The Ten-Minute Rule



“I suppose the more you have to do, the more you learn to organize and concentrate—or else get fragmented into bits. I have learned to use my ‘ten minutes’. I once thought it was not worth sitting down for a time as short as that; now I know differently and, if I have ten minutes, I use them, even if they bring only two lines, and it keeps the book alive.”
  —Rumer Godden, A House with Four Rooms

Our lives are made up of ten minutes here, ten minutes there. The above quote came into my inbox from Gretchen Rubin at The Happiness Project just when I needed it the most. In the midst of a chaotic schedule—one in which I wear too many different hats—I’ll often find myself with ten minutes here, ten minutes there, and fritter them away with Facebook, email, Internet surfing, or television, rather than simply taking a breath and being here. What is it I’m afraid of? What am I avoiding?

So, with Rumer Godden’s quote in mind, I vow this week to use my ten minutes wisely. Whether it’s to write, or read a poem, or do some stretches, or call my mother—I know that by valuing these small bits of time, I value myself. And I come back refreshed into the madness of the world.

Will you join me? Just for ten minutes at a time?



7 thoughts on “The Ten-Minute Rule

  1. I have so many 10 minutes-20 minutes-even 30 minutes. I guess I’m extremely lucky that way, just the way my life is configured. And yet . . . there is that fear of using them for the writing. You ask the good question: what is it I’m afraid of? What is it I am avoiding? Thank you for the inspiration to determine to use those minutes. I think all I need is a subject or a prompt of some sort at the ready, and a timer. Just to get the thing going again. Put the journal on the table with a prompt or two tucked into the front cover. Keep a document open on the computer ready to go. Even the phone, the one I can dictate to if I’m waiting for a bus or my coffee to finish dripping. Life is full of these possibilities.

  2. 10 min is never a threat, but can add up to a full day of accomplishments. A perfect way to address any issue. Thx!

  3. Dear Brenda, I’m taking ten minutes to say thank you. One of my personal essays came back from my editor/friend with the comment, “try for more of an arc.” But I wasn’t trying to tell a story. Another came back with a comment wondering how weeding my lawn had anything at all to do with the depression I was writing about. I couldn’t answer with any logic, but there they were in one essay that read like you were switching channels between two television shows. It felt right. Another critiquer said my essay needed a conclusion. But I wanted readers to draw their own, to have their own experience. Then I read Tell It Slant. You gave me permission to write without a story arc. With the words lyric, braided, and hermit crab, you set me free. I’ve devoured (multiple times) Season of the Body and Listening Against the Stone, just ordered Blessing of the Animals, return repeatedly (under the covers at night, via Kindle) to The Pen and the Bell. I read your essays when I’m stuck. Your rhythms seep into my pores, and suddenly I know exactly how to rephrase a paragraph I last visited three months earlier. I have so much more to tell you, but my ten minutes are up. Thank you. I love you.

  4. So many wise words in response this week–thanks to Brenda for this valuable reminder of the ten-minute rule! I was happy to commit to this–and found myself with a stack of “small noticings” at the end of the week that would have slipped away otherwise…