Nine Minutes

… is not much time to write an essay.

Alright, here goes. The timer’s already started:

00:10

Chris Klimas, Crunchable founder and editor emeritus, started a new Web site a few months ago called ninemin.com. The concept is that all the essays that appear on the site must be written — completely, start to finish — within nine minutes.

1:03

I think there’s also some requirement about a minimum word length, but frankly I don’t have time to go look it up right now, because I’m trying to write a flippin’ essay in nine minutes and, really, this is an insanely short amount of time for me to so much as tie my shoes.

See, I’d come up with a less cliché example, but …

2:08

The goal is to force writers to freeze their thoughts as soon as they’re formed. Don’t allow ideas to be bogged down in the second-guessing of writing and rewriting; just let the words flow onto the page.

This method, of course, is antithetical to how I write. Typically, I write, then revise, revise, revise, then scrap parts of it entirely, rewrite, revise, revise, and maybe, if there’s time, revise some more.

Which is why this is such a good exercise for me as a writer. It’s also why it’s infuriating.

4:20

My concern isn’t so much about writing a good essay. I gave that up years ago. Actually, that was kind of a breakthrough for me in my writing for Crunchable, when I realized that it was okay that lots of the stuff I’d write for the Web site would end up being not very good; consequently, I began experimenting more and found some more exciting successes.

But I’ve never been particularly short-winded, and certainly never very expedient in my writing. And I suppose I’ve even cheated a bit for this essay, because I spent most of the past hour (while I was on a long car trip) outlining bits and pieces of this essay in my head; generally figuring out the story beats (can they be called “story beats” if they’re in an essay?) and how they’d fit together.

6:35

And yet …

And yet, I didn’t plan it out well enough to figure out how to wrap this up, exactly. I just deleted a paragraph about how I was yelling at the dog and now the clock’s at 8:44.

Sheez, I really didn’t have time to do that because now the clock is turning

Article © 2007 by Michael Duck