15 Minutes

I took a little break from social media, but over the break, I was still having trouble writing. So I ordered this book, and it came just in time.

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 I liked that Rosanne Bane focused on writer's resistance, because while we might use the term "writer's block" loosely, rarely do people suffer from true writer's block, during which they spend hours trying to write but are unable to produce anything. Most of us, if we're being honest, aren't actually getting to the trying part, where we set aside all distractions and focus on writing, because we're struggling with resistance to the idea of writing. Using a layperson's vocabulary, Bane explores the brain science of our writing avoidance and self-sabotage. She explains what happens in our brain when we experience stress around writing, how our habits form neural pathways, and how we can re-form our habits successfully using our knowledge of the brain.

The best thing about this book is that it begins at the beginning. When we read about successful writers, we usually learn about their writing habits. Serious writers write every day, perhaps even a certain number of words or pages each day. Many of us read about our idols and attempt to emulate them, but as is the case with most resolutions, we lapse and let it go before we have time to make a true routine out of our writing. Bane doesn't just tell us that we should write every day; she shows us how we can make that happen in the long term, by providing concrete solutions and explanations of how they work.

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One of the best solutions is the 15-minute rule: on the days when you plan to spend some time writing, commit to writing for just fifteen minutes. You might have a target goal for something you want to finish, and you should leave some time unplanned in case you really get into the zone. But the commitment never stretches beyond fifteen focused minutes. (This is a little different from morning pages, in that this time is your Product Time, when you are striving toward the completion of a story, poem, etc. instead of journaling or freewriting.) I've found that once I tell my brain I only have to write for fifteen minutes, the resistance lifts, and I can continue what I've started. It works better for me than setting large word-count goals, because when I have something big to work toward, I'm more likely to avoid it. When I've only committed to fifteen minutes, it's easier to get myself out of bed and start writing.

This is just one piece of valuable advice from Bane, who divides the writing life into Product Time (meeting goals of product completion), Process Time (creative activity without a productive goal), and Self Care (rest, diet, and exercise). She addresses all three of these aspects with regard to brain science. She has some quirky advice for training the brain into a writing habit, including setting up writing rituals and sensory associations that can help you to create a routine. While all of her advice is worth following, I recommend committing to one or two new habits instead of trying to implement every life change right away. For example, it was enough for me to commit to my daily fifteen minutes of writing and a weekly process activity without also learning to meditate, at least for now.

If you've lapsed on a Gregorian calendar New Year's resolution to write every day, you have a second chance coming up with the lunar new year (Chinese New Year and new moon) on February 9th/10th. It's a great time to set intentions and start new things. Rosanne Bane's book is available everywhere, and she has a blog as well: The Bane of Your Resistance. Check it out. Happy writing!

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Oh, and...Other Plugs for Other Things

I wrote a post on slut shaming for Broad! last month. We're also accepting submissions of writing, art, and photography for our summer issue until March 1, so visit our submission guidelines, please!

Singer-songwriter Alexis Pastuhov has a Kickstarter campaign to raise money for the production of his new album, "Murder Your Darlings". Check out his music and the video he made, share the campaign, and maybe donate a dollar. If you donate $15, you get a copy of the new CD; if you donate more, you can get other fun rewards. He only needs a little more of a push to meet his goal within the next 12 days!