Seven Days in Ten Minutes

Becca Lovelace is a spring intern for Life in 10 Minutes. She is a first-year student at Virginia Commonwealth University and a graduate of the Appomattox Regional Governor’s School for Arts and Technology where she studied creative writing.         

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   Along my journey of creative nonfiction, my solid foundation has always been ten-minute free writes. I wrote to prompts, whether from Halfway Houseor somewhere online, in a circle of writers that were all simultaneously alike and unlike. Sometimes I produced an angsty web of word vomit that was to be written and not touched again, but just as often a longer essay stemmed from just ten minutes of pen and paper.

I was fortunate to have the structure of a writing class in high school, but now, as a student at VCU, I’ve tricked myself into thinking I don’t have the time to write. To be fair, I don’t have the time to take a writing class, but I let myself believe that someone else needed to give me structure so that I could create. That’s just not the case. 

After months of the occasional ten-minute session with my journal, I decided that I could create that structure all on my own. No one had to giveme that time; if it’s important to me, I can, and will, make time. So, I did.

For a week, I set aside ten minutes before I went to bed. I wrote in a plain, orange spiral notebook. As a side note, feeling the need to have an aesthetically pleasing journal was another barrier I created for myself. I had to come to grips with the fact that, whether they’re in a Moleskine or a 99-cent composition notebook, the words are the same. 

My writings were an assemblage of scribbles, misspellings, feelings, and honesty. There was a day this week when I wanted to rip the page out and burn it. That’s when I knew I had hit the right vein. To be honest is tricky; if I don’t write it down on paper, I can act like maybe it’s not true. This was a way to hold myself accountable as a writer and as a human being. It wasn’t a chore. Once I began, I felt as if I had fallen into place. The return of my writing rhythm. 

I encourage anyone with hesitations about giving yourself ten minutes every day to try it. Give yourself a week. Ten minutes when you wake up, before you fall asleep, on your lunch break, as you’re waiting in the carpool line to pick up your children. You owe yourself ten messy, honest, unabashed minutes. 

To write is a choice. For a while, in the midst of life’s crazy, I made excuses instead of the choice I knew was right for me. Ten minutes every day, though, brought me home. 

I’ve included some of my 10s below. 

Grieving The loss of the living

There’s a voicemail on my phone left by my grandmother in 2015. It’s a simple message; she called me from an orchestral concert to tell me when she’d be home. No hesitations or pauses, just a consistent and rapid train of thought. She’ll never speak like that again.

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I listen to the voicemail on the occasion that I can face the fact that she’ll never be who she once was. She told me a few years ago she thought her short term memory might be going. I didn’t believe it then, sometimes I pretend not to believe it now. It’s hard to mourn the loss of a person that’s alive. To face the grief, the gradual dim of a bright personality.

Last week, we ate dinner together for my birthday. She later told my aunt she couldn’t remember why we ate together, but that she wanted to do it again.

I am patient and warm and loving; in private I grieve for her deteriorating mind.

Saturday night memories on a thursday afternoon

The heat spit in our faces. We packed into the house like sardines, so close we could smell faint traces of perfume and shampoo. Strangers and friends, so close we could barely breathe. The song was a popular, on the radio type. The kind that 17-year-olds with the entire world to impress claim they listened to before it was cool. A deep bass, a distinct beat, an anthem chanted by a hundred slurred and breathless voices. 

There was no warning. There couldn’t have been. Seconds into the anthem, excitement became panic. A wave of people shoving, screaming. A wave of dust, a suffocating cloud. We, confused, afraid, retreated. Back deck, backyard, back, back, back. 

The conglomerate, the we, dispersed. I fell amongst the people, new and familiar. 

“How many people fell?” To my left.

“How far down did it go?” Behind me.

People flooded from the house, from the yard, onto the streets. Some laughed in disbelief. Some sat on the concrete, shaking heads, shaking bodies. Ripped shirts, missing shoes. Young adults breathless with childlike fear. I found a friend and squeezed her hand. 

“We’re okay.” she said. We walked from the crowd, from the sound of sirens. Sneakers on concrete sidewalks, orange street lights casting light on our faces. 

“I can’t believe that happened.” 

“We couldn’t have expected it.” I said. “No one could’ve.”

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