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Can I Have 15 Minutes of Your Time? Donna Cummings

Help me welcome Donna Cummings from All About the Writing [1]. Today she’s going to help us raise our productivity level and lower our procrastination level!

Author Donna Cummings“Wow, how am I expected to handle that? It’s huge.”
“Massive. I’ll bet it’s even bigger than you thought it would be.”
“It is! There’s no way I can do this. It’s impossible to even try.”
“It’ll work. Trust me. Just take a deep breath.”

It’s obvious from this conversation that I’m talking about. . . Wait. You thought it was–NO! I’m talking about revisions.

Revisions are always huge. They should be labeled with that warning on rearview mirrors, about things being larger than they appear.

That’s what makes them so daunting. It’s tough enough to create something out of nothing, but believe it or not, that’s the FUN part of the process. Now there’s all this stuff, and it has to be shaped into other stuff. Stuff that makes sense. Stuff that’s readable, and unputdownable, and. . .

I hate to admit it, but I’ve been in this particular spot for a lot longer than I expected. It’s like waiting all day in line for a Disneyland ride and then finding out it’s closed for maintenance.

How do we get past this point? I’ve tried lots of things, and some of them work better than others, but what every method requires is this: getting started.

Talk about HUGE.

Recently I found something that works for me, and I want to share it with you. But first, I have to tell you how I got there. I stumbled across a book called Get It Done: From Procrastination to Creative Genius in 15 Minutes a Day, by Samantha Bennett. There are so many great things in this book, I was applying sticky notes to just about every paragraph. I knew I’d found my creative soulmate when she suggested allowing 15 minutes a day for daydreaming.

But something else she mentioned actually gave me the kick-in-the-pants start I’ve been seeking. She suggests writing down 15-minute tasks that can be done on our projects, because we all can do something for 15 minutes, right? This gives us a ready-made list of bite-size tasks, so we can just jump right in and get to work each day.

I started making a list of 15-minute revisions I wanted to do on the WIP. (I know it’s delusional to think I can accomplish them in 15 minutes, but I’m good at tricking my brain into working longer once it’s in the throes of writing. Shhh–it’ll be our little secret.)

For example, I wrote down “Re-read Chapter 1 and add a sentence about the hero’s fears of being a father that he hasn’t been able to articulate before”. To my surprise, it also gave me another idea of what I wanted to do, but which *I* hadn’t been able to articulate before.

I did this with each chapter. A quick sentence or two was usually all that was needed. It helped me discover precisely why I have that chapter there, what I hoped it would do when I drafted it, and what it could do better. One chapter was asked (nicely) to leave, while two scenes decided they would be more effective by becoming one with each other.

AEW_smThe next thing I knew, my little 15-minute task of listing these 15-minute tasks had gotten me through the entire manuscript. I’d been dragging my feet on doing revisions, because it felt like a sprawling uncharted continent requiring a machete and two chainsaws. But I’d tamed it. I’d turned it into tidy little subdivisions with manicured lawns and white picket fences.

The best part is I’m excited to get to work on these 15-minute tasks. They’re doable. They even seem kind of fun, because I have a roadmap for fixing things instead of fretting that I’ll dismantle what I worked so hard to mantle. I also get to cross 15 or 20 things off the To Do list rather than the single solitary “fix this broke-ass WIP” item.

I’m feeling productive, seeing actual results, and vanquishing the procrastination monster in 15-minute increments.

Talk about HUGE.


Okay RU Readers and Writers – what’s your helpful hints to productivity?

Join us on Wednesday for Vanessa Knight and Nerds Unite! Β Plotting is Awesome!



I have worked as an attorney, winery tasting room manager, and retail business owner, but nothing beats the thrill of writing humorously-ever-after romances.

I reside in New England, although I fantasize about spending the rest of my days in a tropical locale, wearing flip flops year-round, or in Regency London, scandalizing the ton.

I can usually be found on Twitter, talking about writing and coffee, and on Facebook, talking about coffee and writing.

My latest book, An Encouraging Word, is meant to raise your spirits when it seems like the writing is at a constant black moment. You’ll see how to handle that cranky inner critic, outsmart the fussy muse, and turn avoidance and procrastination into valuable productivity tools.

Social Media Links:

Website: http://www.AllAboutTheWriting.com [1]
Blog: http://www.allaboutthewriting.com/donna_j_cummings/blog_index.html [2]
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/Donna.Cummings.Author [3]
Twitter: https://twitter.com/BookEmDonna [4]
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5349107.Donna_Cummings [5]

Buy Links:

Amazon [6]
Barnes & Noble [7]
iTunes [8]

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20 Comments (Open | Close)

20 Comments To "Can I Have 15 Minutes of Your Time? Donna Cummings"

#1 Comment By Carrie Spencer On April 7, 2014 @ 8:36 am

Morning Donna!

Awesome post! I can almost always scare up another 15 minutes of my time. (mostly)


I’m definitely caught in the quagmire of procrastination and spinning my wheels. Instead of thinking I need to fix/write the ENTIRE manuscript, I need to work it down into manageable bites.

Thanks for the great ideas!


#2 Comment By Donna Cummings On April 7, 2014 @ 9:03 am

Thanks, Carrie! I don’t even want to think about how many 15-minute increments of my day are spent doing non-productive things. *cough* computer games *cough*

And thinking about the whole manuscript at once is too much. I can’t see anything that way — it’s a big blurry mess. LOL So poking around in it and finding those 15-minute tasks has been invaluable. πŸ™‚

#3 Comment By Carrie Spencer On April 7, 2014 @ 9:40 am

Here’s a comment from Cassandra Black via RU email…

Really great advice — and right on time! Thank you for sharing this. πŸ™‚


#4 Comment By Donna Cummings On April 7, 2014 @ 9:54 am

Cassandra — I’m glad you found it helpful. And I’m thrilled it was right on time — that’s not exactly one of my specialties. LOL

#5 Comment By Alicia Dean On April 7, 2014 @ 10:32 am

Wow…fantastic post. Thank you so much for the excellent advice. I think I can find 15 minutes a day to devote to my revisions (or writing, actually. This could work for both)

LOL. You had me going there for a minute in your opening. πŸ˜‰

#6 Comment By Donna Cummings On April 7, 2014 @ 10:48 am

Thanks, Alicia! It’s such a simple concept, which is why I resisted it at first — only to discover it was the best way to bribe me into working on the WIP. πŸ™‚

And I hoped the opening would raise some eyebrows. LOL Glad it did. πŸ™‚

#7 Comment By Keely Thrall On April 7, 2014 @ 2:51 pm

I’m a huge believer in the “Six Most Important Things To Do” list – which boils down to creating a list that is neither so short your procrastinate because “you have plenty of time” to complete it, nor so long that it is overwhelming and your avoid accomplishing any of it. I *really* like this 15 minutes approach – I can see making a list of “15 minutes of xx” and feeling awesome with each crossed out item. Thanks for the great idea!

#8 Comment By Donna Cummings On April 7, 2014 @ 10:14 pm

Keely, I like that “Six Most Important Things To Do” list — I’ve done something similar in the past, but I was a slacker, and only chose THREE things. LOL But you’re exactly right about this list of 15-minute things not feeling overwhelming — which is what was happening to me with this WIP, to the point that NOTHING got done. I’m glad this idea sparked some ideas for you — the way Ms. Bennett’s idea sparked some for me!

#9 Comment By Keely Thrall On April 7, 2014 @ 2:51 pm

I’m a huge believer in the “Six Most Important Things To Do” list – which boils down to creating a list that is neither so short your procrastinate because “you have plenty of time” to complete it, nor so long that it is overwhelming and your avoid accomplishing any of it. I *really* like this 15 minutes approach – I can see making a list of “15 minutes of xx” and feeling awesome with each crossed out item. Thanks for the great idea!

#10 Comment By susn coryell On April 7, 2014 @ 3:55 pm

GREAT idea. Now, will it work for exercise? Not totally kidding, but the thought arose as I read this meaty blog. Revision is the dirty word of the writing process! Thanks for sharing and I will definitely give the 15-minute-writing-workout a try!

#11 Comment By Donna Cummings On April 7, 2014 @ 10:15 pm

Susan, I would totally use this for exercise — well, if I could actually LAST 15 minutes. LOL I think the reason this has worked so well for me is it’s taken the scary-dirty aspect out of revisions. I just have my list, and I’m working through it, and even though I’m adding more items to the list as I think of them, they still feel manageable. And that’s the most important part of all. πŸ™‚

#12 Comment By Becke Martin Davis On April 7, 2014 @ 7:09 pm

I feel like you wrote this just for me. I’ve never had trouble digging into revisions in the past, but boy has that changed. Now I find the whole process daunting. I think in a way I’m trying too hard – I feel like since it’s revisions, everything should be perfect this time around. Well, no surprise, THAT’S not happening. This is really helpful – thank you!

#13 Comment By Donna Cummings On April 7, 2014 @ 10:18 pm

Becke, I *did* write this just for you! πŸ™‚ Revisions can be scary because we’re trying to keep SO many different aspects in mind, and we’re trying to make it perfect, as you said. And then all of a sudden it feels like it would be easier to carve Mt. Rushmore with a butter knife than to try to whittle the WIP into shape. LOL I hope this helps you like it’s helped me. πŸ™‚

#14 Comment By Carly Carson On April 8, 2014 @ 7:50 am

Interesting idea. Although we don’t want ALL things to be broken down in bits, now do we? (J/K! Had to riff off your opener!) Off to do my 15.

#15 Comment By Donna Cummings On April 8, 2014 @ 8:05 am

LOL, Carly — that’s an excellent point! Yes, sometimes 15 minutes doesn’t fit our schemes. πŸ™‚ *still chuckling* Happy fifteen-ing!

#16 Comment By Allison Knight On April 8, 2014 @ 3:29 pm

Wonderful idea. That’s doable. Thanks heaps. And since I’m a lover of lists this will work for me. Just in time as I revise a work I started and stopped working on because it wasn’t going where I thought I wanted it to do. And I was over half done with nine chapters written.

#17 Comment By Donna Cummings On April 9, 2014 @ 12:41 pm

Allison, I love lists too, since it feels like I can corral everything into one spot that way. LOL And yay for you getting back to the revisions. It’s hard to let go of a story that has that much done. You’ll be done in no time!

#18 Comment By Traci Krites On April 11, 2014 @ 6:31 pm

This sounds like a fabulous idea. I’ll have to give it a try.

#19 Comment By Donna Cummings On April 12, 2014 @ 9:34 am

Traci, hope it works for you!

#20 Pingback By Posts I loved this week | Taylor Grace On April 11, 2014 @ 8:04 pm

[…] This one is a great post for procrastinators. A big thank you to Donna Cummings, who explains a great trick to get you going. I’ve done it and it really works. […]