Senior Superhero Riding A Scooter

By Vivian Wagner

For the last several years, I’ve been part of a group on Facebook with a few friends called Five Minute Mornings. Our fearless leader, Lené Gary, posts a daily prompt, and we write for about five minutes in the comment section. It can be prose or poetry—whatever we want. Sometimes I’ll write a flash essay. Sometimes a haiku. Sometimes a rant. Sometimes just a few random words. Sometimes a list. Sometimes a short short story.

As a result of this group, I’ve developed a daily writing practice that’s relatively painless to maintain. Keeping up with this group, in fact, doesn’t take much more effort than logging into Facebook and commenting on a few photos or posts, something I’d be doing even if I weren’t a part of the group. But intentionality, here, is key. I choose to take time to write in the midst of the busy and often distracting social media world, and it works. I go to the group’s page, look at the prompt, think about it for a moment, and write. It’s all about the practice. It’s like doing yoga or meditation. It keeps my writerly muscles in shape, even on days when I don’t have time to do much other writing.

Because of this daily practice I also now have hundreds of short starts. Some of them have become stand-alone flash essays, and I’ve revised and published a few of them. Others have become part of longer, braided essays. Still others have remained in electronic folders indefinitely. I save each piece that I write in its own file, divided by year, and I often go back through them when I’m in need of inspiration or ideas. Just this morning I wrote a piece about groundhogs, and when I saved it in the file I saw that I wrote another piece about groundhogs earlier this year. I read both of them and started to think about how they might come together, how these two pieces might speak to one another. It’s like rubbing two sticks together to start a fire. Sometimes, if you’re patient, there’s a spark.

Another thing I love about Five Minute Mornings is that I always have short pieces to read and think about, as well. And it just takes me a few minutes to read them. Sometimes I’ll press the “like” button, and sometimes I’ll write a comment. But every morning, along with writing my own pieces, I inevitably read a few of the others. And that, too, is part of the Five Minute Morning practice.

I read both of [two flash pieces] and started to think about how they might come together, how these two pieces might speak to one another. It’s like rubbing two sticks together to start a fire. Sometimes, if you’re patient, there’s a spark.

“Flash” usually refers to the length of a piece itself. If it’s something in the neighborhood of 500 to 750 words, it’s considered flash fiction or nonfiction. But flash can be seen as a measurement of time, as well—both the time that it takes to write a piece and the time that it takes to read it.

We’re all pressed for time, and often we don’t have hours to devote to writing and reading. Rather, we have a few minutes, here and there, that we can carve out when we first wake up, or in the middle of the day while waiting in line, or right before we go to sleep. This is, for me, the genius of Five Minute Mornings. Who doesn’t have five minutes? Even on my busiest days, I can find that kind of time. And what I’ve found is that those few minutes, taken every day, add up. Committing to five minutes a day is simple and stress-free, and it’s a way to see time differently. Rather than just being a series of hour- or eight-hour blocks, time becomes more multiple and various. I’ve started to recognize that I have many five-minute periods throughout my day, and I can both write and read during those precious minutes. Thinking this way has freed me from the belief that my best work gets done in longer periods. Rather, the short five-minute bursts, perhaps several times a day, give me a sense of the wealth of time that I have, that we all have, if we just deliberately look for it.

Sure, it takes time to revise, to reread, to rethink. Not everything happens quickly. But time is strange. If you start with five minutes, you might be surprised by how valuable that time becomes. Focusing on a moment opens it up, deepens it. A single moment, after all, contains infinity.

Or, at the very least, it’s enough time to write a sentence or two.

Vivian Wagner is an associate professor of English at Muskingum University in New Concord, Ohio. Her work has appeared in McSweeney’s, Silk Road Review, Gris-Gris, The Pinch, The Kenyon Review, and other journals. She the author of Fiddle: One Woman, Four Strings, and 8,000 Miles of Music.