Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Writing in Small Chunks of Time—Pros and Cons

by Elizabeth S. Craig, @elizabethscraig
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I’ve mentioned before that I have a hard time sitting still.  It makes me feel like I’m about five years old when I admit this, but it’s true.

This means I’ve tailored my writing routine around my restlessness.

I live by my timers (the one I use the most is a free online timer), writing straight through in short bursts of time until the bell rings.  Then I usually will do either something fairly active (yard work, housework, take a walk….I have a list at the start of each day for what I need to accomplish in my non-writing time), or I’ll check in with some of my social media stuff (and I’ll set a timer to get off of social media, since it’s so easy to get sucked in there.)

I write before my kids get up—I give myself 30 minutes then. 

If I’m on a tight deadline, I’ll write again in the morning, setting my timer for short periods of time until I finish that goal.

Then I write in the carpool line for about 30 minutes.

If I know that I’m going to do other things after I write, it helps me to focus on what I’m doing.  It’s harder for me to know that I’m going to be writing for a couple of hours at a stretch.  In fact, I won’t write for a couple of hours at a stretch unless it’s a true emergency (when I have simultaneous deadlines, for instance.)  If I know I have to write for a couple of hours straight, I don’t stay at home: I’m at the library or a diner or something—I can’t stay at home with all the distractions and work.

Pros to writing this way:

Goals seem a lot less-intimidating.

I seem to get more accomplished because I’m keeping such tight track of my time.   There’s no chance for social media to derail me.

I don’t get burned out.

I’ve gotten into the habit of picking up my story at a moment’s notice and working at it for anywhere from five to fifteen minutes.  This is a useful skill to have.  Who knows when you’ll have dead time in your day?

Cons to writing this way:

Sometimes transitions get squirrelly because I just jump right in.

I’ve found that I’m much more likely to write echoes into my writing.  (Echoes are what my editors call repeating words or phrases on the same page or last couple of pages.)  I think this is because a word from the previous session will stick in my head and I use it again, thinking I haven’t used it recently. 

But still, even with the cons:

It all gets fixed in the edits.

So…how long are your writing sessions?  Do you knock it all out at one time for a longer session?  Do you break it into smaller, shorter sessions?  Why have you chosen to do it that way?