Each morning, when I wake up, I ask myself: “Self, will you write today? Or will you waste hours surfing blogs under the pretense that you’re doing research?”
I’ve discovered my most productive writing days are the ones in which I actually write. Those are the days my chest swells and I feel like flying. Those are the days I can stand up and say: “I am writer; hear me roar.” I try as often as possible to have days like that. Sometimes I succeed, other times… not so much. But always I like to give myself a solid push in the right direction.
I first heard of Timed Writing at a writer’s conference a few years ago, but didn’t try it until just recently. Mostly, because I don’t own a stopwatch. After I found this online version (http://www.online-stopwatch.
The concept of Timed Writing is pretty simple:
1. Decide on a length of time you want to spend writing: 20 minutes, 45 minutes, 1 hour, 2 hours.
2. Open up whatever piece you’re working on.
3. Close all distractions… Solitaire. Email. Facebook. Twitter.
4. Start your time and start writing.
Simple as that. While the stop watch is running, don’t get up from your desk. Don’t check your email. Don’t sneak a peek at your Twitter updates. Sit. Think. Write. Think. Write some more. Focus on your story. Your fingers don’t necessarily have to be moving the entire time, but I can pretty much guarantee they will be… because they’ll have nothing else to do.
When the set time is over, feel free to get up, stretch your legs, use the bathroom, grab a snack, check your email, tweet your word count, whatever you want. Think of this in-between time as your mini-reward for getting in some quality writing. Then, if your family isn’t beating down your door and begging for dinner, if your dog isn’t tugging on your pant leg to go for a walk, set the timer and go again. Wash. Rinse. Repeat.
If you feel antsy about trying this method or worry you won't have enough self-control, start off with short sets, then add time slowly until you’re writing in longer and longer stretches.
Writing for more than 2 hours straight without any kind of break can actually be somewhat anti-productive, at least for me. So if I have a long day set aside just for writing, I also set the timer during my breaks (usually 10-15 minutes). Then I can dive right back into things without too much time wasted.
I have found writing with a stop watch to be most effective during the first draft stage. It pushes me to write fast, effectively cutting off the voice of the Dreaded Inner Editor. I use it less during revision, but will fall back on it if I’m finding it difficult to keep my butt in the chair and my eyes on the page.
Timed Writing is not a magic wand. It's simply another great tool for your Writer's Box!
Have you ever tried Timed Writing? If so, did you find it effective? Why or why not?