Forty Minutes or Less

On a typical morning, my alarm clock (read: cell phone vibrating on the nightstand) wakes me up at 5:30. By the time I shower, iron clothes, brush teeth, etc., it’s 6:00, which is blog-writing time. I hit “Publish” around 6:40 and dash out the door to make it to work by 7.

(By the way, if you’re wondering about the timestamp, today’s an exception because I got up early for non-blog-related reasons. But moving on.)

Occasionally – like with the blog comment gender experiment – I do some prep work ahead of time, but most of the time I don’t. Generally I just pick a topic from my idea list the night before, mull it over a little as I’m ironing, and then I have forty minutes, give or take, to bust that sucker out. I don’t have any extra posts lying around for days I can’t come up with anything, so basically it’s publish or perish. Of course, I do occasionally cop out, but I can’t do that too often, now can I?

This forty-minutes-or-bust mentality is a deliberate choice. I’ve actually had two other blogs before this one, and with both of them, I wrote posts the afternoon before I published. It turned into a real problem because I would end up taking an hour, two hours, or even more, fiddling with the post and trying to get everything exactly right. (Also I used to try and find an image for every single post, which takes longer than you would expect.) The blog devoured my free time like a hungry titan.

With this blog, I have a hard deadline every morning, which is actually very liberating. Forty minutes and done. Not sure if it’s good enough? Too bad. Publish and move on. You’ll have another chance tomorrow.

(What’s that? Based on the quality of my posts, you would have estimated four minutes? Hypothetical reader, why would you even say that? That is hurtful and entirely nonconstructive!)

People talk a lot about knowing when the time is right to “let go” of a novel, or a story. Two competing forces – your own drive for perfection, and the necessity of publishing the damn thing before Ragnarok rolls around – battle it out and eventually compromise. It’s tough to get the hang of this battle, to know when a work isn’t ready yet and when you finally need to just kick it out of your house, to accept that sometimes the answer is both of the above.

One really good thing about blogging, especially on a time limit, is that it forces you to face that battle in microcosm every day. The stakes are lower, so it’s a good training ground. You learn to get comfortable with hitting “Publish.”

If you blog, do you have a time limit?

And if you don’t blog, uh, do you like almond butter? Cause man, that shit is tasty. You know what I’m saying?

In conclusion: almond butter.

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7 responses to “Forty Minutes or Less

  1. I needed a post like this. Now I feel better about never hoarding extra posts to put up whenever I miss a day and give myself a break when perfectionism tells me my posts sucks.

    I try to have a deadline, but it never works out and my posts usually take an hour or longer to make (longer if I’m looking for an image). But I think I’ll a page out of your book and copy your methods (which I actually do, since there’s no reason I can’t get up by 5am).

    Thanks!.

  2. Lol. I don’t recall the taste of almond butter, but apple butter (when done right) is pretty darn tasty. Even if Tina Fey doesn’t get it.

    (Bossypants reference. Ahem.)

    Anyway, I like your 40 min or bust mentality. Realistically, that’s probably how long it takes me to write a blog post, good or bad, too. But then I usually end up noodling it for another 15-20 min. >P

    I do, however, sometimes start writing posts to finish later, and I don’t blog every day. I think every blogger has to work out the right routine for them. (Ex: I know some people write all their blog posts on Sun and then schedule them to post throughout the week.)

    The key is to make sure you’re investing the right amount of time, and like you said, that balance is hard to find. Too little time, and you’re going to put out content that isn’t interesting, relevant, or entertaining. Too much time, and you’re going to shortchange other areas of your life (like your actual writing, or your day job, or your family) that deserve more attention.

  3. Oh my, I run into this problem all the time, writing anything. I end up writing, re-writing, and polishing for hours, and in the end I usually end up using the first draft, because it’s actually the best.

    I think that setting a deadline interferes with how I write, but I know that I should probably do something to eliminate the hours of worrying that I do. It’s a problem 😦

    (It only took about eight minutes to write that comment. I’m trying.)

    • My advice would be to experiment a little with using deadlines and see if you can find a way to use them that works for you. Deadlines interfere with the way I write, too, but in my case it’s a feature, not a bug. But of course I could be way off; only you can decide what’s best for you.

      By the way, I’ve seen you link to that website (shineychicken.wordpress.com) twice now, but the site doesn’t exist. Is there a typo in there somewhere? (Just me being nosy.)

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