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The Joys Of Sprinting

October 29, 2018

Something I’ve been looking into over the past few weeks is the issue of making time for myself to write. After all, writers write, and I can hardly say that I’m getting back into writing if I do not in fact write on a regular basis.

In practice, this means that I’ve largely been working on solving the following problem: how to write on a regular basis while keeping up with what, if I do say so myself, is a reasonably demanding day job.

Now, in some ways, my “day job” as a researcher is perfect for a writer: there tends to be a lot of flexibility with regards to working hours, so long as I do put the hours in and do in fact get my work done. That’s certainly way more freedom that most people my age get, and dear lord am I grateful for that. Plus, I do like said job a whole lot, which means I seldom leave my office in a bad mood.

That said, my job does one major drawback from a writing standpoint: namely, it involves a lot writing in itself, as well as plenty of screen-staring. The result is that my brain typically turns to slime if I try to write for a prolonged period of time after a day in the office. At the same time, it means I can’t get up early and write for a prolonged period before work, either, lest I end up soiling my productivity when working on the stuff that, y’know, I’m actually getting paid to work on.

And so, for quite some time now, I’ve generally just been writing a few hundred words before getting into my science and then calling it a day on the writing front – a massive improvement over not writing at all, certainty, but also not really where I want to be further down the line.

Last week, I finally hit upon a solution that seems to work for me: do a little bit of writing before work, and a little bit of writing at home immediately after work – and time them both, religiously.

In other words, a set of good old fashioned writing sprints.

This is actually a technique I was aware of well before I last stopped writing, but as far as I recall I never actually tried it for myself at the time. This time though, faced with the desire to produce more words without simply magic-ing more time out of thin air, I figured it was worth a go.

And the early indications are…yes, it was indeed worth a go.

There’s something about being on the clock that seems to make me way faster than when I write otherwise. That’s not to say my writing is any better, but it does mean I actually get words out onto the page at a good rate – words which can then be revised and edited until they’re way better than a first draft could ever achieve.

So far, I’ve ran all my “sprints” in 25-minute or 30-minute segments. And generally, I’ve ended up managing around 500 words in that time – quite a bit improvement in speed compared to before. So, were I to consistently manage 2 or three over the course of a day…well, that’ll be a whole lot of words, right there.

That said, it’s still early days for this approach, so it remains to be seen whether I end up adopting it over a longer period. So far though, it’s working very nicely – which means, for now at least, I consider the problem of making writing time to be solved.

This particular post was written during a “sprint”, incidentally, after I realised I was about to hit the end of the week without actually having written anything for the blog. As I write this, I have two minutes left out of a twenty-five minute session, and I’ve been editing as I go. This, I hope, is not something I’ll do every week – but again, it’s helped to keep me writing and to keep my posts here on schedule, so it’s certainly something I’m glad to have tried.

And now, there are only 30 seconds remaining, so I think I’ll call it quits on this post here. Anyone else use “sprints” as a way to get the words flowing? Feel free to comment down below!

(Funnily enough, my timer ran out and started beeping at me pretty much as soon as I finished those two bold sentences. I did go back and edit a few bits of the post afterwards, mind)

  1. Hmm. Perhaps I should try this, as like you my day involves staring at a screen and banging on a keyboard, to the point that in the evenings I don’t even want to look at a screen any more.

    Perhaps I should just get a typewriter…

    • It’s certainly worth a go if you’ve not tried it before. It doesn’t work for everything, certainly, but it seems to be a good fit for me.

  2. Pomodoro technique is the technique of champions 😀 I’ve always found that I concentrate better in small bursts and use it all the time.

    • Yeah, seems to be the case for me, too. Over long periods I tend to lose momentum fast, but in short bursts I seem to work well.

  3. I’m with Colin on the Pomodoro technique. I used it when I was working on a manuscript earlier this year, and I was surprised at how much more productive it helped me be. Plus, when the timer went off, it reminded me to take a break and get away from the computer for a little bit. That wasn’t something I remembered to do very often before going Pomodoro!

    • Yeah, I used to be downright horrible at taking breaks, myself (and not just with regards to writing sessions). Another advantage of Pomodoro, for sure.

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