Writing Against the Clock

Procrastination is a problem for a lot of people. For those writing it’s death.

I know a few writers (or beginning writers from years ago) who have tried to force themselves to work on a deadline. Some join creative writing classes, or get working on contests, specifically because they will have a hard, enforced deadline.

They hold on to a belief that they write better or more efficiently under a deadline. It’s probably true. But eventually you need to snap out of that and work on your own material, and do so without any hard deadlines. You need to write and produce if you want to be serious with your writing.

Some writers will have daily goals to ensure production, such as a word count. If your goal is 2000 words a day, for instance, you may find yourself doing a little bit here, a little bit there, spread thin throughout the day. That is not writing with efficiency. In fact, your production could be a whole lot greater if you spent a focused few hours, rather than several hours of pecking and nibbling.

Something I’ve tried the last few weeks is writing with a timer. I set it for one hour for each session. After that you need a break away from the screen, to stretch, grab some food or water, whatever.

I used the timer initially to get a gauge on how many words I was producing in a given hour, or at least had the capacity to produce. What I found was that the one hour timer made me focus on my writing and avoid any distractions, any urge to go back and fiddle with something in the story. The result was around 1,300 words in the hour.

The 1,300 total was a great deal more than I expected. The reason that my normal sessions over that span of a given hour were so much less was because I was much less focused. I would have moments when the juice would flow and I’d write a good amount, sure. But there were also moments of distraction, such as getting caught up looking up some minor research detail, and then having to find my way back into the story.

The clock is a wonderful device. I use the little stopwatch on my phone. As soon as the seconds start ticking, you just dive right in without hesitation. Without the timer, sometimes I find myself just looking at a story as if I’m standing beside a cold pool, needing to psyche myself up to jump in.

It’s worth giving the timer a shot if you’ve never tried it before and you find yourself not producing at the quantity that you would like. You might be surprised at how productive you can be.

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About Robert Steele

Please feel free to contact me at: robertwilliamsteele@gmail.com
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