The 20 Minute Club’s First Ever Minutes!


Every club needs someone to take the minutes–and The 20 Minute Club is no exception!

So having annointed myself Club Secretary exactly right now, I am taking the minutes of the first meeting of the 20 Minute Club as we speak. :-)

(If you’re not sure what the heck I’m talking about, click here: or here: )

Today’s post is the first official weekly roundup of how I (and, more importantly, we) used the 20 minute technique this week to keep our creativity moving forward–whether we needed to get jumpstarted, to move through the ick, or used it as a strategy to find the time to sneak some creativity in when it seems like there’s just no time.

Here goes!

Bum Knee

This isn’t an arty item, but I always use my timer when I meditate. And I really needed it this week after I hurt my knee and my chiropractor said NO MORE SITTING CROSS-LEGGED. Harumph.

So I had to sit on a stool instead, and I was amazed at how this small change affected my practice. I was SO distracted and uncomfortable, and today it took me the full 20 minutes just to get focused. Alas.

But my trusty steedy (the timer) carried me through all the discomfort and I simply tried to pay attention to all my little difficulties and out-of-sorts-edness and just “do the time”.

A Deadline

I’m having an opening next Saturday for my digital collages, and I’d been planning to have a few new pieces done by now. I looked at the calendar the other day and suddenly realized, girl, you are running out of time!

So that was 20 Minutes #1 and #2 for me–working on my digital collages. The first 20 minutes was kind of a warm up and I probably worked for a half hour and the second round blossomed into a few hours. So that felt good.

If I do this a little every day this week, I should have a couple of new pieces done in time. Wish me luck.

Moving Through the Ick

My true challenge, however, is my series of big drawings because I’ve officially gotten stuck. The first 5 or so just kind of flowed, but I’ve started two new drawings and hit a wall.

Confusion? Self-consciousness? Where am I going now with these drawings and why? No idea.

Usually at this point, I’d be inclined to decide that I don’t know what to do next because I’m just done with this series of drawings and it’s time to move on.

But I don’t think that’s it. I think I’m feeling uncomfortable about digging deeper and having to try really hard. So I’d really like to see if I can get past this confused stage in my process, work through it and see what’s on the other side.

Going deeper–ack! It’s hard. It’s like carving a path and leading yourself down it in the dark. Lots of ick feeling involved and basically, I’ve been avoiding both half-done drawings for the last two weeks. I mean, I look at them, but that’s it. Where is my trusty steed?

Finally, I set the timer yesterday and went at it. (Basically because I had to report back to you on this blog post. This is a great example of how the accountability thing really helps.)

I collaged some bits out of the newspaper to create a border and actually cut the whole sheet of paper smaller. I drew some waves on the bottom and then thank goodness, the timer went off. :-)

I vow to do another 20 minutes this weekend–but even writing that, I can feel the stressed out “ick” feeling, so I know it’s a tough one for me. I even feel okay about “ruining” it, but how, doing what? What marks does this drawing need from me? The confusion persists.

But it’s something I want for myself and as I like to say, I can tolerate anything for 20 minutes. So if I have to sit in confusion with this drawing for 20 minutes, I think I can manage. I’ll keep you posted in next week’s minutes.

Your Turn…

And how about you? Did you try the 20 Minute Technique this week? How did it go?

Did you want to try it but couldn’t bring yourself to yet? Share that!

ANYTHING related to the process of helping your creative self–big or small–is welcome and legitimate, whether it “worked” or not.

So please share your experiences in the comments section below in whatever way works for you–feel free to be brief, divulge all the details, or something in between! (As you can see, I’m not great at being brief myself. :-) )

Either way, I can’t wait to hear from you and remember that it genuinely helps other people when they hear about your experiences with the same struggles (good and bad). So let’s tackle this thing together.

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Categories : 20 Minute Club


  1. cactusrose says:

    Just wanna say that this sounds very good. I have not been able to try it yet as life keeps getting in the way.
    Who was it that said that old age would be golden, peaceful and quiet??? NOT! But anyway, I’m trying desperately to steal a little time for my art! LOL!

  2. jen says:

    I did not get a timer yet! The paSt couple of days I have been going thru 2 big boxes of little things and started to organize them into those plastic compartment boxes. Whew! Lots of stuff I forgot I had! Now I have tons of art ideas and motivation to keep organizing and purging!!!

  3. Renee Troy says:

    I’m a professional lettering artist (calligrapher) and fortunately, am busy the majority of the time. I also have my artwork in a co-op gallery that needs fresh, new work every month or so as pieces sell. So, from sitting and writing all day, I take 20 minutes here and 20 minutes there to get up and focus on creating new art even if that means just putting down a color or collage. Then I go back with fresh eyes to do the calligraphy.
    It also helps if I have several pieces waiting for my attention as I may not have an idea for just one piece.

  4. karen says:

    Hearing about how the 20 minute efforts really helped you push forward makes me think I will try it. I have my timer. I just haven’t done anything creative in a long time and keep thinking I will do it tomorrow. Then tomorrow gets filled up with stuff that either feels easier or just HAS to be done (like taxes). I know I have to push past this and I think the 20 minute limit will help. I appreciate your inspiration. Hopefully, next week I will be able to report having actually used the technique and made some progress! Thanks!

  5. Joyce Barham says:

    My 11 yr. old granddaughter was here this week. I am teaching her how to design a quilt top. We worked on a liberated farm scene quilt. We glued down about 1/3 of the pieces…fence, fence posts, and stars; another 1/3 is machine stitched in place. So, now I have to make a road and a pond. I am happy with the progress I made with the help of my ambitious grand-daughter. She set her timer on her cell phone and that is when we stopped. It took 2- 20 minute sessions to get it done.
    Thanks, Sarah for teaching this technique.

  6. Caroline says:

    Yep I went at it…once successful and once a total bomb…

    Okay the bad 20 minutes. I use to participate in Blog Challenges all the time, they stretched my style and I met a number of very creative people. Since moving I have not done a single one but the one I run. So I took a stab at one. The challenge was to creat a 2×4. After cutting my paper, inking my stamps and getting things going I just couldn’t get it to look the way I wanted to so when the timer went off I walked away.

    Success…today I needed to make a sample using Alcohol Inks for a class I am teaching. They requested I use them on a Scrapbook page. I have not scrapbooked in years! Well…I did it…got started by pulling out papers I wanted to use, then creating an alcohol ink sheet of paper which I cut into strips to use around the photo’s. Put a few together and the timer went off…well I kept going and going and going and the only thing left to do is add some diamond glaze and the pages are done!

    Great Idea!

  7. yona says:

    Thanks for writing that 20 minute technique sarah. as i read it i knew it would work. sure enough i tricked myself with the ‘just do 20 minutes’ thang.. a few hours later i accomplished what is was i was so afraid of. the technique reminded me when i am scared to try something or scared to go to the next step is when i procrastinate and asking myself for just 20 minutes moves me out of that space.
    i needed to make a 3 dimensional anatomically correct heart for a piece i am doing. never done it before so i went out to a bookstore and took tons of pictures of hearts, printed one out and it sat there for a few days till i got up the courage to carve a mold from some styrafoam. once i picked up the knife and started carving there was no turning back. so thanks for that little tip. the piece is drying now and i am looking forward to adding the paint. i’ll post pics when it’s done.. xoyo

  8. Donna says:

    awesome blog!

  9. I have not tried this yet, but this is on the top of the list for this coming week.
    I go back and forth between sewing huge church banners and paraments that suck the energy and life out of me, and then return to art when the paying projects are finished.
    The transition from one to the other is awful. I don’t know what it is mentally that cannot shift as quickly as it used to. I think having the ticking timer will help let loose the ideas that get backlogged in my brain during the sewing, for the art.
    Sometimes I feel like I am trying to juggle cats and skunks…..
    Timer, here I come!
    And good for YOU!!!


  10. Sarah says:

    @Anne–juggling cats and skunks–I TOTALLY relate. You are not alone–transitioning is a huge thing. Huge! No one can turn on a dime.

    I keep wanting to write about it on the blog because I think it helps us do this more successfully when we have transitioning rituals or signifiers. And the timer does serve this function, but sometimes we need even more transitioning supports.

    And I also think we simply need to honor that we need some space to transition–that i’ts normal and not a personal character flaw. :-) And then we need strategies to help ourselves move from one thing to the next.

    So one example of a simple transition ritual is when I’m very tired but decide to go to the gym, I put on my gym clothes, it’s like a signifier to my brain and body about this transition to working out and it helps me shift gears…like brushing your teeth and washing your face tells your body that you’re preparing for bed.

    So perhaps when we move from our business activities to our art making (even if they are both about making things) we need a signifier–a different apron, an art crown, certain music….

  11. Sarah says:

    Wow @yona, that’s fantastic. I would love to see the picture–please let me know when you post them!

  12. Sarah says:

    @Caroline–Yay about the alcohol ink–I love that feeling when it all flows! But still, I salute your first one too–and your willingness to slog through it–that’s what makes the good ones possible!

  13. Sarah says:

    @Joyce–how great that you’re making art with your granddaughter. And it’s great to see what you two do got done in just 2 20 minute sessions–what a great way to tackle a big, long term project as well. Thanks for trying the technique and I look forward to hearing about the evolution of the quilt!

  14. Sarah says:

    @Renee–Nice! I like how you use your personal art work as a 20 minute break from your calligraphy career. And I’m impressed, it can be hard to transition back and forth like that!

  15. Sarah says:

    @jen–even without a timer, it seems like you did some good work assessing and organizing your stash–and getting submersed in your materials is a great way to get inspired! Awesome!

  16. Sarah says:

    Hang in there @cactusrose! I have faith–and once you get yourself a timer, feel free to do whatever amount works–10 minutes is a great start too!

  17. Cheryl says:

    I sat for my 20 minutes and it turned out that I sewed a whole crazy quilt block to be embellished. Wow!

  18. Carol J. says:

    Hi there. Oh man, do I “get this”…the ickiness, the being unsure, the negative self-talk, the FEAR stopping me in my tracks.

    So…I went out into my art studio and looked around with different eyes. Instead of reciting my usual whine, I thought that maybe, just maybe, I could start a small painting. GASP! I survived that simple thought! Then I sat down and listened to a 30-minute CD for weight loss (went to a hypnotist awhile ago and got to keep the three CD’s).

    Yesterday I sat on the back porch and read for 30 minutes. :) Now that was easy! But taking time to practice self-love isn’t, so thank you for this. I’m going to keep trying.

  19. Sarah says:

    @Carol J: Yay–great work! And yes, keep trying, we’ll do this every week and slowly but surely, it’ll get easier. :-)

  20. Joyce Barham says:

    I’ve had several 20 minute sessions this week. The first part of the week was great! I put together a baby quilt top with string blocks and borders. I was pretty impressed with myself that I put together this gorgeous quilt within 3 days. Then, I hit a brick wall…what to do about the back. I briefly looked at the fabric that I had used for the borders and thought it wasn’t enough to finish the back. So, I went looking through quilt block patterns and found a block I thought I could use. I cut out all the pieces, but I still wasn’t happy with the colors. I asked my husband to look at it with me and help me find a solution. This baby quilt has a deadline of April 14th, so I’m cutting it very close. The baby is going to come early, I think.
    Well, my husband and I took a look at the block and he immediately said, “the center of the block isn’t made correctly.” Sure enough, he was right. I was pretty agitated. How could this have happened? and how could a non-quilter, non-crafty, non-artist see this, but he did!
    Then, we talked about the colors. He absolutely hated the purple. He talked to me honestly and I was impressed that he did it. I listened to his suggestions and liked what he said. Up to this point, he had not seen the front of the quilt. When I showed him, he was even more convinced about his opinion. So, I gave up the idea of a block on the back and now will go with a plain fabric with one border/binding. Yes! there was just enough of the fabric to make the back, if I added a border. I am amazed at the times I had decided to give up when I hit the wall. But, my loved one looked with different eyes and saw a solution!

  21. [...] By Sarah I can’t tell you how much I’m loving reading the comments (here, here, and here, if you want to take a look) that readers are leaving about the 20 Minute [...]

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