This is the part of my blog called Productivity for Writers. For more posts on this topic, click here.
I’m giving myself exactly seventeen minutes and nine seconds to write this blog post. Why? Because I can. Because when we quit fiddle-faddling around (as my mother would say) and actually sit down and focus, we can accomplish much more than we think we can in a lot less time than we think we can.
I’ve been traveling a lot this summer. I’ve been to DC twice, even though I just moved away from that crush of a city, and this coming week I’m headed to San Diego. In other words, in the six weeks I’ve been living in Atlanta, I’ll have been gone for roughly three weeks.
Traveling that much but trying to stick to a positive and consistent writing schedule at the same time can be a challenge. Nevertheless, I’ve made myself commit to writing a minimum of one thousand words per day. In the three weeks since I set that challenge for myself, I’ve only skipped two days, and on one of those two occasions, I wrote 2,000 words the following day to make up for it.
On days when I have more time, like today, I aim for at least three or four thousand words. But on days when I’m out of town and focusing on spending time with visiting loved ones (or when *I’m* visiting loved ones), I still push myself to get those one thousand words done.
You know what I’ve found out?
When I’m writing daily, I can churn out one thousand words in forty-five minutes or less.
Forty-five minutes. Seriously.
I don’t know what it is about writers, but as a species we tend to struggle with procrastination and self-esteem around the actual act of writing. We come up with all sorts of tasks to avoid writing, like cleaning the house, doing laundry, answering email, goofing around on Facebook. Basically finding anything to do except write. I saw this great meme that summed it up:
Writing is 1% inspiration and 99% ignoring the Internet.
LOL! So true.
Then once we’re actually writing, we sometimes allow the critical voice inside our head to get in the way of the creative process. This is the voice that says:
“Are you kidding?! This is such crap! No one is going to want to read this. Let alone BUY it. Who would ever pay money for this piece of tripe? Certainly not me!”
Other things that voice says?
“This is terrible. I should start over. I don’t even know how to write a sentence. How am I supposed to write a paragraph? Or a page? Or three hundred pages? UGH. May as well give up now.”
“This is boring. So boring! You bore me. You ARE a bore. Everyone else knows it, too, and if you keep writing this, you are going to bore an entire society.”
You know, here’s the thing — and it’s one of those truths that really gets in our way when we’re writing: Sometimes, that voice is spot on. (Insert grimace-face emoji here.)
True or exaggerated, during the creative process itself, you have to find a way to stick your fingers in your ears and go “nanananananana” like a little kid so you can’t hear that critical voice. Later on, when you’re in the editing phase, you stand back, look more objectively or critically at your writing, and allow that voice some free rein. But when you are writing the initial draft, letting both the “creative voice” and the “editor voice” speak at the same time is like trying to use the intuitive part of your brain and the logical part of your brain simultaneously. They only cancel each other out and neither one of them is able to come through clearly.
How to Write One Thousand Words in Less Than an Hour
To write a thousand words in less than an hour, set a timer, pour yourself something healthy to drink (notice I said “healthy” — don’t go all Faulkner on us, okay?), and just write until the timer goes off.
Sometimes, depending upon where you’re at in your draft, you might want to spend ten or fifteen minutes before you set the timer outlining the main points of what you’re going to write on during that session. This should be written in third-grade level language and should only paint the broad brush strokes of what you want to focus on during your writing session, like this:
Goldilocks goes to house. Sees porridge. Realizes the first one is too cold, the second one is too hot. Finds the third one just right. Then goes to the beds. Repeats the process — too hard, too soft, just right. Falls asleep. Bears come in. Freak out. Drama ensues.
Taking the time to do this will warm up your creative muscles and will make the writing process easier, just as jumping rope or jogging in place before a workout warms up your physical muscles and makes your exercise easier. It will prevent you from getting lost or having long periods of time where your fingers simply hover above the keyboard and you stare blankly at the screen.
Once your timer starts, do not get up. *Absolutely freaking do not get up.* Silence your damn phone, close the door to wherever you’re at or stick in ear plugs, ignore the cat / S.O. / children. And then write with abandon until the buzzer goes off.
Do NOT edit. Do NOT listen to the inner critic. Do NOT say to yourself, “Oh, crap. If she realizes this in THIS chapter, I need to go back to chapter one and add in an extra clue,” and then actually go back to chapter one and make that change. Instead, in your current chapter, write this:
*** go back to chapter one and fix ***
and then just keep writing. Write for the fun of it, for the love of it, and NOT with an eye towards how your readers are going to respond.
If you train yourself to do this, you’ll get your thousand words knocked out in no time.
My Timer Went Off Two Paragraphs Ago
My seventeen minutes and nine seconds are up. My word count at the time? 825. In other words, if I am mathing correctly, I was writing at a rate of about 2,900 words per hour.
WHA — ?
Now granted, that’s writing a blog post and not a chapter of fiction, and it doesn’t include the time I’ll put in to edit, but do you see the point? Do you see how much more productive you can be when you stop your distractions, shut up your inner editor and your self-doubt, and just write?
Every writer should write AT LEAST 1,000 words per day. That’s 365,000 words per year!!! If you write novels that are about 90,000 words, like most of mine end up being, that’s four novels per year with only 45 minutes to an hour of writing each day. Every writer can do that! Yes, you’ll still need to go back and edit. Yes, you’ll still need to spend time doing other things, like researching and, if you’re an indie author, marketing, but even if you account for that extra time, three novels per year is more than achievable.
Final Stats for this Post
Time spent writing: 26 minutes
Time spent editing: 12 minutes
Time spent formatting & adding images: 11 minutes 30 seconds
Total time elapsed: 49 minutes 30 seconds
Final word count: 1240