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The 60-Second Writer: Twenty Things You Can Write in A Minute


It’s 3:00 p.m. You’re in your car outside your daughter’s school waiting to drive her to ballet. You have one minute.


You’ve just arrived at the office and are ready to get to work. Your first conference call is at 9:00. It’s 8:59. You have one minute.


You’re in your p.j.'s. You’re tired. You have to get up early the next day. It’s not a good idea to deprive yourself of sleep. But you can spare a minute, can’t you? You can take one minute to write.

If these scenarios seem ridiculous, it’s because you haven’t seriously thought about what you can accomplish in one minute of writing time. The answer is: plenty. Stop telling yourself you must have entire afternoons or hour-long stretches or you just can’t get a word written. Yes, you can. Here are twenty-one things you can do in a minute or less:

  1. Rewrite a sentence—or several sentences.
  2. Write a physical description of a character.
  3. Come up with a compelling image or metaphor. Often, the best images emerge in the spur of the moment, rather than after hours of pondering.
  4. Think of a first line for your next poem or short story.
  5. Give a character a name.
  6. Go through a page of writing and underline every word you’re not sure of. Later, you can think of whether and how to change them.
  7. Write ten lines of dialogue. Do it as quickly as you can. You can always rewrite it later.
  8. Learn something that will help you with your current story—especially if you can go online. If you’re writing about a steel worker, read a page on steel mills. If your work is historical, learn a few facts about the era. Does your work refer to snow boarding, trial lawyers, glaucoma, or museums in Tuscany? Use your minute to read something about them.
  9. Read a paragraph aloud to hear how it sounds.
  10. Think of a plot for a story. Yes, it can be done in less than a minute.
  11. Cross out every unnecessary word in a passage.
  12. Look up the meaning of a word to make sure you’re using it correctly.
  13. Write down three possible ways your current story could end.
  14. Brainstorm ideas for essay topics.
  15. Jot down notes on a memory. Later, they can be expanded into an essay.
  16. Come up with details about a character. What was her favorite childhood toy? What is the thorn in his side? What does she eat for breakfast? These types of details give your characters layers and texture, and take very little time to develop.
  17. Write a haiku or other short poetry form. It doesn’t have to be perfect or brilliant. It doesn’t even have to be good. Just write it.
  18. Make a list of words to create a poem or story around.
  19. If you’re at a computer, run a spell checker on a chapter.
  20. Simply write for one minute—on any topic in any style. Free writing will loosen you up, give you ideas, provide you with practice, shake loose the writing demons, and keep your skills honed.

Keep a notebook handy. Use the spaces in between one task and another, the times you’d normally be looking at your watch impatiently, the intervals you fill up checking voicemail on your cell phone or browsing through whatever reading material happens to be at hand. Don’t waste another minute. Write.


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3 Comment count
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Thanks, Jill. What a good

Thanks, Jill. What a good idea.

I have a collection of 5-minute tasks to do while waiting for something to happen at home.

One minute writing can happen anywhere. Terrific. 

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Thanks, Dolores. I'm really

Thanks, Dolores. I'm really glad the post clicked with you.

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Awesome Ideas!

Love these ideas, Jill. I'm definitely one of those people who think I need a few hours to get some writing down, which is impossible really with three small boys and the ensuing chaos that fills my days.