly newsletter. Here is an excerpt from yesterday’s topic: “The Power of One Focused Hour a Day”. I believe he originally wrote it in June of last year, which goes to show the power of ‘resharing’ valuable content on the Internet.

Note: He also suggests locking in your focused hour to your calendar rather than your digital or analog to-do list.


Item 2:

Teachable ‘course’–first steps…

It’s really more of a Teachable project [that I hope will benefit visitors].

It’s really more of a lab experience, even a tour of my process as I work on a first draft.

Sessions [not ‘lessons’] will consist of:

  1. excerpts of my first draft
  2. short screencasts and slide decks of my own editing/revising process
  3. thoughts on my challenges
  4. input from visitors to the course
  5. demonstrations/discussions of a variety of different writing tools, such as Scrivener, IdeaFisher [this piece of software is the prime reason I’ve hung on to my 3-ton eMac running System 9], and concept mapping programs such as Inspiration and MindMeister.
  6. short profiles of experienced, successful and generous writers and content creators who have helped nudge me forward.

So, basically, I have a lot to do.

If you’d like updates on the progress of the project, just fill in the contact form below. Use the comment box for questions and suggestions. Thanks very much!


Item 3:

Using an image and video for my post today…

Thought I would try some different post formats. I used the mindmapping software Inspiration today. Below is an image file of what I wanted to communicate to you.

Below the image is an eight-minute video demonstrating a few of Inspiration‘s features. [Reminder: I’m not trying to sell anything–just sharing what I like to experiment with.]




Use your fast-forward button liberally. You’ll get the gist of the program.


Item 4:

“You can’t wait for inspiration…”

“you have to go after it with a club.” –Jack London.

Seems lately I’ve been using a feather, at best.

I came across this list from WritetoDone.

Item #26–freewriting–reminded me to revisit The Accidental Genius by Mark Levy. If I had to narrow down my library to ten books, this would be one of them. [Reminder: This is a no-shilling-for-compensation blog. If I like something for my own purposes, I’ll mention it and hope it helps readers.]

My own additions to the list of inspiration sources:

  • A work in your field of interest/genre that you think you could substantially improve.
  • A previously successful work of your own.
  • An addendum to item #8 [Music]: Some writers loop one selection to help them achieve flow. This article might help explain what’s going on.

Okay, so I’m now inspired. Time to find my version of a Jack London club.

If You’re Trying to Teach Kids How to Write: What I’ve gleaned…

If You’re Trying to Teach Kids How to Write, You’ve Gotta Have This Book is one of the books I’ve been revisiting.

I probably never turned to page 20 when I used it for teaching, but the author insisted that we readers [i.e. teachers] take an inventory of ourselves as writers.

Fair enough…

Here were the questions she posed:

1. Do you like writing?

I absolutely do like writing, but I’m probably in a large club of writers who prefer the thrill of first-draftish writing–getting the ideas on paper. I also prefer pen-and-notebook to composing on a screen.

2. Do you think writing is hard, or easy, or both?

Writing is most certainly both. As I stated above, I do like first drafts, but it seems when it’s revision time, the hateful editor creeps in with not just nasty comments about word choice, etc. but more than a few intimations that my whole project–no matter how miniscule–is of questionable value. That’s when writing is hard. It’s also annoyingly difficult when a version from two weeks ago sounds better than what is currently on the screen.

3. How do you feel about yourself as a writer?

I don’t work hard enough. I don’t read enough. I don’t work past first draft level enough. Enough [catching the theme here?] said.

4. Have you grown as a writer in the past five years? How?

In some ways, I have grown as a writer. For one, posting this Q. and A. is a sign of growth. Working from resources like Jeff Goins’ You Are a Writer, Austin Kleon’s Show Your Work, and Mark Levy’s Accidental Genius shows I’m taking this all more seriously.

5. Can you identify your strengths and weaknesses as a writer?

Along with the shortcomings mentioned in answer #3, I get bogged down with muddy middles and I let resistance waylay me far too often. [Sorry, S Pressfield! I’ll keep working on that.]

Strengths–I think I’ve come up with interesting premises for stories. And I’ve been told my dialogue isn’t bad.