Friday, May 6, 2011

More Help for Restless Writers

A little over a month ago, I wrote a post about being a restless writer.

In it, I admitted that I’m a writer that has a hard time sitting still for very long. I sort of wince whenever I hear about writers with incredible discipline who sit for hours and write. I just can’t do it for that long.

Right now I have a lot of writing going on….actually I have several different deadlines. One is for a manuscript, one is for a full outline, one is for edits. So I really need to knock out a lot of work (and my apologies in advance if I’m not quite as active online for the next 1 1/2 months.)

In the last post on this topic, I mentioned some different ways I approach writing as a restless writer:

Do other writing-related tasks if you’re in a time crunch or under deadline. This is especially helpful for me. I can get work done that I’ve got to get done, but I can switch to writing the outline if I’m tired of writing, or switch to editing if I’m restless with the outline, etc.

Open up to the possibilities of writing on the go during the day. Write in dead time while waiting for something, write in my head as I do errands, write at a library.

Move around. Doing housework while writing is an easy multitasking win…because housework requires no thought. Somehow, it helps me brainstorm, too.


Reduce up front the amount of time you’re writing before taking your breaks. Consider writing in 15 minute segments.

More on that last one now. I’ve read an interesting post on the Work Awesome blog about the Pomodoro Technique. This technique is incredibly simple to remember because there are only 5 steps:

  1. Pick a task you need to accomplish.
  2. Set a timer for 25 minutes and start working
  3. When the timer rings, take a 5 minute break
  4. Repeat steps 1-3
  5. Every four cycles, take a 25 minute break.

Since I’m feeling a little under the gun right now, I followed this technique yesterday with the full 25 minute cycles and it worked really well. Ordinarily, though, I think I’d probably reduce the 25 minutes to 20 or possibly even fewer.

I think it would still be effective if the amount of time in the cycle is reduced, because you’re still in the writing zone. I think the hardest part of working on that cycle is at the beginning, when you’re just getting started for the day.

One additional note on the technique above—as a restless writer, I found that during my 5 minute break (step 3), I needed to do something really active that was not on the computer. I spent that time loading or unloading the dishwasher, folding a few pieces of laundry, packing the children’s lunch for the next day…you get the idea.

During the 25 minute break after 4 cycles were completed (step 5), then I checked social media (email, Twitter, etc.) Because it’s very, very tough to pull away from social media after only 5 minutes, but it can easily be done in 25 with a timer.

How do you eliminate distractions to focus on your writing? Or does it come naturally to you?