Many writers dream of having a large block of time to work on their novel. They imagine spending hours writing, knocking out that first draft in a few weeks. This is what it ‘s like to be a “real” writer, they tell themselves.
I’m fortunate to have several hours of writing time available fairly often, and let me tell you something…
The fact is, creative writing is often exhausting. It’s like running a marathon, in the mud, wearing combat boots. I know a successful screenwriter who only works about two to three hours per day, because it’s just too taxing to keep writing.
But I have found a way to use a large chunk of time more efficiently. I can’t guarantee it will work for everybody, but I would highly suggest giving it a shot.
The secret is to write in short, focused bursts, kind of like interval training. I sit down at my computer and set a timer for 15 minutes. (10-20 minutes seems like the ideal.) I turn off my laptop’s wi-fi. (It’s even better if you can unplug your router or modem.) I put MS Word into Focus View to block out everything else on the desktop. Then I write, trying to tap into the wellspring of creativity I know is inside me. To me, it’s a lot like mediation. I can stay focused for a few minutes before unwanted thoughts start creeping in. To attempt more is an exercise in frustration.
When my timer goes off, I stand up and go perform a short, specific task.( It’s best not to do anything that takes more than 5 minutes.) I pour myself a cup of coffee, I put away a few dirty dishes, I do a few yoga poses. The important thing is to put my work aside for a few minutes so my creativity can recharge.
Avoid doing anything that’s too open-ended, like calling up a friend, and if you can, avoid the internet. I know from experience that a quick check of my Twitter feed can easily turn into an hour of wasted time.
After you’ve finished your short break, relocate to another writing spot if you have one. I have three or four places in and outside my home I like to write. Then set your timer for another short interval, and repeat the process over and over again until your creativity is spent or the kids come home from school.
Try this and you might find that, while your total hours at the computer are less, the amount you actually get done is much greater. You’ll feel accomplished and best of all, you’ll feel like you used your creativity to its full potential.