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WRITING SPRINTS: KICK START YOUR WRITING HABIT
We've all suffered from writer's block and procrastination when it comes to our writing. And we've all seen the memes about how writers spend most of their time doing everything BUT writing. Sometimes it takes a real effort to get the words to flow. Even writing a blog like this can be taxing, let alone writing a novel. There is, however, a great way to combat that procrastination and writer's block. It's called a writing sprint and it forces you to start writing without stopping until you meet your goal.
What is a writing sprint?
A writing sprint is a timed burst of focused writing. You don't worry about editing until the buzzer goes off and you concentrate on getting your words onto paper or the computer screen. It is a great way to develop a writing habit, allowing you to write more in less time. It gives you the consistent practice you need to improve your writing and finish the project you started.
As an author, I've struggled at times with writer's block, a lack of ideas, trying to make my manuscript perfect, and the big one for me, procrastination. Usually, once I get started, I get on a roll and wind up staying up later than I should writing. All these things keep us from reaching our goal, which is to finish our manuscript or screenplay or even blog post. A writing sprint is a great way to get yourself out of that rut and back to writing.
How does it work?
Writing sprints are simple. You start by defining your goal or intention. By setting your goal, you have something to work towards. When you visualize your goal, it makes each writing session more productive. Figure out where you are going to doing your writing sprint (in your office, the local coffee shop, on your couch), when you are going to do it – some people work better in the morning, some at night – and what you are going to do (add chapters to a WIP, answer a writing prompt, just free write…you get the idea). This will help you accomplish that goal you set.
Your goal or intention could be:
· Meeting a specific word or page count
· Writing a particular scene
· Setting a timer to write for fifteen minutes or more
· Answering a writing prompt
· Setting a word count only for your writing sprint
Now that you have something to work towards the next step is to start writing. However, the point of the writing sprint is to write without worrying about editing your sentences, your grammar, your punctuation, etc. We all struggle with perfectionism. We all want to go back and edit what we wrote shortly after writing it. This is usually the source of all our writing woes.
Here's the clincher: it's very hard to push past the urge to go edit what you just wrote to make it better. I'm struggling with going back through this blog to improve it as I write it. Over the years I've learned how to ignore that inner voice telling me to go fix my writing right now. I've learned to wait and edit hours later or even the next day.
Writing sprints can help you break that "it needs to be perfect right now" mindset and help you meet your goals. Set your goal, open a new page on your computer or in your notebook, set your timer or word counter, and start writing. Let it flow and let it be imperfect. Write as fast as you can, opening the floodgates holding back your words. Be focused on the writing and not on the mistakes.
Setting up your writing sprint
Because writing sprints are typically timed, the first thing you need to do is decide how long you want to write. You could go for fifteen minutes, or you could go for an hour. I recommend starting with fifteen minutes and building upwards. You want to create a writing habit this way. If you start out with a goal of writing for an hour, you might struggle and quit before you even get started. Start with fifteen minutes.
Warning: do not use the timer on your phone. Use your stove timer. Use the microwave timer. Use something that is not going to cause you additional distractions. You can also use something like Cold Turkey Writer (https://getcoldturkey.com/writer/), a program that turns your computer screen into a typewriter and blocks everything until you meet your goal. Your phone is a distraction. Don't. Use. It.
Decide what you're writing about. It could be a writing prompt, your work in progress, whatever. Your topic is up to you. I keep a mason jar of writing prompts next to my desk and I'll pull one out when I do a writing sprint. Turn off all the notifications on your phone and computer, start your timer and start writing. Focus on your writing and nothing else. When your timer goes off, stop writing and then record how well you did. You can count words; you can track pages or use any other metric you choose. By recording how you did, you are not only rewarded for your effort but encouraged to do it again the next day. Turn it into a little competition against yourself so you can improve every day.
Don't worry about what you wrote or how good – or even bad – it is. If it's something that can be used later, you can always go back and edit it at the proper time. For now, just record how you did so you can see how to manage your writing time as you continue using writing sprints. If you feel like writing more at the end of your sprint, reset your timer and start all over again.
Writing sprints can help you become a better writer
As you continue to use writing sprints to get your creativity flowing, you'll be able to see your progress over time. They will help you learn how to write more words faster. Focusing on quantity when you start out will help you improve the quality of your writing. Why? Because you're practicing your craft.
And we know practice makes perfect.
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