The Five-Minute Writer

5 Nothing MinutesWe’ve all heard about writers who wrote novels in 15-minute-a-day increments. We, as writers, are always scrounging for snatches of time to ply our craft. But how can you possibly be productive in just five minutes a day?

I recently reread an article that I think will inspire all writers. It’s entitled, “5 Nothing Minutes a Day–Just Try It” by Jerry Cleaver. It was published in the September 2011 issue of The Writer magazine. The premise of the article is not about writing in small increments of time. Instead, it’s about how to stay in touch with your imagination so you can hit the deck running when you get back to your writing after a week-long absence.

The article opens with a great example of how we start an article or novel on say, a Sunday. Then, interruptions, distractions and the life pressures of Monday through Saturday derail our writing. When Sunday rolls around again Cleavers says, “You feel unconnected to it (your writing). Your mind is filled with other things. You want to write, but you don’t feel up to it. You were hot last Sunday, but now it’s been a week and you’ve totally cooled down. What happened? You’ve lost touch with your imagination.”

The article stresses staying in touch with your imagination—five minutes a day. In this five minute period you do not attempt to write. It’s a literal “5 Nothing Minutes.” Cleaver’s theory is if you do nothing for five minutes, “you free your mind from all demands and your imagination creeps back in.”

He’s right. I’ve tried it and it works. Over the last two years, my days have been so crammed that I struggle to find a spare five minutes but when I find them, or if they find me, waiting for a train, riding in a cab, or even taking a shower, I’ve made them productive by simply letting my mind wander.

In my “5 Nothing Minutes,” my mind has wandered to creative article ideas I would love to write, publications I would like to submit those ideas to, or how to better organize my writing time. And I’ll admit, sometimes I break Cleaver’s rules by writing for the five minutes. Why? Well, because I found the “voice” for a story I had been thinking about. And when I heard the story’s voice in my head, I wrote it down before it slipped away. Naturally, I will write the story later. It’s exciting when, in my “5 Nothing Minutes,” I emerge with something to develop later—be it an idea, a phrase, a theme, a novel concept, or even an article ending.

Yet, Cleaver maintains that you don’t have to emerge with anything; you just have to stay in touch with your imagination. This exercise will help sustain a “writer’s mindset” and maintain your writing momentum. This technique will help you warm up and be ready to work when life’s demands prevent you from writing.

I think you would enjoy reading this article so I called The Writer magazine today to inquire about its availability for you. They were kind enough to tell me that they would post it on their website today so you can read it. Please feel free to check it out at:

And why not take Jerry Cleaver’s advice for 30 days as he suggests in this article? It will only cost you a little discipline but you will benefit by learning how to be more productive in just “5 Nothing Minutes a Day.”

And what serious writer cannot find five minutes a day?



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