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by Andrea Pawley

I am not a superhero, but I have two writing talents. I can write anywhere, and I can write for even the tiniest amounts of time. I write on the Metro platform while the train takes its two minutes to approach. I write while I am waiting for house guests to assemble their backpacks for a trip to the museum. I write in comfortable hotel lobby chairs until my hot chocolate runs out. I write in a cozy corner of my rowhouse staircase until my computer gets too hot on my lap. And I don’t stop writing on a plane until the second time the flight attendant comes down the aisle and fixes me with the stare that says “Discontinue use of all electronic devices, NOW!”

Twenty minutes is my ideal amount of writing time. A friend once told me that he could not find any time to write. I described to him how the time he needs is everywhere but in minutes not hours. His eyes lit up. For years, he had been trying to find those elusive multi-hour blocks of time that he thought he needed to do justice to the craft of writing. His view of how slices of time are distributed throughout a person’s day had not changed with the actual progress of his years. My writing totals 2-3 hours each day in chunks of time that vary from 5 minutes to 120, but I prefer shorter writing sessions.

Knowing that I only have twenty minutes at a time to write forces me to get down to business. In any given twenty minutes, I may write 200 words. Five hundred words can be edited for overuse of the passive voice, unnecessary filtering and background details that kill the flow of my story. I may determine where to mention significant events in a character’s life and start to write about those events. With just twenty minutes at a time to write, I make quicker decisions. Ruined sentences are cut instead of agonized over. Later re-drafts will force these sentences back into the text if they are meant to be. I have pointed conversations with my characters to determine if they are up to the tasks I envision for them. I decide what to do, and I keep going. Being able to write anywhere and in short spaces of time means that I get to write every day and feel good about it.

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