Tuesday, January 12, 2016

If you’re putting off creating big things and how to do it in fifteen minutes a day

A friend gave me a vintage book for Christmas, the delightful, Turned Funny, by Celestine Sibley. Those of you who live in the south remember the morning paper, The Atlanta Constitution, which later combined with the Atlanta Journal to form the AJC.

Sibley was a reporter with the Constitution and also wrote a daily column. Additionally, she wrote for the Atlanta Magazine, a Sunday insert. Someone told me that she might have written for as many as seven different pennames for the magazine, probably writing a great percentage of the articles that appeared in its pages. So, as you can see, her daily work was demanding.

It doesn’t seem she’d have time for anything else in addition to raising her children. Somehow, though, she managed to turn out twenty-five books.


And it started with a piece of advice she received from a friend to work on a book just fifteen minutes a day. Sibley said it was the best writing advice she ever received.

Most writers I know have trouble getting started. We’ll scrub baseboards, clean out the dryer lint trap, organize our sock drawer, anything to avoid beginning work. I don’t understand it either, but I do it. Maybe it’s the fear that we don’t have anything to give, that we’re just imposters. Or maybe, we’re by nature procrastinators. I don’t know, but it’s almost universal.

Other people who long to write a book say they don’t have time. But they have fifteen minutes. Everyone has fifteen minutes. And big things can come when you combine all those fifteen minutes together. Say you’re only able to write a thousand words a week at fifteen minutes a day. If you do the math, you’ll find it adds up to 52,000 words a year. That’s a book, my friend. And that’s what Sibley did.

She took the advice, gave the fifteen minutes a day, and produced a novel. Later for one of her books she combined articles she’d only been paid twenty-five dollars apiece for at the Atlanta Magazine with other stories she wrote into a book called Christmas in Georgia, and it sold so well, it moved her editor to the helm of his publishing house.

She died years ago, but I can still see her face in my mind’s eye above that daily newspaper column. It serves as inspiration to me, that little things add up.

Reminds me of these words, “Do not despise these small beginnings . . .” (Zechariah 4:10 NLT).

So don’t. Make a contract with yourself to spend fifteen minutes a day on a big project and watch it bloom right in front of you. Let me know how you’re doing. I’ll be cheering you on.  


Nancy Hamilton Sturm said...

Great advice, Beverly. I am going to try this and have my writing accountability friend read it as well. Thanks! I look forward to seeing what novel you'll write in 2016.

Beverly Varnado said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Beverly Varnado said...

I'm trying to take this advice to heart, too, Nancy. Who knows what we might be celebrating next December?

Anonymous said...

That's really great advice Beverly, thank you! I have so much I want to write, but it's such a big, overwhelming prospect. I can do 15 minutes a day, starting today! I'm really excited because I have connected with a Christian Writers group here in Tuscaloosa and they are great encouragers and a wealth of knowledge and insight. But I will always consider you my first writing "mentor," even if we've never met. Here's to good words in the new year! Blessings to you Beverly.

Beverly Varnado said...

Beth, so glad you've found a group. So important to have that encouragement and feedback. Good words to you!

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